Monday, December 17, 2012

Space Duff

Spaceways is one of those can't-miss movies - Hammer Films doing 1950's sci-fi, with American sensitive tough-guy Howard Duff starring. You go into this kind of movie with low expectations, and you're rarely disappointed.

Duff plays a visiting American scientist at a secret English space program. Everyone is locked into the compound so there is no chance of  security leak. Nobody minds except for Duff's high-maintenance wife, who after all is not a scientist, and therefore shady. Well, Duff catches her canoodling with another scientist (probably an administrator), and then the wife and her lover disappear, and it looks bad for Duff.

The theory is that he killed them, and stuffed them in the rocket which is now orbiting the Earth. So the only evidence is in space. And the only person on Duff's side is cute Hungarian scientist Eva Bartok.

Bartok is lovely in this, with a certain intelligence that makes her believable as a scientist. She has a slightly wide jaw and a somewhat unbecoming haircut, so she is less glamorous but more beautiful.

The rest of the cast was servicable, except maybe the head of the project Philip Leaver. He makes a perfect jolly old professor type, acting as father figure to love-struck Eva. The setting is a great mixture of cheap, silly props that somehow becomes convincing - after all, post-war Britain had to make do, even in their secret rocket programs. The control panel in mission control is a beautiful piece of walnut, studded with gauges, like the dashboard of an Triumph or MG multiplied by 100.

So, a sci-fi film that's mostly a post-war film noir, with a melodrama romance - something for everyone. Especially Howard Duff - he has a beaten-up looking face with sad eyes that is perfect for tough guy roles. He has a voice to match - in fact, he was the voice of Sam Spade on radio for a while. Loved him in Jennifer.

In conclusion, there isn't a whole lot of space in this space movie. You have been warned.

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