Thursday, March 21, 2019

Weird Revisited: Celluloid Rocketship

This post was originally from 2013. It doesn't related to any of my recent Solar System speculations, pulpy or otherwise, though of course it could. He bared repeating for Lester B. Portly's animated title...

By the mid-thirties, the major film studios were all exploiting the public’s interest in the exotic worlds of the solar system. Of all the one-reel travelogue series produced, perhaps none was more popular than The Rocketship of Movietone, debuted in 1931.

Several of the earliest films dealt with Venus. “Giants of the Jungle” focused on the exotic and dangerous Venusian saurians. In early 1932, “Lost Cities of Venus” used footage from the Markheim survey expedition's dangerous foray into one of the ruins of the ancients.

Of course, Mars figures prominently in the early subjects. The low canal markets and bazaars were featured. Another dealt with the desert tribes--though the tragic fate of the expedition that provided the footage was wisely kept from the movie-going public.

While the initial run of films dealt predominantly with the inner worlds and their satellites, one was made from footage shot by one of the earliest commercial missions to Ganymede. While the footage is limited (still photos had to be used at times) and of lower quality than what was coming from film crews on Mars or Venus, it did give the public their first view of the eerie necropolises of that cold and distant moon.

More than one spaceman of the fifties and sixties sited these early Rocketship of Movietone films as an important influence on their lives.


Anne said...

This reminds me (in a nice way) of Catherynne Valente's "Radiance", where space is documented by filmmakers who travel via spaceships that look like bullets and are fired from giant cannons.

Hollywood moves out of California and sets up on the moon, where they decide to keep filming in black & white instead of color because moon living turns your skin blue, and there's only so much the makeup can do to hide that in color.

Trey said...

Radiance has been on my list to head.

Anne said...

I think you'd like it. Her vision of the solar system is very consistent with the late-19th / early-20th century science fiction, from Verne to the pulps.

My only real complaint is that Valente tells certain parts of the story via film script, and uses the convention of having different versions of the script labeled with different colors - and I really wish there was a deluxe printing that used different colors of paper for those sections. (I also want a deckle edge and gold foil on the cover, as long as I'm making wishes.)

Trey said...

That's good to know, because I typically read stuff on my b&w kindle