Horror

A Changed Man – First Man Into Space (1959)


Some men seek fame while others are happy keeping to themselves and in the case of Lt. Dan Prescott who is a test pilot, he simply wants to push himself harder and further than any man has gone before. So it is that he does just that, taking his experimental craft farther into space than any before him and that is where he runs into trouble for not only was it not meant to do as such, he runs into a strange cloud of particles and ends up crashlanding back on Earth. With Dan’s brother Commander Charles Prescott leading the investigation into the crash and also being the man who recommended him, the plane is recovered for the most part but Dan is nowhere to be found. Soon animals and people are turning up dead, killed by some monstrous creature and Charles along with those who are aiding him come to a terrifying realization.

First Man Into Space which is directed by Robert Day begins quite innocently enough as a straightforward bit of science-fiction about space exploration and test flights and such before it transforms itself into a creature feature. The great thing about this picture is that the title gives nothing away and as it turns from one type of movie into another it could have turned out to be quite silly and perhaps in a way, some might call it that but it works well and is a lot of fun because of it. Day keeps a serious tone through all of it as one brother searches for the other, not knowing that he has gone through an incredible transformation from man into monster. Those under the commander’s purview and the scientists who are trying to solve the mystery of not only the downed flight but the bloodless animals and what could be responsible for them are clueless at first but soon the pieces of the puzzle start coming together and Charles, while heartbroken, knows what he has to do if it should come to that.

The cast was solid if somewhat unknown, all of them B-players at best but talented and versed in their craft enough that making this film was an easy watch. In fact, Marshall Thompson who would take the lead as Charles would seem like a cross between Glenn Ford and Van Johnson, a strange amalgam of the two yet a man who does a great job in the lead providing that strong, brooding, Navy commander that was needed to bring this story to life. As for the creature who was both his brother and the villain, it did look slightly ridiculous but was quite effective overall as it was kept off-screen for the most part. Due to that, a very moody atmosphere was created and a fair dab of horror to go along with it. Those in the cast would add to this and all of it make for some very suspenseful viewing at times.

Most will not find a lot of people talking about First Man Into Space which is a bit of a shame for while it is not a top-tier science-fiction spectacle, it is a very solid B movie, good enough that it even got a Criterion release. Entertaining from start to finish, First Man Into Space is worth seeking out.

3.5 out of 5

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