1969 wasn’t the only time there was a race for space. A similar thing happened in 1950 when (not two countries but) two movies battled it out to be the first post-war space movie. Destination Moon had the intention of being the first movie, but the special effects and high production value caused the release to be delayed. So another company saw this gigantic opportunity and finished a movie within 18 days. Rocketship X-M was the name of the feature and the director was Kurt Neumann (who’d later direct Kronos and The Fly).
Oddly enough, the crew in this film doesn’t land on the Moon. Due to technical difficulties, they end up on Mars. There they find the remains of a civilized culture. Remains… because a nuclear war had ended life on Mars.
So, unlike Destination Moon, this film wasn’t as much a space exploration film as an anti-nuclear film.
Because the production was a rush job, the film doesn’t always look completed. Sci-fi producer Wade Williams found this such a shame he shot some additional scenes in the 70s, after obtaining the rights of the film. Scenes that were omitted due to time pressure but were essential establishment shots (incl. the landing of the spacecraft). Williams and his crew made sure the re-shot scenes looked identical to the original film and recreated the spacecraft and costumes with great effort.
You can watch or download the film on the archive.org site. Here‘s the link.
The director of that other contender, Destination Moon, was George Pal (War of the Worlds). The decision to spend some extra time on their special effects paid off: the film won an Academy Award for Special Effects. And, unlike Rocketship X-M, this film ended up where it wanted to land: on the Moon.
It was 1950 and the US started to prepare for space adventures which wouldn’t take place on the silver screen. Luckily for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, their story seemed closer to that of Destination Moon and they didn’t end up landing on Mars.
P.S. Destination Moon can be watched entirely on YouTube. The link is here.