“Conquest of Space” is a 1955 science fiction film directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal. The film was one of the first to address space exploration in popular culture, and was produced during a time when the world was witnessing the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The film follows a space mission of the “Welles” spacecraft directed towards Mars, with the aim of building a base for a future colonization of the red planet. The mission is led by Commander Barney Merritt (played by Walter Brooke) and pilot Harry Chamberlain (played by Eric Fleming). However, during the voyage, the morale of the crew is tested by isolation and psychological pressure.
The film was made with innovative special effects for its time and tried to show the audience what could happen in the future when human beings explored the solar system. However, the film has been criticized for its poor scientific portrayal and inaccuracies in its depiction of space flight. Despite this, the film enjoyed some commercial success and is considered a science fiction classic of the 1950s.
The plot of “The Conquest of Space” follows a space mission of the spaceship “Welles” bound for Mars. Commander Barney Merritt (played by Walter Brooke) and pilot Harry Chamberlain (played by Eric Fleming) lead the crew made up of other crew members, including Merritt’s son Steve (played by Phil Foster).
During the space journey, the crew faces numerous technical and psychological problems, including isolation, lack of food and psychological pressure. Also, the crew is faced with the aftermath of the fact that one of the crew, Lieutenant Sweeney (played by William Redfield), smuggled a barrel of booze aboard.
Despite the difficulties, the crew manages to get to Mars and build a base for future colonization of the planet. However, when the time comes to return to Earth, Merritt decides to stay on Mars, believing the red planet to be his true destiny.
The film was criticized for its poor scientific portrayal and inaccuracies in its depiction of space flight, but was nonetheless a commercial success and a science fiction classic of the 1950s.
Here are the main characters of the movie “The Conquest of Space”:
- Barney Merritt: Commander of the spacecraft “Welles”, played by Walter Brooke.
- Harry Chamberlain: The pilot of the “Welles” spacecraft, played by Eric Fleming.
- Steve Merritt: Commander Merritt’s son and crew member of the spacecraft “Welles”, played by Phil Foster.
- General “Pappy” Greene: The head of the space mission, played by William Hopper.
- Imoto: The electronics expert of the “Welles” spacecraft, played by Benson Fong.
- Jacobs: the doctor of the spacecraft “Welles”, played by Ross Martin.
- Lieutenant Sweeney: A crew member of the “Welles” spacecraft who smuggles a barrel of booze aboard, played by William Redfield.
- Général Feller: The French Army liaison officer, played by Peter Miller.
These are just some of the characters featured in the film. There are also other crew members and minor characters that appear throughout the storyline.
“Conquest of Space” was directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal. The film was produced by Paramount Pictures and was released in 1955. The screenplay was written by James O’Hanlon and Rip Van Ronkel, based on an idea by Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley.
The film was produced on a relatively large budget for the time, estimated to be around $2 million. The main set was constructed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, while exterior filming was done in Death Valley, California.
To produce the film’s special effects, Paramount partnered with Industrial Light and Magic, a special effects company founded by George Lucas. The film’s special effects were innovative for its time and helped make the film a science fiction classic of the 1950s.
The film was released in black and white, but was later converted to color in 1996. Despite criticisms it received for its poor scientific depiction, the film was a commercial success and had a significant impact on popular culture across the world. era.
Distribution and Reception
“Conquest of Space” was released theatrically in the United States by Paramount Pictures on April 20, 1955. The film was a commercial success, grossing approximately $1.7 million at the box office.
Criticism at the time was divided on the work, with some enthusiastic and some negative reviews. Some critics lauded the film’s special effects and its space-adventure atmosphere, while others criticized its poor scientific depiction and unrealistic plot.
However, despite mixed reviews, the film became a science fiction classic of the 1950s and influenced generations of moviegoers and subsequent filmmakers.
In the following years, the film went through a few re-releases on home video and television, and was also converted to a colorized version in 1996. Today, “Conquest of Space” is considered a significant example of the 1950s science fiction genre and remains a reference work for many fans of science fiction cinema.
“Conquest of Space” was made in the style typical of 1950s science fiction films, which often featured bold and visionary plots, accompanied by innovative special effects for the time.
The film has an epic atmosphere, trying to capture the spirit of space exploration at the time. There are many scenes showing the “Welles” spacecraft traversing the endless vacuum of space, accompanied by solemn and dramatic music.
The film’s special effects were created using modeling, stop-motion and camera composition techniques. There are several sequences showing moving spaceships, rocket trails, explosions and other spectacular elements.
However, the film’s scientific depiction has been criticized for being unrealistic, with some inaccuracies regarding the physics and biology of space. The film focuses more on showmanship and adventure than scientific accuracy, making it one of the science fiction classics of the 1950s.
Additionally, the film features a slow pace and sometimes static dialogues, which are typical of films of the time. The plot focuses mainly on space exploration and the characters of the crew, rather than the psychological characterization of the characters.
In general, “Conquest of Space” is one of the science fiction classics of the 1950s, representing the spirit of adventure and space exploration of the time, with a daring and spectacular storyline and special effects that were innovative for the time.
Byron Haskin, the director of “Conquest of Space,” was an American filmmaker active primarily in the 1940s and 1950s. He has worked in several film genres, including western, film noir, adventure and science fiction.
Haskin began his career as a production assistant for Paramount Pictures in 1925, later working as a camera operator and cinematographer on a few motion pictures. He then began directing films in the 1940s, working on such films as “The Thin Man” (1946) and “The Scream of the City” (1948).
With “The War of the Worlds” (1953) and “The Conquest of Space” (1955), Haskin consolidated his reputation as a science fiction director, demonstrating a particular skill in creating special effects that were innovative for the time.
After “Conquest of Space,” Haskin continued to direct until the late 1960s, working on such films as “Captain Sindbad” (1963) and “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” (1964).
In general, Byron Haskin was a director capable of successfully coping with several film genres, with particular attention to special effects and spectacular images.