I had a bit of spare time last night with BM and DM, fellow MiSTies and Bad Cinema aficionados, so we watched my copy of 1953's "Project Moonbase" on their home theatre system. Their projector probably cost more than this film's entire budget, but that's just one of the joys of Bad Cinema.
It's the far off, futuristic year of 1970, which bears a surprising resemblance to 1953 except for the cordless bakelite phones and the fact that gender politics seem to have gone backwards. The United States Space Force has decided to send an expedition to orbit the moon. They want to give command of the mission to Major Bill Moore, but at the last minute they cave in to political pressure to give it to Colonel Briteis, who recently won great public acclaim by being the first person to orbit the Earth.
No one is happy about this, except Colonel Briteis, who turns out to be... A WOMAN! And a woman who appears to be about fifteen and incapable of piloting a shopping cart, let alone a space ship. Here's a sample of her dialogue with the General:
General: Colonel, I'm sending Major Moore as your co-pilot.
Colonel: Bill Moore? Oh no General, you can't!
General: And why not?
Colonel: The big lug hates me, he's jealous of me.
General: Now you listen to me, 'Brighteyes'...
Colonel: "Bright-ice", if you please...
General: Shut up, BrightEYES, and listen to me! Major Moore is the best pilot we've got, better than you are!
Colonel: But, I don't understand why you...
General: PIPE DOWN! If he weighed 90 pounds instead of 180, he'd be a Colonel and a public hero and you'd still be a Captain! But you got the orbiting flight, you got the ticker tape parade and all the rest. Ever since then you've been too big for your britches. Get me? [Turns away from her]
Colonel: No, I WON'T!
General: [Turns and walks towards her, forcing her to step back as he talks] ONE: Colonels don't say, "No", to Generals! TWO: You're not a superwoman, you're a spoiled brat! THREE: Any more guff out of you and I'll turn you over my knee and spank you!
I believe there was a similar exchange between NASA chiefs and Buzz Aldrin in 1968. Or at least the spanking part.
Meanwhile, the Enemies of Freedom (presumably Commies, but they all talk and dress like American middle-managers) have managed to infiltrate the crew with one of their own people, who is instructed to destroy the mission either by crashing the rocket into the space station, or by setting off an explosion in the space station's "Bomb Room".
BM: This space station has a Bomb Room? That's just asking for trouble.
Me: That's where they keep their Ford Edsels, and their copies of 'Pearl Harbour' .
When Colonel Briteis and her crew turn up for their mission we discover that the United States Space Force has adopted unisex space uniforms based on tight T-shirts and hotpants. While this is fine for the Colonel (veeeeeery fine) it doesn't do any favours for her all-male crew, who are largely elderly and sagging. While the boys are generally shot from the waist up, we are treated to several scenes of the Colonel bending over, climbing and descending ladders, and walking down a corridor as seen from behind.
BM: Is this mission being commanded by Colonel Briteis or Kylie Minogue?
After several minutes on the disturbingly Freudian space station (the long, missile-shaped space ships are inserted pointy-end first into ports that coyly open up as they approach), the crew set off in their lunar orbiter, and it's then that the Enemy of Freedom strikes. He hits the rockets mid-flight, causing the ship to waste precious fuel and accelerate out of control. Major Moore tussles with him while Colonel Briteis writhes helplessly on her crash couch as relentless G-forces pull her T-shirt tighter and tighter.
The Major overcomes his foe, but not before almost all of their fuel has gone. The Colonel has a brief moment of hysteria, but the Major calms her down and she apologises for her girlish lapse.
Colonel: Sorry for going female on you, Major.
Me: What? You mean you weren't one before?
There's nothing for it but to LAND ON THE MOON, reckless, desperate fools that they are. They achieve a safe landing, but they're on the dark side, out of radio contact with the space station. Bill and the baddie have to lug some radio equipment out to a nearby mountain to set up a relay station. While setting up, the baddie slips on a loose space rock and tumbles off the edge of the mountain.
Me: Bill! Help! I'm being dragged down by the moon's titanic gravitational pull!
He dies, of course, and Bill is forced to take the long trek back to the ship alone, with his oxygen almost gone.
BM: Bill! Bill! Whatever you do, don't take the bad guy's oxygen tanks! It's better to leave them, half full, on the lunar surface as a warning to others!
Me: Plus they're infected with Communism! Just leave them where they are, Bill!
DM: Whew, thank goodness he heard you guys.
So now it's just the Colonel and the Major alone on the rocketship. Once they contact the space station, they're sent missiles full of essential supplies, which Bill has to go out and collect.
BM (as Bill): Hmmm, beads, patchwork quilting stuff, scrapbooking supplies... dammit, this is all for her!
Me (as Bill): Oh wait, here's my box: Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse - okay, I'm good.
There remains the ticklish issue of propriety. Space Force and the White House agree that it would be good PR if the Colonel and the Major got married. They leap at the opportunity, although whether its a result of the unresolved sexual tension or desperation brought on by dwindling oxygen supplies is unclear. A Space Force padre marries them over the viewer, then their union is blessed by the President of the United States.
Madame President (in sparkly sequined ballgown): Congratulations, Major and Mrs Moore!
Me: Gee, are we sure this is 1970? Richard Nixon is sort of funny-looking.
BM: Maybe it's J. Edgar Hoover.
Yes yes yes, we're very sad, and a pale, wannabe reflection of the Mystery Science Theater boys. We accept that. But hey, we were doing this off the cuff! They had time to work out scripts! And they had robots! We'd be a lot funnier if we had robots!