Colonel Mike Blaiswick (Darrin McGavin) is the captain of the first American mission to Mars. Along with him are Duncan (George DeVries) and a geologist Nick Grant (Nick Adams). A previous flight made by Russian cosmonauts disappeared and was never heard from again. At mission control is Cliff Lawson (Michael DeBeausset). The guys spend a restless night before the flight. Mike’s wife Edith (Heather Hewitt) has been having nightmares. Nick has been having issues with his girlfriend Alice Grant (Shirley Parker). She has concerns that Nick’s adrenalin junky personality is coming between them.
Personal problems aside, the three men blast off with no issues. Except for a meteor shower the trip is mostly uneventful. One other unusual event is the presence of two of the cosmonaut’s bodies floating in space. They assume the men were buried in space. Mike radios back to Earth to have Cliff notify Russia.
Landing on Mars is good; however, the supply ship they sent down doesn’t land where it is supposed to. The men don their helmets and head for the supply ship. They leave a line of balloon markers on their way to the supply ship so they can find their way back. At one point Nick stops to take a sample of some rocks. When Nick tries to catch up he finds the frozen body of the third cosmonaut. Mike has Nick take the body back to the space capsule while he and Duncan go on to the supply ship. When they get there they find a hole burned into the ship and some of the supplies scattered.
Getting a little spooked they get whatever supplies they can and head back to the capsule. Looking back where they came from they find that the balloon markers are gone. Then they run into an unusual shaped metal object that suddenly appears. It has a red eye and disks that catch the sun’s rays. The object emits blinding light and heat. NASA later dubs it a Polarite. Mike shoots it and it melts and disappears. The guys high tail it back to the capsule.
NASA determines that the solar object is relaying images and sound to some sort of master control and receiving orders from it. They determine that whatever is behind it is hostile. NASA is scrapping the mission and has ordered the astronauts home. When they try to lift off from Mars a sphere suddenly appears and emits a force that prevents the capsule from taking off. When Duncan tries to analyze the object it opens up.
“Mission Mars” was released in 1968 and was directed by Nick Webster. It is a really low budget science fiction film. The movie is based on a story by Aubrey Wisberg.
I had a problem with the music score. It’s sort of a sixties go-go style which takes away from any moments that are supposed to be scary or intense. Plus the movie started really slow. Then it got rather strange and confusing. Eventually I was fascinated. The portion of the film that takes place on Mars reminded me of the low budget sci-fi sets used on “Star Trek”. There are lots of scientific errors in the film but I found them to be a little on the charming side. Even the Lycra “spacesuits” and the motorcycle helmet “space helmets” are just plain fun. The movie is very much of its time. To my surprise I ended up enjoying it.
Granted the film isn’t of the caliber of “2001” 1968 or “Planet of the Apes” 1968 but it is better than “Mars Needs Women” 1968 and “Curse of the Swamp Creature” 1968. The alien solar collector things are suitably creepy and the frozen cosmonaut startling. The first half of the movie is basically boring but the second half had enough of the unusual to make up for it.
The movie uses stock footage of NASA liftoffs and other NASA stock footage in the beginning of the film. This was one of Nick Adams’ last films before his death.
If you’re a fan of Nick Adams, Darren McGavin or are a fan of low budget sci-fi that takes itself serious but shouldn't then you should enjoy this movie.