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Image Entertainment presents

Flight to Mars (1951)

Steve Abbott: Mother Earth looks mighty good from here. Close enough to the man in the moon to talk to him.
Dr. Lane: If you do talk to him, be careful what you say. The moon could be a deadly menace to us.- Cameron Mitchell, John Litel

Stars: Cameron Mitchell, Marguerite Chapman, Arthur Franz, Virginia Huston
Other Stars: John Litel, Morris Ankrum, Richard Gaines, Lucille Barkley, Robert Barrat, Wilbur Back, William Bailey, Trevor Bardette, Stanley Blystone, David Bond
Director: Walter Mirsch

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:10m:45s
Release Date: 2002-05-07
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B+B+ C


DVD Review

"The Earth seems so big when you're on it, but from out here, so small and nothing. It's like closing your eyes in the dark, suddenly there you are, alone with your soul." - Steve Abbott (Cameron Mitchell)

While many vintage films offer a glimpse into how society once was, one of the most interesting genres is the world of speculative fiction. Long before mankind committed to travel in outer space, humans had imagined what it would be like. Albeit pretty lean on credible science, Flight to Mars offers a creative look at some of the experiences space travel could offer, what challenges would be encountered, what solutions would be available. After the success of George Pal's Rocketship X-M and Irving Pichel's Destination Moon (based on the Robert Heinlein novel), this 1951 release, the first color film about a trip to Mars, offers an Atomic Age perspective on a journey into the unknown, helmed by veteran B western director, Leslie Selander.

Based on the story Aelita, by Russian novelist Alexei Tolstoy (uncredited due to the Cold War), Flight to Mars tells of Earth's first voyage to the red planet—Hollywood's fifth in the preceding year and a half. Four scientists and a newspaper reporter make the journey, encountering hazards along the way that force them to crash land on Mars. They soon discover that an advanced, humanoid race inhabits the planet, living in vast underground cities. The natives are friendly, or so it seems, and offer to help repair the spacecraft for the return trip to Earth, but secretly, Ikron, the head of the Martian senate, is plotting to capture the ship once it is functional, and launch an invasion of Earth. Fortunately, there are sympathetic forces in the Martian society who alert the Earth crew to the potential betrayal, but can the Earthmen escape in time?

The cast featured Cameron Mitchell (How to Marry a Millionaire) as the naïve reporter, opposite Marguerite Chapman (The Seven Year Itch) as Alita, the daughter of a Martian physicist. John Litel serves up the scientific babble as Dr. Lane, with the pipe-smoking Dr. Jim Barker (played by Arthur Franz of The Sands of Iwo Jima) providing Mitchell's romantic rival for the attentions of Virginia Huston's Carol Stafford character. A pair of future Perry Mason judges round out the cast; Morris Ankrum as the Martian bad guy, Ikron, and Richard Gaines as the pessimistic Professor Jackson. The feature was a huge success, and Walter Mirisch, the film's producer, would go on to become a major force in Hollywood, behind such films as The Magnificent Seven and West Side Story.

Flight to Mars is a wonderfully campy little adventure. Some of the technology involved is laughable by today's standards, but considering the era this was made, provides an interesting glimpse into Hollywood's take on what was widely known in the day. Deep space communication is provided by shooting cylinders back to earth. Onboard gravity is solved by aligning the main cabin with a gyroscope. Some of the crew are unaware that meteors create shooting stars, and pipe-smoking is acceptable in the ship's cabin.

The Martian costumes were hand-me-downs from Destination Moon, and the ship interior was the refurbished Rocketship X-M set, but Flight to Mars created its own legacy with its model spaceship recycled for several other 1950s films including Zsa Zsa Gabor's Queen of Outer Space, World Without End (touted as CinemaScope's first science-fiction thriller), and It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Despite its somewhat low buck production values, it is impressive to think that this was shot in only five days. The plot is thin, the acting pedestrian, and the effects on the cheesy side, all of which combine to make a great sci-fi matinee, 1950s style.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For its age, the image looks pretty good. There are some source related issues, such as a fair amount of print defects, mainly scratches and dust, but there is a recurring brown squib that shows up in the center of the frame, and there are some more major defects and missing frames, and abrupt jump cuts. Colors are pretty good, but does suffer from some shifting. Grain is evident, and the look is somewhat soft.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is generally pretty good, but shows its age, with some crackling, hiss and a few pops here and there. It services the picture, but is far from pristine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, She Demons, The Monster from Green Hell, The Flying Saucer, The Crawling Eye
1 Documentaries
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Cameron Mitchell
Extras Review: The principle extra is a 52m:14s interview with Cameron Mitchell, comprised of two installments of Sinister Image hosted by David Del Valle. Surrounded by posters from many of his films, Mitchell discusses his career, which included films like Gorilla at Large, Death of a Salesman and Monkey On My Back, the first film on heroin addiction. The second installment features a lengthy discussion of his work with Mario Bava, for whom he did 6 pictures including Blood in Black Lace. Some of the film clips referenced have been cut out, assumedly for clearance reasons. The video quality is pretty sketchy, but there is some great trivia in these episodes.

The trailer for Flight To Mars is included, and a hidden trailer archive contains more camp previews: Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, She Demons, The Monster from Green Hell, The Flying Saucer, and The Crawling Eye.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

A must for the vintage science fiction collection, Image presents another in the Wade Williams Collection with the first color picture about a Flight To Mars, nicely supplemented by an interesting interview with its star, Cameron Mitchell.

Jeff Ulmer 2002-07-15