Monday, 21 October 2013

Assignment: Outer Space (1960)

We return to the land of the Sci-Fi "Classics" with a cheapie Italian film.  Like many Italian films in the English-language markets, it is known by a couple of different names: it's listed in this boxed set as Assignment: Outer Space, but was also known as Space Men (Wikipedia has it under the latter title).

Sometime in the future, humanity has spread to the stars.  This isn't an especially glamorous future, however, as the work is hard and dangerous.  Our protagonist is a journalist, sent to do a report on the living conditions of the astronauts.  He quickly butts heads with the mission commander, who is none too pleased to have an interloper aboard.  The journalist's interference in a shipboard emergency, where he saves a life at a prodigious financial cost, exacerbates the antagonism.

Once we get past setting up the two men's rivalry, the plot of the movie is pretty straightforward: an out of control rocket, radiating a deadly energy field, is on a collision course with Earth.  The vessel the journalist is on is the only one with any chance - however slight - of stopping it.  The bulk of the latter half of the film is taken up with the crew's various efforts to save humanity.  if you've already formed a suspicion that the journalist will be terribly heroic and win the captain's grudging respect, then you're not going to be surprised by anything this movie throws at you.

However, between the ultra low-budget effects, the earnestness of the script, and the actual presence of a recognisable character arc - a rare thing indeed in Italian SF - this film manages to rate a cut above the average for this boxed set.  It's still only worth tracking down if you have an interest in this kind of thing, but it's definitely a better way to occupy your time than say Adventures of a Teenage Dragon Slayer.

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