The Lost Missile (1958)

This is a fairly typical, mid-range product of the paranoid climate of the late Fifties.

A mysterious spaceship – which apparently came from outer space – dives into Earth’s atmosphere at about Mach 6, leaving a five-mile wide path of destruction in its wake.  Naturally, it’s headed for New York.

While this one has been mocked for its somewhat simple plot, it does what it does quite effectively and doesn’t stay around long enough to wear out its welcome.  We get to see a fictionalized version of NORAD at work, complete with official footage of contemporary jet aircraft, real radar and missile defense facilities, and glimpses of the actual tracking operations at work.  It also portrays the Civil Defense preparations in place in case of nuclear war (although most of that is just shots of guys in white helmets).

Meanwhile, there’s the usual genius scientist at work, although in the late Fifties he’s become an organization man, a faceless hero in a Grey Flannel suit, a working stiff who is one of hundreds of scientists putting in twelve hour days to build a super missile and bomb to put in it that’s big enough to give us peace.   And, by 1958, yes, that comes with at least a few worries about why they’re building bombs capable of obliterating 500 square miles.

And, while it is thrown in quite quickly, one of the scientists does worry that they’re planning to destroy a ship which might contain space aliens who could teach us so much.

If there was anyone left after they burned the face of the planet clean, of course.

Completists will have to see this one, but it is a modestly entertaining film for the most part, with the sort of harsh ending that you only found in the late Fifties, when people started losing faith in the Future.

Which is always a foolish thing to have faith in, anyway.


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