Missile to the Moon (1958)

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With recent remakes like Ben Hur, Blade Runner, and Ghosbusters, it’s easy to get into the mindset that reboot culture has recently gotten out of hand, but the truth is that it may have always been out of hand. Consider the case of Missile to the Moon. This throwaway sci-fi B-picture is a five-years-later remake of the ludicrous camp oddity Cat-Women of the Moon. Delivered by the same indie production company that made the much more fun original, Missile to the Moon merely added more moon monsters & extraneous plot lines to Cat-Women of the Moon’s exact narrative structure and casually slapped on a new title. It’s what we folks in a post-Dark Knight world would call “a gritty reboot.” Whatever you want to call it, its existence feels entirely unnecessary, especially once you start splitting hairs over the film’s baffling decision of what to keep from its source material & what to discard.

I’ll try not to waste too much time on a plot description here, since Missile to the Moon largely resembles hundreds of other B-movie space pictures & standalone episodes of serials like Roy Rogers. A rocket ship (picture the most generic toy rocket ship imaginable; you’ve got it) travels to the moon through some dangerous meteorite turbulence and once the crew lands on the alien terrain they face mysterious dangers posed by lunar monsters. In Cat-Women of the Moon these monsters only included a gigantic moon spider & a misandrist society of alien women determined to steal the crew’s rocket ship & use it to take over Earth. Missile to the Moon repeats this dynamic with only a few slight changes: the spider puppets look a little better; they’re joined by entirely unneeded Styrofoam rock monsters; the cave-dwelling women are no longer misandrists. That last point, of course, is what sucks a lot of the fun out of the source material’s dynamic. Instead of a man-hating city of women dressed in black catsuits, we get a vague harem of one or two alien baddies who are a little power hungry, but mostly in desperate need of a man’s loving company. Boring.

Much like with the case of Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! dry run Motorpsycho!, Missile to the Moon is only interesting as a comparison point to a far better work that shares its basic dynamic. In the original film the lone female member of the astronaut crew is a navigator with a key role central to the plot. In the remake she’s a stowaway & a scientist’s fiancée, not even as central to the plot as a pair of escaped convict ruffians who also wind up on this lunar expedition. Her biggest concern is that the moon women might lure away her future husband, which leads her to mutter catty things like “If I knew there was going to be this much competition, I would’ve undressed for the occasion.” In Cat-Women of the Moon the titular aliens function in villainous peace & harmony; here they have petty, jealous fights over space idiot love interests who say endearing things like “Don’t think, honey. Just be beautiful.” There’s even an added moment of threatened sexual assault, you know, to liven things up. All the transgressive elements of the original are stripped from its derivative follow-up in favor of some barely-better special effects, increased violence, entirely unnecessary rock monsters, and a few baffling tweaks to the details, like swapping out the moon gold of the first film for the radically different treasure of moon diamonds. Whatever.

Everything about Missile to the Moon is secondary. As a remake, it feels purposeless and only interesting in the schlocky shadow of its predecessor. As a sci-fi horror cheapie in its own right it doesn’t even look as interesting as the other half of its double bill: Frankenstein’s Daughter. Just about the only moment of joy I got from the film was the cattily jealous fiancé asking of her leading man, “Do you think I’m prettier than that girl?” mere moments after watching her fellow crew members die a grisly death. And even the humor of that moment points to the film’s central problem: a complete lack of the playfully transgressive misandry of its predecessor.

-Brandon Ledet

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