1950s was the birth of the space-age, and cinema audiences clamoured to
see the anticipated future on their cinema screens. Hollywood soon
provided with the big budget, technicolour Destination Moon (1950), but some quick work by Robert Lippert saw his low budget Rocketship X-M
(1950) hit cinemas first. The film was distributed in the UK by
Exclusive Pictures who soon set their film-making division (Hammer
Films) on the case of cashing in on the popularity. As usual, basing
their screenplay on a radio drama, Hammer set-out to make a space-age
movie with none of the budget.
At the Deanfield Space Centre,
home of the British space programme, the scientists are working on a
project to launch the first rocket into stable orbit around the earth,
a pre-cursor to the development of a permanent space station. The night
before the big launch, the various crew are at a party. Dr. Stephen
Mitchell (Howard Duff) and his wife Vanessa have a falling out, she is
fed-up of military life, he later finds her and his colleague Philip
Crenshaw kissing. The next morning, the rocket launch goes well until
its final stage when there is a malfunction - at the same time it
emerges that Philip and Vanessa have disappeared without a trace. An
investigator arrives and suspects that they might have been murdered,
Lisa Frank (Eva Bartok) stands by Stephen, but to prove his innocence
he has to take extreme measures....
As you can tell from the synopsis, the
plot of Spaceways
is more murder mystery than science-fiction. With the short run-time,
few of the characters really build to anything and we don't
particularly care for most of them - the investigator in particular is
a very minor character for what should be the lead role, while the
romance between the characters is just cliché. The film brushes
rapidly over a lot of interesting plot details including Phillip's
spying charges and the seemingly incredibly easy construction of a
rocket to carry a person. In the end, the script is not too bad and
there is some good tension and a few surprises towards the end -
although the actual ending itself is rather a let down.
Fisher had been with Hammer for a year, and was already one of the
studio's top directors, however with the limited sets and budget of Spaceways
he is rather restricted. The occasional stock footage is used well and
exterior/interiors all look fine - the rocketship cabin filled with
manual dials and levels looks laughable these days, but was probably
authentic for the time. Hammer again proving that they can pull off great looking sets with no budget.
is an average film that has been overlooked for many years largely due
to its science-fiction premise that, thanks to a low budget, it was
never able to live up too - the film might have proven more sucessful
if sold as the noirish murder mystery drama it actually is. Don't
expect thrilling sci-fi, or a sophisticated mystery film and you might
enjoy Spaceways - it has the
plot of an afternoon detective show and should appeal to fans of the
same. Hammer film collectors shouldn't expect anything too exciting,
Fisher does nothing special from behind the chair, and none of the cast
are big Hammer players.
Anyone famous in it?
Howard Duff - a popular film-noir star in the 1940s and 1950s and later starred in No Way Out (1987) Eva Bartok - Hungarian actress who starred in Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Terence Fisher - Hammer's top director who shot most of their top horror films.
Who is it for?
Fans of detective films should enjoy this simple story, but not enough action or detail for sci-fi lovers.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Black and White. The
print is of a good quality, rather grainy and with some speckling.
English language original mono sound. Clear for the most part but with some background crackling and occasional drop-outs.
Feature: 1hr 13m 05s (PAL)
The disc includes:
(1957) Hammer space-age documentary shot in colour and 'Hammerscope'
widescreen. A look at the development of nuclear power, aircraft and
space vehicles. A curio at best, but still good to have on DVD. Print
Quality is decent - very grainy. (25m 36s)
A detailed 24 page booklet about the film.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Image R1 DVD - lacks bonus film.
Sold as sci-fi, this is merely an average detective film with a good climax but poor ending.
good looking print and an interesting but unexciting bonus film.
Booklet is good although original trailer would have been interesting.