Way . . . Way Out

Tagged: Film

Film (1966). Coldwater. Directed by Gordon Douglas. Starring Jerry Lewis, Connie Stevens, Dick Shawn, Anita Ekberg, Brian Keith, Robert Morley, Dennis Weaver, Howard Morris.Written by William Bowers and László Vadnay. 101 minutes. Colour.

In the future, both the Americans and the Russians maintain two-man meteorological stations on the Moon. Since their current astronauts (Weaver, Morris) are constantly in conflict, the Americans decide to send a married couple to replace them, but when the designated couple starts feuding, administrator Harold Quonset (Morley) instructs backup astronaut Pete Mattemore (Lewis) to woo a qualified bride, Eileen Forbes (Stevens). She resists at first, but finally agrees to a marriage "in name only." Once on the Moon, the newly weds meet their Russian counterparts, Anna Soblova (Ekberg) and Igor Vaikleinokov (Shawn), who are friendly enough, though Igor does stage a "party" at the American base that leads to a comical fight with a drunken Mattemore on the lunar surface. Awakening from a hangover, Mattemore is told by General Hallenby (Keith) that there are rising tensions on Earth between America and Russia and is advised to "secure the Moon", leading him to knock Igor unconscious; then, after the crisis is over, Soblova and Vaikleinokov get married, and Soblova announces that she is pregnant, apparently giving the Russians the propaganda coup of having the first baby on the Moon. But it turns out that Soblova lied about her pregnancy to get Vaikleinokov to marry her, so Mattemore and Forbes (who are now a true romantic couple) still have a chance to have the first baby themselves.

Filmed at a time when comedian Lewis was endeavouring to develop a more mature image, this film is more subdued than one might imagine, except for the slapstick of his drunken, low-gravity battle with Shawn, and at times it seems a comic version of Project Moonbase (1953); again, an American couple serving on the Moon must be married to placate public opinion, and again there is a concluding marriage on the Moon conducted via television by an official on Earth (though here, the Americans are already married, and it is two Russians who are getting married). Also lurking within this comedy is the significant issue of potential psychological problems and personal conflicts arising from prolonged life in the confined quarters of space, and the film anticipated that accurate weather observations would become an important incentive to Space Flight. (Ironically, however, since the hungover Mattemore fails to inform Earth about a major weather problem, the film also demonstrates that the unmanned satellites actually developed for this purpose would be superior to human observers.) Still, the film as a whole is not particularly amusing, and its obscurity does not seem undeserved. [GW]

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