Rehla ilal kamar [Journey to the Moon] (1959)

(aka Trip to the Moon)

Everyone was going to the Moon in the Fifties.

Even the Egyptians.

Now I have to thank one of my favorite movie reviewers, Dave Sindelar, for introducing me to this movie.  Since 2001, Dave has written short reviews of a remarkable assortment — over six thousand — different horror, fantasy and science fiction films under the heading, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings, and he has a knack for finding and discussing a lot of intriguing films you’ve never heard of.

Although it is aggravating that for some reason Norton just doesn’t like his site.  Don’t ask me why.

The story has a somewhat familiar quality about it, although it isn’t quite a rip-off of any specific Fifties science fiction film.  A group of journalists go to see the new spaceship which is just about to be tested.  They aren’t allowed to bring their cameras into the site, but their driver (played by Egyptian comic Ismail Yassin) sneaks one in, slips away from the rest of the group and climbs aboard the rocket.  But he has to hide because just then his boss shows up for a private tour, with the slightly mad German Doctor who built the rocket.

And, naturally, as Yassin is the comic relief, he accidentally launches the rocket.

They eventually find a mysterious old man who can walk on the surface of the moon without a spacesuit (which saves a lot of money) and introduces them to his troupe of beautiful young daughters who perform a number of intricate Hollywood-style dance numbers…

More than anything else, Journey to the Moon reminds me of Destination Moon.  There is even a reasonably impressive copy of the spacewalk scene from Destination Moon on their trip out.  While Dave Sindelar considered this one a comedy, I have to wonder if it wasn’t intended as a more or less straight trip to the Moon with Ismail as the comic relief.  He reminds me of Destination Moon‘s dim-witted Joe Sweeny (Dick Wesson), the bumbling Bowery kid who is a last-minute replacement on the flight, but can’t believe the rocket will ever work.

Now I was somewhat hindered by the strange subtitles on the copy I found on Youtube, which cover (roughly) the first ten or fifteen minutes, then vanish until the last ten.

Nor does the fact that Youtube autosubbed this one help, either, as the autosubs are in Spanish.

Don’t ask me why.  The German Doctor spouts a lot of German along the way, but most of the film is apparently in Arabic.  I suspect that the Egyptian source who uploaded this one to Youtube probably clicked on the wrong video language.

Although you’d think even an AI would have noticed something was wrong.

From what I could make out despite this series of flubs, the film seems less of an -and-out comedy, and more of a drama with comic touches.  Nowhere is this clearer than at the very end when we learn that there was a terrible war on the Moon and meet some of the last few survivors, who are horribly disfigured.  It is a singularly dark twist, although it does remind me a bit of Rocketship X-M and a few other films of the era.

However, we also get a very Hollywood romance.  But that’s not much of a surprise.

There’s also a robot which is a bit crude.  It is rather boxy and from one glimpse we get of its disassembled parts, it appears to have been built out of thin plywood.  However, even if they couldn’t add a clear dome and lots of working parts, they did manage to add a rotating antenna (just in case we couldn’t figure out which robot they were ripping off).  It ends up as Ismail’s drinking buddy (but can’t hold its liquor), which reminds me of that classic scene when Earl Holliman (the C-57D’s cook in Forbidden Planet) tries to make friends with Robbie:

“Will sixty gallons be sufficient?”

For all that Ismail is the star, I just don’t find him particularly funny.  Nor does he really get a lot of screen time to clown around in.  More than anyone else, he resembled the fifth official member of the Three Stooges, Joe Besser, and has the same sort of whiny voice and constant complaints.

And, no, I never found Joe Besser particularly funny, either.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the film is the rocket itself.  After all, they actually built a full-sized model of the ship, complete with a hoist to lift the crew up to the main hatch located halfway up the side of the ship.  It isn’t exactly detailed (rather the opposite), but then, most of the movie spaceships of the era weren’t particularly detailed until NASA started shooting their own off.  I’m not sure whether they turned it on its side for the space walk or built a separate set for that sequence, but then, a lot of foreign made films of the era had notably large props or sets.

Perhaps labor was cheap there, I don’t know.

I enjoyed Journey to the Moon a lot more than I expected to, even with the subtitle problems.  It just looks and feels like an early Fifties science fiction classic.

Although it is a bit like Abbot and Costello go to Mars, as well.

If you are willing to accept the wonky subtitles (and believe me, I tried hard to find another copy!) it’s a wonderfully cheesy slice of Fifties Sci Fi goodness, complete with rockets, robots and lots of beautiful girls.

And really, what more can you ask for if all you want is a fun little science fiction movie for your late-night viewing?…



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



And my comic take on a favorite author…

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