A Cult Classic Ignored By The Masses, Conquest of Space Is More Than Meets The Eye

Conquest of Space: A Cult Classic Ignored By The Masses, Directed By A Genius But Botched By Studio Interference

By Larry Klaes

Science fiction cinema has a vast landscape of films to explore, with various subgenres and themes that captivate audiences to this day. Among these subgenres, the "space opera" has garnered much attention, with dramatic storylines and epic adventures exploring the vastness of space. While many space operas have soared, some have plummeted, failing to capture the magic of the genre. case of the latter is the 1955 film "Conquest of Space," a production with an intriguing history that has largely been forgotten yet holds an important place in the space opera genre.

"Conquest of Space" was inspired by a 1949 book of the same title, written by science writer Willy Ley and illustrated by space artist Chesley Bonestell. The book depicted various plans for humanity to explore and settle the Solar system, illustrated with breathtaking imagery. It captured the attention of many, including legendary producer George Pal, who aimed to bring the ideas showcased in the book to the big screen. Pal had previously produced another notable science fiction film, "Destination Moon," in 1950. With a focus on realism and scientific accuracy, "Destination Moon" became a benchmark for space travel films.

However, Pal's follow-up, "Conquest of Space," would not be as well-received, despite its ambitions. The film premiered in April 1955 to lukewarm reviews from critics and disappointing box office returns. Audiences and critics found the plot dull andCharacter development lacking. The film struggled to find its footing, being neither cheesy enough for casual enjoyment nor polished enough to resonate with audiences.

Upon its release, "Conquest of Space" was overshadowed by other notable science fiction films of the era, such as "This Island Earth" and "Forbidden Planet." These films seemed to have mastered the balance of scientific accuracy, entertainment, and innovative special effects. "Conquest of Space" became a forgotten footnote in the history of science fiction cinema, known only to die-hard fans of the genre.

However, there is more to "Conquest of Space" than meets the eye. Despite its flaws, the film holds several gems that make it worth revisiting. For starters, the film's pedigree is impressive, with top-notch talent involved in the production. The screenplay is by acclaimed science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, who brought his unique blend of realism and imaginative storytelling to the script. The special effects were handled by John P. Fulton, who had worked on numerous science fiction films, including "The War of the Worlds" and "When Worlds Collide."

The film also features an impressive cast, including Charles Bronson, Mary Murphy, and Peter Van Eyck. Despite the talent involved, the film's production was plagued by studio interference, with executives demanding changes to the plot and character development, ultimately undermining the film's potential.

Furthermore, "Conquest of Space" holds a significant place in the history of the space opera genre, influencing many subsequent films and television shows. Some have noted the similarities between "Conquest of Space" and the iconic "2001: A Space Odyssey," suggesting that the former may have influenced the latter.

For fans of the space opera genre, "Conquest of Space" is a must-watch, if only to witness a film that embodies the ambitions and pitfalls of the genre. While it may not be a classic, it certainly has earned its place in the cult film category. Its story of space exploration and discovery is a testament to the dreams of humanity's reach for the stars.

As we continue to look to the skies, dreaming of space exploration, "Conquest of Space" serves as a reminder of both the triumphs and setbacks of humanity's quest to conquer the final frontier. Even though the film may have stumbled at the time of its release, it remains a testament to the vision and imagination of those who dared to dream about the vastness of space.

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