Spaced out ways
“Spaceways” is Hammer’s first venture into the Science Fiction genre and directed by Terence Fisher. Adapted from the British radio serial of the same name the movie is a joint adventure with America’s Lippert Studios. Technically it is a science fiction murder mystery. Staring Howard Duff as Dr. Stephen Mitchell and Eva Bartok as Dr. Lisa Frank. A team of scientists are working on a rocket they want to send into space and put in orbit around the Earth. A satellite. Eventually the aim is to build a space station in outer space.
Dr. Mitchell’s wife Vanessa, however, is having an affair with Dr. Phillip Crenshaw. Dr. Frank is in love with Dr. Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell sees his wife kissing Dr. Crenshaw. Dr. Mitchell and Vanessa have a fight. Is this a science fiction story or a soap opera?
There is a problem with the rocket and it doesn’t reach the altitude it was suppose to reach for its orbit. It still orbits the planet, but at a much lower height. Dr. Crenshaw and Vanessa go missing. Dr. Smith (Alan Wheatley) investigates and comes to the conclusion that Dr. Crenshaw and Vanessa are dead. He believes Dr. Mitchell killed them and hid them in the rocket that is now orbiting the Earth and that’s why it couldn’t reach proper altitude. Plus he thinks that Dr. Crenshaw is a spy. Oh good heavens!
To clear his name Dr. Mitchell wants to send another rocket up to bring back the first one. That way he can prove that he didn’t kill anyone. This time he wants to be on the rocket. The first man in space. He can prove his innocence and prove that a man can survive in space. A two fer.
"Spaceways" was released in 1953 and was directed by Terence Fisher. As a science fiction story it doesn’t go far. As a murder mystery it doesn’t go far. As a soap opera it goes too far. How people feel about it is all over the place. I’m not sure that they needed the whole soap opera bit. I was OK with the scientist and the wayward wife missing but I don’t think they needed it as a plot point to get the manned rocket into space. They could have gone with something less far fetched. They already had a problem with the first rocket. If it was in danger of falling out of the sky it would have made better sense sending up another to guide it down. But to check the fuel tanks to see if there were any bodies in it seemed a bit of a stretch to me.
Despite the human drama part the rest of the movie was interesting. You know the science fiction part. Sure add a little drama if you want. Even a little mystery and espionage but don’t make it the reason for the entire plot. If you can ignore the human high jinx it really wasn’t bad. The sets were believable, the stock footage blended in. Even the space suits were good. Enjoy it as a science fiction story and leave the drama behind.