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Classic Science Fiction Movie Review--"First Man Into Space" (1959)

 Be Advised: This Review May Contain **Spoilers**


Made 10 years before the Moon Landing, the question of "First Man Into Space" is a particularly poinient one. How far can a man go into space and what might be the effects on him? These are questions that NASA surely asked before attempting to go to the Moon. Granted, the film's answer to the question is a bit far-fetched, but important nonetheless.

"First Man Into Space" is the story of reckless Navy test-pilot Lieutenant Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards) who disobeys orders (and possibly common sense) by pushing not one, but two untested rocket-planes beyond their limits. He pays the price for his recklessness when the second rocket-plane, the Y-13(pictured above), travels over 250 miles into space. The Y-13 runs into some cosmic asteroid dust and transforms him into a being that cannot breath in Earth's atmosphere.

I have to say the most redeeming quality of this movie is the acting. No doubt many will disagree with me, calling the acting lame, etc. But for a low-budget film, I think it's more than adequate. The best performance goes to Bill Edwards(pictured above with Marla Landi). Edwards does a good job of making us sympathize with the creature he becomes (as well as not like the man he was). He gives us a strong portrayal of the plight and confusion of a creature that has been unwillingly changed, one that has needs it doesn't understand. Marshall Thompson("It! The Terror from Beyond Space") is convincing as Dan's responsible and level-headed brother, Commander Charles Prescott. He is the anti-Dan, portraying the typical, by-the-book Naval Officer. But, at the same time, shows caring and sympathy for Dan's girlfriend, Tia Francesca, at the loss of the man she planned to marry. Probably the weakest of the lead acting is Marla Landi, who is Tia. Her portrayal of Tia isn't bad by any means, just a little weaker than the others. To be honest, I feel the weakness of Marla's performance is due to the writing...a character needs to be strongly written for the portrayal to be strong.

The special effects in "First Man Into Space" were rather sparse, so if that's why you watch Science Fiction, classic or otherwise, you'll be disappointed. The best of the special effects are when Dan and the Y-13 are spiraling out of control after coming in contact with the asteroid dust cloud. Even so, the effect does look cheap. It seems that instead of the Y-13 spiraling down, it's actually the camera being rotated up, around, and down. For a 1950's low-budget film not really that bad but it does look strange and disappointing 51 years later.
Bill Edwards as "The Monster" w/Marshall Thompson

The story was actually pretty cool, giving us an example of what can happen if we are so driven to be #1 that we are willing to do anything, including risking our life, to get there. I wish there had been more background on the brothers, even if it was interspersed among the dialog. I think more background of Dan and Charles would've lent more credibility to the actions of the characters. Was Dan always reckless and irresponsible or did he experience something that changed him and made him that way? The same for Charles. Did he always want to be a Navy Officer or did he have dreams of being something else? Maybe he joined the Navy because his father wanted him too. I know these questions, and the answers that would have been needed, would lengthen the film, but that's not a bad thing considering "First Man Into Space" runs short at only 78 minutes.

As with any film, there were things that could have been done different, even better. But if you are a fan of classic Science Fiction, I think you'll have a good time with "First Man Into Space." I recommend watching this film. Just don't let yourself be turned into a blood-thirsty alien!

My rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 (B-Movie scale)

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