Harpalus is an impact crater on the Mare Frigioris at the eastern edge of the Sinus Roris.

Produced by George Pal and based on a Robert Heinlein story, (and with the screenplay co-written by Heinlein), “Destination Moon” AKA “Operation Moon” was released in 1950 and was directed by Irving Pichel. The film was an attempt to bring realism to the Science Fiction genre.

The movie was in Technicolor bringing out the gorgeous matte paintings of the lunar surface that were done by Chesley Bonestell. The movie won an academy award for Best Visual Effects. I can understand why. The colors are brilliant and intense.

After their latest rocket fails the government has stopped any funding for further testing. Rocket scientist Dr. Charles Cargraves (Warner Anderson) and General Thayer (Tom Powers) are funded by aircraft magnate Jim Barnes (John Archer) and a group of investors to build the first spaceship designed to go to the moon and back. The government is trying to stop them. In order to circumvent the delays the engineers decide to take off ahead of schedule. Someone shows up with a court order stopping them from taking off. The “astronauts” leave anyway.

There is an unusual presentation given to the investors staring Woody Woodpecker. George Pal was a good friend of Walter Lantz and so he showed Woody in all of his pictures somewhere. Usually hidden this time Woody explains the principals of space travel and aerodynamics in layman’s terms. Basically a movie in a movie or actually a cartoon in a movie.

The movie is good and there are some spectacular visual effects. The story for the most part is interesting; however, there are some aspects that were never developed that would have made the film even better. It is never mentioned what went wrong with the earlier rocket that caused the government to stop funding. Also who started the rumors that caused the public outrage concerning the rocket? Who was behind all the attempts to stop the rocket from being built? I understand that the main objective of the movie was to stress the 'real science', however, the science is just dry facts unless you have some kind of story to back it up. The hint of another power behind the troubles with the rocket launch was only part of the answer. Elaborating on the mystery would have enhanced the story.

As for the rest of the movie there was some tension and suspense when one of the men on the space walk lost his connection with the spaceship and was floating away. The end was also tense. Other than that it’s mostly facts. It’s still well done and interesting. It just a few spots where were the pace was a little slow. Despite the minor flaws it is a well crafted movie and surprisingly accurate for it’s time. A must have for Sci-Fi fans.

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