Blu-Ray Review: Flight To Mars (1951).

Directed by Lesley Selander
Screenplay by Arthur Strawn
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: Richard V. Heermance
Music by Marlin Skiles

Cast: Marguerite Chapman (Alita), Cameron Mitchell (Steve Abbott), Arthur Franz (Dr. Jim Barker), Virginia Huston (Carol Stafford), John Litel (Dr. Lane), Morris Ankrum (Ikron)

__________

If there’s a recipe for cooking up a perfect 50s B movie, you can bet it was used to whip up Flight To Mars (1951). Let’s see. You’ve got the great B director Lesley Selander. There’s Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz and Morris Ankrum in the cast. There’s the lovely Martian maiden (Marguerite Chapman) in her interstellar miniskirt. And it’s all in Cinecolor from the fine folks at Monogram Pictures.

A team of American scientists, accompanied by a newspaperman (Cameron Mitchell), take a rocket ride to Mars. (Mitchell smokes through much of the flight.) Once they crash on the Red Planet, the seemingly-friendly people of Mars start plotting to imprison the Earthlings and use their damaged rocket to plan the Martian migration to Earth. You see, Mars is running low on the crucial element Corium…

There’s an element of hope in 50s science fiction that find very attractive, and Flight To Mars has it in spades. In movies like this, you can “trust the science” (and scientists) without a trace of irony or sarcasm. 

Note that they had to do some retouching to Marguerite Chapman’s outfit.

Flight To Mars, with its “Mars N Miniskirts” theme (Marguerite Chapman looks great in her Martian attire), is part of a rich cinema heritage. There’s also Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953, with Marie Windsor), Devil Girl From Mars (1954), World Without End (1955),  Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1956), Queen Of Outer Space (1957) and Invasion Of The Star Creatures (1962). That’d make a helluva weekend retrospective, wouldn’t it?

There’s a strong tie between Flight To Mars and both World Without End and Queen Of Outer Space — both use rocket footage from this one, severely cropped for CinemaScope. All three were released by Monogram or Allied Artisits — same company, different names.

Producer Walter Mirisch was trying to take things up a notch at Monogram, and it’s obvious they splurged a bit (relatively speaking) on Flight To Mars.

A Martian clock, made in Zeeland, Michigan.

There are the effects and Cinecolor, of course. A cast with a few name actors in it. Some interesting sets for the underground Martian city, complete with a Herman Miller ball clock (designed by George Nelson). And a handful of nice matte paintings (certainly inspired by 1936’s Things To Come).

But you’ll still see some of the usual Poverty Row tricks — the cast is tiny, the sets are often reconfigured to create new spaces, and for a movie about space flight, there’s very little space actually seen. And it was all shot in just five days!

The Film Detective treated Flight To Mars to a 4K restoration from the picture’s original 35mm Cinecolor separation negatives. On the whole, it looks wonderful. The Cinecolor is terrific, given the process’s odd, limited color palette. Some scenes are sharper than others, with the Mars portion of the movie looking best. The grain’s a bit clunky in some scenes, but I’m so glad nobody tried to process it away. Never thought I’d see it look like this. The sound is quite nice, with more range than you’d expect. There are a couple of nice documentaries from Ballyhoo, a commentary from Justin Humphreys and an essay by Don Stradley. 

I adore Monogram Pictures Corporation and have a real soft spot for many of their movies, no matter how good they actually are. I love Flight To Mars — and what The Film Detective has done with it. Highly, highly recommended.

11 Comments

Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Lesley Selander, Monogram/Allied Artists, Morris Ankrum, The Film Detective

11 responses to “Blu-Ray Review: Flight To Mars (1951).

  1. Barry Lane

    I have the film and agree with you across the board.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. john k

    Yes Barry………
    and wouldn’t it be wonderful to have ROYAL AFRICAN RIFLES given
    this sort of lovely restoration.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. john k

    Hi Toby,
    A mighty fine review if I may say so.
    I’ve been offline for over a week,just checked my e-mails and
    FLIGHT TO MARS,STEP BY STEP and I WOULDN’T BE IN YOUR
    SHOES are all in the mail to me.
    Cinecolor can look wonderful when given a loving restoration and
    The Film Detective are certainly a label to watch.
    I don’t know and I guess it’s me but every other movie I watch these days
    seems to have Morris Ankrum in it..that guy could, and did, play anything.

