Assignment: Outer Space

Year 1961

Alain Dijon as  Commander Archie
Archie Savage as Al
Rik Van Nutter as Ray Peterson
Gabriella Farinon   as Lucy
Director - Antonio Margheriti  
Screenwriters - Ennio De Concini,  
  - Jack Wallace,  

I hate putting this one Under a Rock because it tries, and tries hard, to be, if not entertaining, at least scientifically accurate. It's kind of boring and not wholly accurate, so it fails. But it tries. As a side note, IMDb says that there's an alternative title of Space Men for this one.

A newpaper reporter, Ray Peterson (Rik Van Nutter) is given a plum job. He's sent into space to write a story about a space station. The Commander Archie (Alain Dijon) doesn't want him there. Lucy (Gabriella Farinon) sees Ray and immediately does want him there. Too bad for Archie, he's lost the girl of his dreams.

What kind of name is Alain Dijon? I remember an Alain Delon, who was popular in the 60s. There's also that mustard, the Grey Poupon, that's a Dijon mustard. So what's an Alain Dijon?

As to the plot of the movie, well, about half-way through, it turns out that a runaway rocket ship is on a course with Earth and the extreme heat that it's giving off will disintegrate anything five thousand miles away from it. If the rocket goes into Earth orbit, it will fry the surface of the planet and kill everything there.

Say what? First of all, it's not giving off this "heat" or it would've melted itself. Instead, the ship, named Alpha 2, has photon generators (a.k.a. flashlights in my world) that generate heat at a distance of five thousand miles from the source. It must be a wave and node/anti-node kind of thing because there's a safe corridor or tunnel that can be traveled without risk of being disintegrated.

Hey! Star Wars! Is there where you stole the idea of sending a missile down the right path to blow up the Death Star? Because that's exactly what happens in Assignment: Outer Space. Al (Archie Savage) discovers that even though most missiles blow up at five thousand miles, there's an unseen area where the effects of the photon generator are non-existent. He starts shooting missiles down this tube. Bored with just blowing up missiles, he decides to navigate the tube himself.

Al fails to surf the perfect tube. He dies in the attempt to reach the Death Star, uh, runaway rocket Alpha 2. So Luke, I mean Ray, goes in and using the force, I mean spare junk he tosses out to see if it blows up or not, navigates his way to the heart of the Death Star, I mean Alpha 2.

Ray's a hero, he gets the girl, the Earth is saved, and Ray presumably wins a Pullitzer and the gratitude of the Earth for about five minutes. Then, there's a new boy band and paternity suits and other important news from CNN like how pregnancy can result in births.

There are some likable characters. Al, in particular, gave some pathos to the movie. Still, I didn't cry when he went Pfft! I also didn't care if Lucy was going to be with a man old enough to be her father or with a guy who whimpered during his "orgy of air". Yes, at one point he does say, "There's an orgy of air," and for some reason he's going to die because of it.

There's a lot of sciency sounding mumbo jumbo, like giving positions in degrees with respect to Vega or General Motors or something. Which is good, because you always need a point of reference. But then later, that point of reference is Aldebaran. That's like being bi-sexual. Pick one and stick with it until you get it right!

There's also the nonsense about, "Not everyone can take 16 gammas." What is that a G-force? As in 16 Gs? 16 Gs? Are you kidding? Black boxes can only take 12 Gs. We're heading into Dragon Ball-Z territory here.

And then there are the speeds. Supposedly, everyone is traveling at ninety-thousand miles an hour. That sounds mighty fast. But if you consider that the escape velocity to leave the earth is about twenty-five thousand miles per hour, then it's not that fast. Especially when you consider that it takes that much speed just to break free from Earth gravity and just sit there.

In the movie, they go from the asteroids, to Venus, to Mars, back to the asteroids, and finally to Earth in hours, a half day tops. Even at 90,000 mph, it would take time. Distance from an asteroid to Earth? 90,000,000 miles on average. Even at 90,000 mph, it's going to take 1,000 hours. Last time I checked, that's longer than a day or so (or may paychecks are too small). In the movie, it's a jaunt that you don't even have to sit down for.

There's a scene where they use an acetylene torch in space. Maybe that's okay because one of the tanks in an acetylene rig is an oxygen tank.

There are some things the movie does well scientifically. There's zero-gravity when there should be. Doors are cantered to match the imagined curvature of the ship the people are in.

The biggest problem with the movie, after the poor, faded transfer, is that the dialog is just uninspired. This movie really had the potential to be an above average science fiction suspense film. Oh, there's nothing about it to make it anything special, but it could have been of the same caliber as Marooned. With a little editing, a few extended scenes, and a bit of humanity this might've been not too shabby.

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