FIRST MAN IN SPACE

A review of an obscure indie film (courtesy of HuluPlus’ choice selection of films from the Criterion Collection), some film history & Eric Michael Kochmer. Read on to find out why indie filmmakers should care. Every #TBT.

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FIRST MAN IN SPACE (1959) 77 minutes Black and White

“First Man On Earth,” is a completely unimaginative piece of crap about a man at the beginning of the space race. It was made by a British director, Robert Day, and an independent production company, clearly making a go for the American market. So the film is about: An arrogant, but talented pilot asked by the government to be the first man into space. His space ship is damaged. Space communication stops. Then his ship crash-lands with a strange foam substance on it. At first, no survivor can be found but then the bodies start piling up and it is assumed that the pilot has become a foam- covered, blood-sucking monster.

first-man-into-space-1The premise is fine enough, and with the right visual conception this could be a great horror film, but the delivery is a joke. The acting has a melodramatic “Dragnet” feel, while the visual effects are abysmal – they literally have a guy running around in a foam suit killing people. And let’s not forget the doctor tutorial given early in act II when a doctor shows some of the film’s hero how badly this foam can hurt someone. Riiiight.

This was at the beginning of Robert Day’s prolific and yet, forgettable career. Don’t get me wrong, Day’s technique is fine. He has a clean efficient way of shooting. He directs and places his actors clearly, through wooden performances, but it is straightforward. Day went on to have a remarkably busy television and film career, directing over 45 films and more than 60 television episodes in a 40 year span. So clearly the man knows what he’s doing. It kind of amazes me that in the history of filmmaking, producers have greenlit junk like this but then did not help someone like Orson Wells finish his films. I guess the answer is easy enough – though Day may be a hack, he is a hack who gets things done.

Films like these were being filmed regularly in the fifties through the seventies, and Criterion is honoring them. I honestly don’t know why. Maybe for restoration sake? …