Rocketship XM

Release Date: June 2, 1950
Starring: Lloyd Bridges as Col. Floyd Graham
Osa Massen as Dr. Lisa Van Horn
Hugh O'Brian as Harry Chamberlain
Director: Kurt Neumann
Screenplay: Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann, Dalton Trumbo
Story by: Murray Lerner, Kurt Neumann
Music: Ferde Grofe, Sr
Cinematographer: Karl Struss
Editor: Harry Gerstand
Distributor: Lippert Pictures
Time: BW 78 min.
Budget: $94,000

Purchase Rocketship XM (DVD) at the TCM store.

Interesting Tidbits

Rocketship XM was the second of the science fiction space expedition films made in 1950. The other was Destination Moon.

Expensive special effects delayed the release of Destination Moon and that allowed Rocketship XM to be released first. It was shot in only 18 days.

Rocketship XM was originally called Rocketship XM-1; it is also known as Expedition Moon.

In the original theatrical release, the Martian landscape was filmed with a reddish tint. All of the technical equipment for the film was supplied by Allied Aircraft Company of North Hollywood.

Collector Wade Williams acquired the rights to Rockership XM in the 1970s. He reshot a few of the scenes with special effects in order to achieve a better look. The reshot footage was incorporated in the DVD release.

The Plot

Four men and a woman, all scientists, blast into space aboard the RXM (Rocketship Expedition Moon) on humanity's first expedition to the Moon, a 48-hour journey. At 112,000 miles into their 238,000-mile journey to the Moon, the RXM's engines shut down because of a fuel problem. There are some tense moments while the crew works on the problem. They solve it with a new fuel mixture, the engines reignite and the RXM tears off on a new course directly to Mars.

Regaining consciousness after just a short burst of acceleration, the crew finds it has covered about 50,000,000 miles. With Mars only 50,000 miles away; this causes Dr. Karl Eckstrom to "pause and observe respectfully while something infinitely greater assumes control," which made everything work to guide them there.

The RXM passes through clouds to land on Mars, where they find evidence of a once-powerful civilization, as evidenced by an art-deco wall-hanging of a face, and a backdrop of a building shaped rather like a dynamo. There has been a planetary nuclear war. They meet a descendant of the builders of the civilization: a mute woman, whose pupils are large as her eyes, who is pursued by other descendants, savage cavemen who attack them by throwing large rocks.

Armed only with a rifle and a pistol, they hit no one and two of their crew are killed by rocks while another suffers crush injuries. The return voyage is only a partial success: the RXM makes it back to Earth but hasn't enough fuel for a landing. The surviving crew members are able to contact their base by radio and pass on the information about the journey to Mars and the reason for the destruction of the Martian civilization. As Col. Floyd Graham and Dr. Lisa Van Horn embrace, the ship crashes in Nova Scotia. The press are informed that the crew has perished, but a new ship, the RXM-2 will be built to continue the exploration of space.