Here's a title I'd been meaning to watch for some time, and I'm so glad I finally got round to. Destination Moon could be described as the 1950 version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Based on the Robert A Heinlein book, it is remarkable how much it predicts about the actual moon landing that would take place 19 years later.
A small group of scientists gain the backing of private US companies to finance the building of a rocket ship to the moon. The premise alone tells you that this is no creature feature, and although there is a moment when a touch of megalomania creeps in (with the line "Whoever gets to the moon first will be able to hit anywhere militarily on Earth and rule the world.") they steer clear of that aspect too and just concentrate on making a movie which is as technically accurate as 1950 would allow.
The early space race has always fascinated me, and so it's interesting to compare Destination Moon with the actual Apollo missions from over a decade later. The weightlessness is very well depicted, and never underplayed for convenience. Even Stanley Kubrick let gravity appear when it shouldn't have in 2001: A Space Odyssey - I'd say you have to turn to 1995's Apollo 13 for the same levels of fictional realism.
The science of it all is staggeringly impressive, from the accuracy with the airlocks to the 1/6th gravity. It's easy to forget that in 1950 we'd not seen our planet from space, so the depiction of Earth from the Moon is pretty accurate too, even if the colors aren't quite right. But most striking is how the Moon itself looks. Yes, we had telescopes to see the lunar surface back then, but it had never been shown quite this realistically before - If you watch this movie and the actual Apollo footage you'll see just how accurate.
It's interesting to note that the idea to land the V2-like rocket whole on the moon, as used here, was actually the original concept of Apollo until the main designer found it was much easier to create a Lunar Module. And if you compare the words of the astronauts who first step onto the lunar surface, Destination Moon gives us "First impression is one of utter barrenness and desolation.", 19 years later Buzz Aldrin said "Magnificent desolation."
Remember this was 1950, a decade before anyone had even entered space so everything presented was totally theoretical. Compare it to 1967's Countdown, 1978's Capricorn One, even 2000's Mission To Mars, and it's Destination Moon which stands out for being so spot-on in so many ways. You can't help but wonder if the Apollo planners took some inspiration from this film.
If anything brings this film back to it's 1950's b-movie roots it's the stars, they are just too bright and look more like light-bulbs. It's easily forgiven amongst all the realism, there's even a prediction of the Space Shuttle, as the rocket is designed to glide to a landing.
If you are a fan of this movie genre, or the space race itself, then I cannot recommend Destination Moon enough. You'll find the DVD available at a bargain price, and I can guarantee you it will be a journey you'll want to take again and again.