director Robert Day
Outdated science fiction. I have a liking for it.
The movie First Man into Space predates the actual first man into space by only a couple of years. Yuri Garagin would go down in history as the first man to orbit the Earth and exit the Earth’s atmosphere, breaching “outer space.” This relatively obscure 1959 sci fi horror film about the potential disasters of such a mission would probably continue to remain obscure if the Criterion Collection hadn’t compiled it and some other films by director Robert Day into its “Monsters and Madness” collection.
Hot shot pilot Lieutenant Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards) pushes the limits of the rockets he tests, wanting to gain the title of “first man into space” not purely for his own glory but for the betterment of man’s knowledge. Though back on Earth, his brother Commander Charles “Chuck” Prescott (Marshall Thompson) thinks his attitude cavalier. When Dan gets another chance to actually make it into space, he succeeds but hits some sort of cloud or mist that penetrates his ship and causes him to crash.
It turns out that whatever the mist did, it calcified everything it touched, including Dan. He comes back an encrusted monster, with an urge to drink blood, besetting cattle, blood banks, nurses, and other people. When finally they lure him into a compression chamber, he is able to breathe and speak. And die.
The reason I finally watched this now was because I had just happened upon The Incredible Melting Man (1977), ostensibly a re-make of this movie. The big difference is the First Man into Space is an earnest film, a serious, developed narrative around these two brothers and the woman who loves them. And Dan’s tragedy is a tragedy. The Incredible Melting Man just melts real good.
And actually, the make-up in First Man into Space really is pretty cool and gruesome on its own.