The First Man into Space (1959)

Genres - Science Fiction, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Horror  |   Release Date - Feb 27, 1959 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 78 min.  |   Countries - UK  |  
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One of a group of British-made horror/sci-fi films of the late 1950s utilizing American leading men (in this case Marshall Thompson), The First Man Into Space doesn't deliver quite a much as it promises, especially after a relatively suspenseful first quarter. Bill Edwards plays the title role, a hot-shot test pilot who exceeds his orders and the parameters of his mission, piloting the sub-orbital vehicle he is testing beyond the boundaries of the atmosphere -- that part of the picture is just fine. And some scenes in the second half are effective in their mix of violence and suspense. But it's obvious that the ideas and ambitions motivating the makers of this movie exceeded their available budget or talent -- it might have been interesting to see what Nigel Kneale might have done with the screenplay, or Val Guest could have done in the director's chair. As it is, the movie survives on pure momentum, carried by pieces of plot that are intriguing even if they don't quite fit together, and some uneven performances. One odd problem that this movie faces lies in its faux American setting -- it's plain, just based on the images and settings, that the action is not taking place within the boundaries of the USA, and the inability to certain supporting and background players to do proper American accents only further damages the cohesion of the picture. Still, the movie has its effective spots, and The First Man Into Space was good enough to earn a place in the Criterion Collection catalog, as part of its lower-rent Eclipse line of cult movies.