Baker’s Log – A Quick Look : Flight to Mars (1951)

Flight to Mars

Often overlooked in the wake of DESTINATION MOON, ROCKETSHIP X-M, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, and several other contemporary classics, FLIGHT TO MARS is a compelling, tightly-paced, emotionally complex and nuanced science fiction adventure story that makes the most of a modest budget and a fine cast of familiar faces. The script is incredibly strong, and should be studied by anyone interested in writing, with subtleness and directness almost unrecognizable in modern fiction (cinematic or otherwise). On the surface, the characters are fairly stock: the dedicated scientist so committed to his project that he remains coldy unaware of the affections of the woman who not-so-secretly loves him, the cynical reporter who has seen it all and remains unphased by momentous events, the lady scientist who has made a name for herself in a man’s world through hard work and brains but secretly desires a more normal brand of life that even she has difficulty realizing, etc. But the film gives these characters dimension and motivation and arc you seldom run across in today’s landscape of flat, unrelatable characters defined by nothing greater than self-importance. The plot is fairly simple, and thus kept to a tight pace: A team of scientists and a reporter embark on the first manned mission to Mars. This event is announced on it’s eve, leaving the world little time to react but quickly divided along political lines. After an eventful journey, the crew makes it to Mars but damages their ship in the process. Then they discover the red planet is inhabited… Just a dandy picture. Only about 70 minutes or so long, it packs a surprising amount of material into it’s brisk runtime. What’s more, it doesn’t spell everything out for the viewer, but expects us to piece things together. On it’s surface, it’s a B picture just there to capitalize on the current craze, but it gives us enough credit to go along with it without talking down to us at any point. Just take a look at this level of writing, and you begin to understand why movies being made in more recent years are so lacking (and why they tend to run over two hours when their stories seldom justify that much footage). A great little picture sadly knocked aside into relative obscurity, it’s worth a look if it falls into your scope.

Marguerite Chapman
Marguerite Chapman as Alita
Virginia Houston
Virginia Houston as Carol Stafford

About the author

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Rock is a pencil jockey by trade. He's done work for AC Comics, Main Enterprises, and Moonstone, among others. Some of the strips he's created include Dinosaur Girl (AC Comics, creator, writer, pencils), Crissy Carrots (Main, creator, writer, pencils), and Betsy the Bookwriter (Main, co-creator, writer, pencils). His specialty is cheesecake cartooning (what they call "good girl art" these days).

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