• Flight To Mars (The Film Detective) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: The Film Detective
    Released on: July 20th, 2021.
    Director: Lesley Selander
    Cast: Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Virginia Huston, Arthur Franz, John Litel
    Year: 1951
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    Flight To Mars – Movie Review:

    Directed by Lesley Selander in 1951 for the Monogram Pictures Corporation and producer Walter Mirisch, Flight To Mars was made on a pretty modest budget (sets were reportedly recycled from Rocketship X-M and Destination Moon) but it proves a brisk, entertaining way to kill seventy-one minutes with your Blu-ray player.

    The film tells the story of the very first expedition to Mars. The man in charge is a physicist named Dr. Lane (John Litel) and he’s joined on this important trip by Professor Jackson (Richard Gaines), Jim Barker (Arthur Franz) and his assistant Carol Stadwick (Virginia Huston). A journalist named Steve Abbott (Cameron Mitchell) tags along, wanting to document all of the details of this obviously very important event first hand. On their way to the red planet, which isn’t really very red in this movie, they encounter a meteor shower and lose contact with mission control back on Earth. They realize that they’re going to have to crash land on Mars and that doing so will mean that they’ll probably never make it back to their home planet – BUT – they’ll at least be able to send back research information by way of some cylinders they have that will somehow make it back to Earth.

    After landing on Mars, they're greeted by Ikron (Morris Ankrum), the leader of a friendly group of Martians who speak perfect English. They learned it from intercepting broadcasts from Earth, we're told. They're brought to a massive underground city where they meet Tillamar (Robert Barrat) and Terris (Lucille Barkley) and are provided with very nice accommodations. Realizing that the Martians are quite advanced, Lane and company ask the Martians for help repairing their ship.

    A sexy Martian scientist named Alita (Marguerite Chapman) is put in charge of the ship, but the Earthlings soon realize that the Martians aren't being entirely honest with them about all of this...

    A very interesting product of its time (When Carol is shown her accommodations she asks to see the kitchen!), Flight To Mars is a pretty neat artifact of early fifties poverty row sci-fi hokum. The movie has its share of padding – a lengthy conversation about the meaning of life that takes place on the flight adds nothing to the film – the movie doesn’t lack in charm. The low budget sets and costumes are neat to see and reflect a decidedly fifties American view of space travel and aliens. Our astronauts aren’t strapped into their seats or anything like that, they spend much of their trip sitting at tables and smoking, just sort of hanging out. Of course, there’s a romantic subplot involving Alita.

    Performances are adequate if never amazing. Mitchell is fun to watch here while Marguerite Chapman was likely cast more for her legs than her acting ability. On that level, she earns her paycheck. There’s very little depth here but the naiveté of it all is not without a considerable amount of low-fi charm.

    Flight To Mars – Blu-ray Review:

    Generally this AVC encoded 1080p transfer, framed at 1.33.1 and taking up 14.6GBS of space on the 25GB disc, looks good. That said, there are spots where contrast looks a bit iffy and detail is softer than you might want. In other scenes, detail gets stronger and contrast looks fine. Some minor compression artifacts do show up here and there but there is very little print damage noticeable. This transfer won't floor you, but it's decent enough. The Cinecolor processing gives some of the color in the film an oddly endearing sort of comic book look that is neat to see.

    The main audio option for the feature is an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. No problems here, the audio quality is quite good. This isn't the most bombastic mix you'll ever hear but the levels are balanced and the clarity is fine.

    Extras start with an audio commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys. He does a nice job of putting this movie into a proper historical and social context, talking up the popularity of science fiction films during the era in which the film was made. He also goes over details of the cast and crew, offers some insight into the production design and overall look of the movie, the special effects, and the film's rather rushed production schedule. It's very informative.

    From there, check out Walter Mirisch: From Bomba To Body Snatchers, a new documentary short from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. This fifteen-minute piece features C. Courtney Joyner giving us a rundown on Mirisch's life and career, going over his work on this picture and more 'respectable' fare such as In The Heat Of The Night.

    Interstellar Travelogues: Cinema's First Space Race is a second new documentary short from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, this one with science fiction artist/historian Vincent Di Fate. In this ten minute piece he covers quite a few early science fiction films dealing with space travel and notes some similarities and differences between them, giving us a concise history of the genre.

    This release also comes packaged with a full color insert booklet that contains an essay by Don Stradley entitled Mars At The Movies that makes for a good read.

    Flight To Mars – The Final Word:

    Flight To Mars is a lot of fun, a film sure to please those with an affinity for fifties science fiction films who can look past the obviously low budget and enjoy all of the creativity and quirkiness on display. The Film Detective’s Blu-ray looks decent if not perfect and features some nice extra features as well. All in all, this is a pretty solid release of a very entertaining film.

    Click on the images below for full sized Flight To Mars Blu-ray screen caps!