Film (1960). Allied Film Makers/Excalibur. Directed by Basil Dearden, starring Kenneth More, Shirley Anne Field, Michael Hordern, Charles Gray, John Glyn-Jones, John Phillips. Written by Bryan Forbes, Michael Relph, and Basil Dearden (uncredited). 98 minutes. Black and white.
William Blood (More) is rejected as an experimental subject for research into the common cold because this imperturbable man never gets sick; but the head of the British moon project, Dr Davidson (Hordern), then recruits him to become the first man to fly to the Moon, believing that this "remarkably healthy young man" will be the ideal subject to test the safety of Space Flight before they risk the lives of more valuable, highly trained astronauts. Interrupting a budding romance with a beautiful stripper named Polly (Field), Blood begins a month of training, although the other astronauts resent his presence, especially after they learn that the first man to reach the Moon will receive a prize of one hundred thousand pounds; one of them, Leo (Gray), even tries to kill Blood by sabotaging two of his tests before a psychologist reprograms him through sensory deprivation to think of Blood as his best friend. Finally, in Australia, Blood is placed on board the Spaceship and blasts off on an apparently successful flight to the Moon; however, when he lands and begins to explore the terrain, he encounters a prospector wearing a strange helmet, finds a can of beans, sees a kangaroo, and finally realizes that he has actually landed somewhere in Australia. He rushes to the rocket site to prevent the Scientists from launching three more astronauts on what will clearly prove another futile mission. An epilogue shows Blood happily married to Polly and taking part in an experiment involving "Family Planning", which has successfully concluded with the birth of three children.
The idea that the British government might launch its very own space programme, once presented as a serious possibility in 1950s sf films like Spaceways (1953), The Quatermass Xperiment (1955; vt The Creeping Unknown US), and Satellite in the Sky (1956), could by the year 1960 be addressed only farcically, explaining the appearance of this uneven comedy, which indeed seems designed to poke fun at stereotypically British traits. Hence, the programme's leader exhibits extreme caution in wishing to make sure that space travel is safe before actually launching any of his astronauts, and Blood's selection and training convey the perception that the ability to remain calm in all circumstances might be considered a more valuable trait in astronauts than courage, skill, or physical strength. Blood even delays putting on his space helmet for the flight because he must first finish his cup of tea. In the end, of course, this oddly managed space programme proves incapable of sending its spacecraft more than a few miles across the Australian countryside, though audiences figure out long before the clueless Blood that he has not in fact reached the Moon. Blood's final withdrawal into marital bliss, with no further mention of the British space programme, suggests that everyone else involved in the project may have abandoned their dreams of space travel as well. [GW]