Project Moonbase

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Robert A Heinlein

Everyone has an off day.  One or two of Shakespeare's plays were clunkers, a couple of Mozart's tunes fell flat, Escoffier had some of his dishes returned, and Byron had a rhymes he was ashamed of.  So it was with science fiction grandmaster Robert A Heinlein.  The man who defined science fiction for a generation, set the standard with his juvenile novels, overturned that standard with his adult novels, and helped spark the 1950s sci fi film craze with his screenplay for Destination Moon also had a stinker or two that refused to stay buried in obscurity.  The most notorious of these was Heinlein's early '50s attempt to break into television with his series Ring Around the Moon.  The series never sold, which was bad enough, but the producers decided to salvage what they could, so without Heinlein's permission they padded out the low-budget pilot pilot that had been shot in ten days to 63 minutes and released it in the cinemas as Project Moonbase. Then they turned around and used the sets to shoot Cat-Women of the Moon, which was released within days of Moonbase.

Of course, Heinlein disowned it.

The advertising copy read, "Up, up, up! To a new world of Adventure".  Up is also what happened to your lunch.  No, that's a cheap shot.  Project Moonbase wasn't a great film.  It wasn't even a good one.  By cinematic standards, it was the last turkey in the shop, but for all it's faults it is watchable, if you keep in mind that it was aimed at a very young audience and if you consume a hell of a lot of alcohol before you hit the play button.  The year is 1970 and the Cold War is apparently still running hot.  Or cold.  Or lukewarm.  It was a rotten name for a war anyway, so let's just forget about it, okay?  Where was I?  Right.  The United States put the first manned rocket into orbit four years previous and now has a fully operational space station complete with an arsenal of H-bombs to help keep the peace.  Unfortunately, whoever gets to the Moon first will have a far greater strategic advantage, so the race is on.

Or would be if the plot didn't bog down ten minutes into the story.

Let's meet our suspects... I mean, cast.

Major Bill Moore.  Dedicated officer and highest-qualified space pilot with all the intellect of a wheel of cheese.  He was originally picked to command the first manned mission to orbit the Moon, but at the last minute the White House had other ideas.

Colonel Briteis (AKA "Bright Eyes") is the other idea.  Because she only weighed 90 lbs to Major Moore's 160, then Captain Briteis bumped Moore to pilot the first manned rocket.   The result was a heroine's welcome for Breiteis, a promotion to colonel, and a swelled head while Moore got a double helping of humiliation.  Now the President wants to rub salt in the wound by giving her command of the Moon mission at literally the last minute.  This does not make someone happy.

General 'Pappy' Greene is the someone.

Dear God, it's a Heinlein "Old Man" complete with cracker barrel philosophy.  Like all the Old Men, he is utterly convinced of the rightness of his thinking because he thought it and has a self-consciously breezy, folksy way of talking that he believes makes him sound tough, sagacious, and worldly, but no one has the heart to tell him that it just makes him come across as a boring old windbag.

He owns five cats and they all hate him.

 

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