A Forgotten 'Space Odyssey' Influence Sheds Light on Cinematic Past and Future

Larry Klaes Takes a Deep Dive into the Cinema of Space

The mid-1950s were a time of change and innovation. The first sci-fi movies with stories set in space began to appear, inspired by the possibilities of rocketry and space exploration. One of the more ambitious and memorable of these was Conquest of Space, released in 1955. Despite its intent and the reputation of its producer, this movie is largely forgotten because of its uneven execution.

Larry Klaes takes a deep dive into this lesser-known film and explores its origins, influence, and what it says about the spacefaring dreams of humanity.

The Dreams of Conquest

The fascination with the possibility of space exploration began well before the mid-1950s. In 1949, science writer Willy Ley and space artist Chesley Bonestell collaborated on a book called Conquest of Space, which outlined humanity's path to the stars. It was this book that inspired George Pal to produce the movie of the same name.

The book had no written story but instead blended words and art to show how humans could explore the solar system. It was breathtakingly ahead of its time and a huge influence on many, including Arthur C. Clarke and George Pal. The movie version of Conquest of Space followed in 1955.

Origins of the Cinematic Conquest

Pal had a reputation as a producer of high-quality sci-fi movies, having produced the iconic and realistic Destination Moon in 1950. For Conquest of Space, he drew on talent from previous productions and from Willy Ley's book, including a scientist consultant and many of the designs for the ships and hardware.

The movie was not a box-office success and was criticized for its two-dimensional characters and unrealistic dialogue. Today it is largely forgotten, but Larry Klaes argues that it deserves a place in the history of science fiction cinema and space exploration.

A Forgotten Influence

The movie was not without influence on the science fiction genre. Larry draws parallels between the spacecraft designs in Conquest of Space and those featured in the classic 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Elements of the dramatic score also bear an uncanny resemblance.

Larry concludes that while Conquest of Space may have its flaws, it is worth a watch for its place in the history of space exploration and its influence on some of the most iconic science fiction movies of the 1960s and 70s.


Larry Klaes' writing on science fiction cinema can be found on Centauri Dreams. The book The Conquest of Space is available in print and digital formats. The movie Conquest of Space is available to stream online.

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