Plot: What’s it about?
The Wheel is a cutting edge space station, a place where the world’s top astronauts reside while new exploration plans are made. The station has all the finest in technological advances, which means the crew has all of the best equipment. That is crucial to the operation, since the crew is slated to venture to the moon soon. The first manned landing on the moon is a historic moment, one which the crew has looked forward to for some time. General Samuel Merritt (Walter Brooke) is in charge of the mission, which is certain to land him a special place in history, as the captain of such a landmark accomplishment. The training process is grueling and continues right until the powerful rocket takes the crew to the moon. So the mission has been planned down to the minute details, to ensure success and safety for those involved. Just as the mission nears the time of deployment, words comes down that the plan has changed. Instead of a moon landing, the crew will travel to even deeper space and head toward Mars. The change in direction causes some problems, but a mission is a mission, so the crew presses on. But the real threat isn’t so much from meteors or mechanical failures, but from one of the crew members. And when he tries to sabotage the mission, will he be stopped by the others?
This movie was made in the 50s, a time when sci/fi was a dominant genre, at least in terms of sheer volume. The decade produced an endless parade of sci/fi treats, some worthwhile and some not so worthwhile. The sci/fi films from this time period often fall into two lines, with the focus either on camp or science. Of course, now we can look back on even the science driven sci/fi and laugh, since modern times expose flaws and miscalculations. But at the time, it was a noble stroke to try to make a more serious brand of sci/fi, instead of just tossing in a guy in a monster suit to run in front of cardboard set constructions. Conquest of Space is one such picture, but then again, with George Pal on deck, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Pal was one of few sci/fi producers who could secure solid budgets for his pictures, so his crews had more resources, which were put to good use, so that each dollar was visible on screen. The films he worked on had good stories, good casts, and to top it all off, great special effects. After all, audiences wanted some visual spark to go with the stories, since this was sci/fi, not Shakespeare. I’d place Conquest of Space toward the bottom of Pal’s sci/fi efforts, but it is by no means a bad movie. But it has numerous flaws, some of which cause the film to lose some of its luster. Even so, it is a decent genre film and for sci/fi buffs, Conquest of Space is more than worth a look.
Video: How does it look?
Conquest of Space is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was surprised with how clean and consistent this presentation was, but some flaws do surface to lessen the experience, though not much. The source print looks very clean and shows minimal wear, which is a real shock to me. The contrast is smooth and well rendered here also, which ensures a good level of detail and sharp overall picture. I saw a couple pulses in this transfer, but they were slight and not a serious issue in the end. When you consider the age and nature of this film, this is a more than effective visual transfer, much better than expected.
Audio: How does it sound?
A pretty basic mono track, though this material wouldn’t need much more than this. There is some slight distortion and harshness present, but no real problems surface and the flaws aren’t enough to knock the score much. The music and sound effects come off well, but as usual with mono tracks, have little in terms of range. This is to expected though and since the dialogue is in fine form, I’ll give this one an average score in the end. This disc also includes English subtitles, should you need those at some point.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes no bonus materials.