12 to the Moon (1960)

admin2021January 7, 2023

Suddenly the lights in Lunar Eagle 1 dim and an unearthly humming sound can be heard. A machine then begins displaying hieroglyphics in the form of a message in a strange foreign script that is oddly enough similar to Chinese then, oops…Japanese in appearance. Of course, who else but Hideko Murata would be the one able to read and translate it? Well, any reference to things Japanese and Asian would have appeared to be suitably foreign, alien and exotic to American audiences back in the day.

The message is from “The Great Coordinator of the Moon:”

“I speak for the Great Coordinator of the Moon. We advise and warn you return to earth at once. You have done enough damage. You have been bombarding us for years incessantly. Leave us in peace. We read your mind; we know your every thought. We cannot speak as you do. We communicate by thought waves. We live in a great sealed city below. We are not enslaved by your earthly emotions: greed, lust, passions of conquest. We cannot allow you to stay here for you would only contaminate our perfect form of harmony.”

The message goes on to state that the lunar beings are studying the missing pair, Sigrid and Salim because they are are unfamiliar with the concept or emotion of “love.” They then warn the crew that “if we find that love turns to evil, we will destroy them, you and your kind. Remember, we have the power to immobilize you at will.”

The crew of Lunar Eagle 1 promptly switch to unworthy human being mode by indulging in a bit of good old Geo-political paranoia and denial by declaring that the message “must be a hoax” and that the “symbols could have been sent by an earth power already secretly here on the moon; a power that wishes to scare us away.” In the context of the Cold War period, it’s pretty obvious who is being referred to.

Meanwhile, Dr. Heinrich suffers a heart attack. While semi-conscious and in a delirious state, David Ruskin learns from Heinrich that he is son of Bernauer, the very same Nazi who had killed David’s family. On the point of a violent emotional outburst, David learns that Heinrich has disowned his family and has devoted his life to trying to make amends for his father’s crimes. It appears that their friendship will remain intact.

In another message, the Lunar beings demand that the expedition’s cats be left behind. They were brought along as part of an experiment to see if they can procreate on the Moon. Imagine the moon in years’ time being infested by feral moggies leaping about in one sixth gravity!

As soon as Vargas and Murdock take the two cats outside and leave them on the lunar surface nearby, a shadowy entity approaches to retrieve the cats.

“Three hours and 10 minutes on flight. We’re right on the button”

After a successful take off from the moon’s surface, the ever so cute spaniel begins to bark warning the crew of a fire on board. The Medea Stone has ignited and started burning. A fire extinguisher is quickly put to use and the stone is picked up with a fire blanket and placed in an airlock where it can’t burn as there’s no oxygen.

Well, it’s time for yet another….you guessed it….meteor shower! But this time they are “clusters!” Anyway, after a bit of fancy maneuvering and mental calculations from wunder kinder and electronic brain ass-kicker Rod Murdock, the crew manage to avoid disaster.

“Outside temperature rating is 245 degrees below and still falling. It’s no wonder it’s cold in here. It’s 55 degrees!”

Ah, oh….at 500 miles above the Earth, the temperature on board Lunar Eagle 1 has dropped to 55 degrees while on the surface of the Earth, North America is starting to undergo a big freeze. A massive freezing cloud which is being controlled from the Moon, covers all of Canada, the US and Mexico in thick ice.

“The North American continent remains in an isolation of silence. No contact can be established by any means of communication with either Canada, the United States or Mexico. In spite of the intense cold gripping the world, the governing bodies of every other nation are at this moment in extraordinary session determining measures to be taken……”(Broadcast)

With city after city being snap frozen, Heinrich concludes that the process is somewhat like an implosion bomb or the H-bomb in reverse. The proposed solution? To build a bomb and pilot their space taxi ship over a volcano. In this case, Popocatepetl (‘Poppacopperkettle’ is how I remember to say it!) Next step: drop the bomb (“atomic bomblets”) into the volcano. Result: The triggering of a huge eruption that will thaw out the affected areas on Earth. The catch: It will probably amount to being a suicide mission. What is there not like about it?

Remember the guy with the stupid accent who likes to stand in the same spot and pretend to be speaking to his crew mates or just staring at nothing in particular? Yes, it’s none other than Etienne Martel and guess what he’s up to? He’s busily sabotaging the bomblets. Why, you didn’t ask? It turns out he’s a French commie bastard. When Feodor catches him out, Martel assumes that the Ruskie would also wish to keep America frozen in order to further international communism’s pursuance for world domination.

Hey wait a minute! I just thought of something. Where are the Chinese all this time? They are conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they’re already on the moon! Just saying……

Anyway, Feodor and Martel get stuck into a bitch fight-slapping-and-rolling-around-on-the-floor contest. Feodor tries to deliver a few chops to his opponent with his bandaged hands but only manages to cause himself more pain. He yells out to John for help and when Martel pulls out a knife, Anderson goes John Wayne all over his ass. Looks like we’re back to ‘Freedom Fries’ instead of ‘French Fries’ folks.

