The Lost Missile, 1958. 3/10

An orbiting missile leaves a path of destruction. We have only so much time before New York City is wiped out. On our side we’ve got Drs. David Loring and Joe Freed (Robert Loggia and Phillip Pine), Joan Wood (Ellen Parker), General Barr (Larry Kerr), and Ella Freed (Marilee Earle).

But there’s another problem: we’re on the verge of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Probably because they think the missile is ours. Anyway, their attack missile diverts the alien missile into the ominous five mile orbit, leading back to the first problem. To deal with it “the big brass from the Pentagon is here now” say our scientist boys and girl.

The Soviets determine that the missile wasn’t ours offer all, so we’re spared nuclear winter. I’ve already have enough of the narrator, he’s introduced their guys, out guys, even the buildings. It’s our turn for an attack, this time an air-to-air strike. Time out for an update from the actual cast: at the ‘lab’ the engaged couple David and Joan are arguing about “marrying a hydrogen warhead”. Back to stock footage action, RCAF F-86s and Meteors sortie to intercept the missile.

Then we get introduced to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while Dave ponders the warhead v. wife dilemma “It’s the job, it gets all of us,” offers Joe. Well, Joe’s wife is about to give birth–so pick out a name and get on with stock footage or something. Phone calls between Ella and Joe, and Joe and the JCS. She’s actually upset when he has to sign off to get back to his job, which concerns, possibly, the future of planet Earth.

Never have I wanted so much to be in a meeting of bureaucrats. But I don’t get why they’re talking about war. If the Soviets are smart enough to figure out the mystery missile isn’t ours; don’t we also know it isn’t theirs either? “I said no comment!” Says the Secretary of Defense. So, by now, all of the nuclear powers have denied knowledge of the UFO. Why are we deciding what to do when the missile’s already been attacked twice (three times counting the Soviet attack)? Somebody authorized those strikes. Preparation as though for war. We’re :30 minutes in, and almost nothing has happened since the first attack. Aha! Dave has an idea that a ‘baby warhead’ can get through the UFO’s heat shield and destroy it. Meanwhile, the RCAF jets are incinerated.

Things on the ground supposedly blow up in the UFO’s path, but there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable interaction between the UFO and earth. More cool stock footage: F-80s and 86s take off from a base, Crusaders from a carrier. “This is situation red!” People are supposed to fill pots and pans with water. If they’re going to evacuate, why bother? Now the governor says that there’s no danger of war–the UFO is the loose-cannon. If it’s not enough to have the narrator interfere, we also hear local authorities tell us everything else from speakers.

I’m just going to accept the fact that this movie inaugurated a new genre: the fictional documentary. The subway shelter scenes are actually not bad; the birth of Ella’s baby is going on. There’s some tension as Joe has succumbed to that delusion common in this sort of movie–it’s not just a missile, it’s a spacecraft…so, ‘we can learn so much from the aliens’ kind of thing. Dave is steadier, more rational, only “a nation of homicidal maniacs” could’ve sent the ship. We attack again.

No dice, but more cool planes. That, apparently, was Phase I. “Phase II negative” as well. What’s the point of the guy in the sports car speeding around? Another explosion on the ground that bears no relation to anything above, but we’re supposed to buy that the UFO/spacecraft caused it. Also the Canadians in the countryside seem to be completely oblivious to the danger. Meanwhile, Dave and Joan are heading to the missile base with the baby weapon; completely absurdly, they get hijacked by some leather-jacketed hoods.

Somewhat conveniently, the hoods quickly die from ‘plutonium radiation.’ Well, Dave must’ve known that little side-effect from the time the baby bomb deal was constructed. And with that in mind, wouldn’t the military have provided some safer and quicker transport arrangements? Are we really supposed to buy that the immediate fate of New York City, and ultimately, of the entire world, is subject to the whims of a couple of James Dean wannabes? All of this stuff could only make sense if David we’re some off-the-grid beatnik savant/scientist, who, at the last minute, because nothing else worked, was allowed to participate. As it is, David is running around most of the latter part of the movie as though he is a sort of beatnik nutcase.

The baby missile deal works so well that there’s a (stock footage naturally) gigantic nuclear blast. From just five miles up, the blast could conceivably destroy New York City anyway, and possibly kill everyone with radiation. Well, no stock footage of that. So we just end with (stock footage) of everyday N.Y.C. street scenes. Not even need of Ella’s baby or the David/Joan wedding plans.

Man, this was a bad movie. I’m only disparaging the domestic subplots because the characters are so two-dimensional that they’re very hard to identify or empathize with. When romances, families, and ordinary, peaceful life is presented in an authentic way it can help the plot. After all, that’s why we fight (UFOs or what have you): to keep our way of life intact. But in The Lost Missile the domestic subplots actually conflict with the UFO plot.

David, Joan, Joe, and Ella never come across as individuals with personalities worth rooting for. They seem to resist blending into the main plot; this would only makes sense if they were outsiders, as I hinted in my beatnik/scientist alternative role for David. I criticize some sci-fi movies of this era for focusing too much on a small group of locals, and neglecting a broader perspective that would help plot believability. But in this movie there really isn’t a focus.

The stock footage, ironically, is by far the best stuff in the movie. I would’ve liked The Lost Missile a lot more if it were nothing but stock footage (and, fine, a narrator to tie things together). That sounds crazy, and it is. That’s because this movie was so disjointed: in tone, pacing, and acting, that it never really seems to take off, so to speak.

Only recommended for Cold-War era military aircraft enthusiasts. Otherwise, The Lost Missile blew up on the launch pad. Farmermouse wanted to hop a ride in all those cool jets–plus the B-36–so he gives this three missiles. 3/10.

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