    Like

  4. john k

    Thought I’d just give a nod to that very elegant actress Virginia Huston
    who only made a dozen films before retiring in the mid 50’s.
    Virginia generally was landed with second female leads or “other woman”
    type roles ‘though her few credits are enough to whet the appetite of
    any genre buff.
    Republic gave Virginia her only lead role in the B flick WOMEN FROM
    HEADQUARTERS a nifty little entry in the undercover female cops genre.
    It’s the sort of film that I yearn Imprint to include in one of their Noir
    collections as they seem to be the only label with access to the
    Paramount vaults.
    Also in 1951 Virginia was in another Selander Cinecolor film
    THE HIGHWAYMAN an engaging Gothic Swashbuckler with a stellar
    cast. THE HIGHWAYMAN was an independent production (from the guys
    who gave us THE BEAST FROM 20.000 FATHOMS) and was released
    in America by Allied Artists.
    THE HIGHWAYMAN must have generated some heat in the UK as I
    remember my parents taking me to see it where it played as the main
    feature.

    Like

  5. john k

    My copy of FLIGHT TO MARS finally landed and I must say
    Film Detective have given us an excellent package.
    I enjoyed Courtney Joyner’s overview of Mirisch at Allied Artists,my only
    gripe is that I wish it had been 3 times as long.
    I felt that the commentary was a bit unfair to Selander constantly
    referring to his uninspired direction. With a much larger than usual
    art direction and special effects budget (for Monogram) Mirisch wanted
    a director who could make the thing as fast as possible. The lack of
    physical action meant Selander was out of his comfort zone,FLIGHT
    TO MARS being his sole Sci Fi picture. The aforementioned
    THE HIGHWAYMAN was far more Selander’s type of picture plus the fact
    he had a much bigger budget to work with.
    I agree William Cameron Menzies and Kurt Neumann were more natural
    Sci Fi directors than Selander but considering what he was stuck with
    I feel he did a pretty decent job.
    Sure,ROCKETSHIP XM and INVADRS FROM MARS are both better
    than FLIGHT TO MARS but when all is said and done I was very pleased
    to obtain this very attractive package from Film Detective.
    Bottom of the cast is veteran actor Robert Barratt who again is far more
    in his comfort zone in Selander’s TALL MAN RIDING.
    Also flitting back to the commentary was not IT! THE TERROR FROM
    BEYOND SPACE a United Artists picture;not Allied Artists.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right indeed, Mr. Knight, It! The Terror From Beyond Space was a United Artists picture.

      I have no problem with Selander’s direction here. He is certainly better with action, but for five days, this is a pretty solid movie.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Barry Lane

      John, story, and production shortcomings are overcome by the truly excellent cast. I also like the use of color. From what I have heard, the picture was shot in either five days or eleven. I will opt for the lower number.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. john k

    The Australian SILVER SCREAMS COLLECTION arrived yesterday
    where Imprint have raided the Paramount vaults unearthing chillers
    from Republic,Monogram and RegalScope.
    Thus far I’ve only had a cursory look,and the bonus feature
    THE LADY AND THE MONSTER (George Sherman) does appear to
    be in high def.
    There’s a 50’s Sci Fi TV episode with Lola Albright in standard def
    with the adverts included.
    The two RegalScope titles (UNKNOWN TERROR;SHE DEVIL) look
    stunning-I’d love to know what other RegalScope titles Paramount hold.
    To see STAGECOACH TO FURY (which Paramount do own) in this
    standard of transfer would be truly amazing.

    Like

  7. john k

    Another interesting element mentioned in the commentary was, apparently
    Arthur Franz did not give interviews or certainly not to writers wanting
    to discuss films like INVADERS FROM MARS and MONSTER ON THE
    CAMPUS.

    Like

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