Rocketship X-M (1950)

Rocketship X-M (1950), written and directed by Kurt Neumann.

This type of film, along with the giant bug movie, was the baseline SF genre of my youth. Build a rocketship, blast off and explore stuff in outer space. That was the plan. I couldn't get enough.

Heavy spaceships built like battleships or submarines. Post-war technology and semi-military organization. Painted globes without clouds out the portholes. A dim understanding of gravity and the solar system. (Bad science is a tradition in SF films; still true today). It's easy to lampoon: Abbot & Costello and the Three Stooges did it at the time.

Here a five-person crew make the first trip into space. Because of a malfunction and meteor storms they miss the Moon and wind up on Mars. (This is so improbable the leader speculates that some higher force is at work). Taking their guns ("What are you doing with a gun in space, man?" -- Armageddon) they discover the ruins of a civilization destroyed by atomic weapons. The savage survivors attack and kill two of the expedition. They take off and return to Earth but don't have enough fuel to land. They crater. Surprise! All in 77 minutes.

The California desert turns out to be a pretty good representation of Mars, although they didn't know it at the time. According to the wikipedia article it was shot in 18 days in a race to beat Destination Moon (1950) to the theater.

Lloyd Bridges was a hero because of his Sea Hunt scuba diving TV series, but he is kind of weird-looking to be a romantic lead.