AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 73 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A close-knit group of scientists work under guard at Deanfield, a secret government space exploration installation. Dr. Stephen Mitchell is happy working for low pay to ‘conquer space’, but his bored wife Vanessa is carrying on an affair with Stephen’s colleague Philip Crenshaw. When Vanessa and Philip suddenly disappear after a partly unsuccessful missile launch, Dr. Smith, who is also a detective, thinks that Stephen murdered the pair and then hid their bodies in the missile before takeoff. With the rocket in perpetual orbit and the bodies unrecoverable, Stephen may have committed the perfect crime….
Though clearly inspired by the success of producer Robert L. Lippert’s far more entertaining Rocketship X-M, Spaceways is only really notable as a curio and is nowhere as exciting as its poster may make it out to be. This early space exploration film is interesting for its quaint details like space suits resembling early underwater suits but with impractical narrow slotted faceplates, and for its melding of ‘realistic’ science-fiction with espionage and a murder mystery, but it’s a pretty dull affair for much of the time. Based on a 1951 radio play, it hasn’t been adapted for the cinema very well, with much of the first half hour consisting of technical chat. The proceedings get a little more interesting when the murder and espionage angles come in, but director Terence Fisher, who seemed to really come into his own with Four Sided Triangle, doesn’t seem interested in providing much tension and the story seems to trivialise its own subject. The rocket project is revealed to be primarily military, the concentration camp feel of the secret rocket base is accepted by everyone except an adulteress who later turns out to be far worse, and the eventual sending of people into space is primarily to clear a man of murder.
The special effects are extremely limited and sometimes sloppy – paintings of the rocket and the actual rocket footage used to depict the takeoff give the impression that there are two totally different rockets involved – and the promise of some suspense in outer space isn’t followed through, the thing ending really suddenly. Even the romance element doesn’t really work because, while Eva Bartok, later to be in Blood And Black Lace, is gorgeous, Stephen is clearly interested in her character even before he sees his wife in the arms of another man, her cheating therefore proving to be quite convenient. The performances are solid all round and composer Ivor Slaney provides some atmospheric music for the space scenes, but this is really one of those films that tries to give the impression that it’s intelligent but actually isn’t really at all [the script really needed some re-working], as well as also being one of those films that sounds a lot more fun than it is. Hammer’s first full science-fiction picture [okay, Four Sided Triangle had science-fiction elements but wasn’t that interested in them] was a major disappointment to this viewer, and can’t even have seemed that impressive at the time of its release.