Lots are drawn, using tongue depressors (hopefully not used ones) to select the crew for the bomblet dropping mission. The two chosen are (as fate and script writers would have it) doctors Ruskin and Heinrich. Ruskin leaves a final log entry explaining what he and Heinrich will attempt:

“Our space log as recorded by Dr David Ruskin at 0.600 universal time: a space taxi piloted by Dr Eric Heinrich and myself will leave the Lunar Eagle to drop atomic bomblets into the crater of the volcano Popocatepetl in an attempt to break the big freeze. This is Dr Ruskin signing off.”

On board the space taxi, Heinrich and Ruskin manage to break through the atmosphere and successfully drop their bomblets into the volcano. Popocatepetl erupts and North America begins to thaw. Unfortunately, the two occupants of the space taxi are unable to pull out and are killed in an explosion.

As Lunar Eagle 1 is now caught in the freeze, we see the cabin beginning to freeze over. Fog and frost start to accumulate and the lighting begins to dim. The crew huddle closer to each other for warmth (most of the guys gathering somewhat uncomfortably close to little Hideko!) Suddenly, another message comes through:

“Now you have seen our strength, but we have seen your human strength; the way your people have sacrificed themselves to save the others for those you left behind. We have also learned that all your earthy emotions are not evil….. that you have come to us in peace. Your people on earth have been in suspended animation and have not been harmed. Return to earth at once and someday when you come back you will be welcome.”

Communication with Earth is then restored and Anderson tells the crew, “Prepare for landing.” The film closes with a view of Earth at sunrise.

Points of Interest

12 to the Moon was distributed in the U.S. by Columbia Pictures as a double feature with either Battle in Outer Space or 13 Ghosts, depending on the local film market.

The film was novelized by Fred Gebhardt under the pen name Robert A. Wise and published in 1961. Gebhardt also wrote the film’s original story.

12 to the Moon was made in just 8 days on a budget of $150,000 and in many ways it shows through. What also shows through is the speculative nature of our view of space and space flight at the time the film was made. Many still believed that there might be life, even intelligent life on Mars and Venus. Such films as 12 to the Moon ought to be viewed as both harmless entertaining film fun and as a snapshot of the values, attitudes, concerns and ideas of the time.

The spaceship which lands on the moon is called the Lunar Eagle One. Nine years after this movie was released, the first human landing on the moon was accomplished in a lunar lander called the Eagle.

Coincidentally, the six NASA manned moon missions had a total of twelve astronauts who walked on the lunar surface.

For real-life lunar missions, it was originally conceived that a mission to the moon might involve the launching of a complete rocket, sending it to the moon, landing it on the surface and taking off again for return to earth. As we know, by the time of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions that idea had been ditched in favor of using a multi-staged rocket and employing command and lunar modules to undertake the moon landing mission. Instead of continuous acceleration using main engines or employing nuclear power as shown in the film, timed targeted burns, use of thrusters for maneuvering, course corrections, inertia and gravity assist would be employed for lunar missions.

Instead of having a cast of thousands going on a mission to the moon along with the associated problems of weight to fuel ratios, as well as oxygen, food and water supplies, the Apollo missions had a crew of three with two to land on the lunar surface and one to remain in the orbiting command module.

This 1960 release was the first U.S. science fiction film to have a spaceship with a multi-racial crew, six months after the East German/Polish production of “The Silent Star”/”First Spaceship on Venus” (1960) with its multi-racial crew.

In relation to the Secretary General of the ISO’s speech at the start of the film, many people today might recall the global telecast of the first manned moon landing in 1969, along with the name of the lunar lander (“Eagle.”) Despite it being a US mission, the landing was proclaimed as a “giant leap for all mankind.”

As for the moon in the film being proclaimed as international territory, well we’ll see in our own near future how that pans out as various countries and corporate entities vie with each other for prime bits of strategic, military, political and economic lunar real estate.

Considering the era in which the film was made, the composition of the crew should keep even wokey-dokey, PC & inclusive obsessed modern audiences reasonably happy. Gosh (some may wonder), if only they could have exercised a bit more ‘positive’ discrimination by bumping up the number of females. Well, one might hope that rather than considerations of virtue-signaling and ‘optics,’ that perhaps technical ability, aptitude as well medical, psychological and physical suitability would have been the guiding criteria for personnel selection! Obviously compatibility and emotional stability weren’t factors in the selection process considering how some of the crew in the film fly off at the handle over nationalistic and ideological differences.

At any rate, it wasn’t until the mid 1960s that the first female was sent into space by the former Soviet Union. It wasn’t until the 1980s for the USA during their Shuttle program. 

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