The Lost Missile (1958)

Genres - Horror, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller  |   Run Time - 70 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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What makes The Lost Missile special and unusual is that it takes place in real time -- with 70 minutes' running time, and 63 minutes until the missile is due to destroy New York, there is a genuine sense of tension throughout as the minutes click past; and there are virtually no time-compression cuts in its structure. The script isn't perfect -- a subplot involving the birth of the baby of one scientist (Phillip Pine) is very badly written, particularly the dialogue for his wife -- but it is also fairly clever in its little twists on reality. The hero of the piece, played by Robert Loggia (in only his second leading role), works at Havenbrook National Laboratories on Long Island, which is an obvious stand-in for the real-life Brookhaven Laboratory; and, apparently oblivious to the scatological joke one could extrapolate from it, the real-life North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) becomes the "Continental Air Defense Command," or CONAD. The real-time pacing of the drama, coupled with the effort at some New York City verisimilitude, makes The Lost Missile a unique sci-fi thriller of its period, exemplifying both genres despite a perilously low budget that doesn't get in the way of some decent special effects. Director Lester William Berke, who was unable to complete the film before this death, even manages convincing work in elements of the crime and juvenile delinquency film genres that were the usual focus of his work of this era. Sharp-eared viewers will also hear stylistic overlaps between composer Gerald Fried's tense, expressive music for The Lost Missile and his score for Edward L. Cahn's The Curse of the Faceless Man, also made for United Artists the same year.