Cast & Crew
In the late twentieth century, on a circular space station one thousand miles from Earth, Capt. Barney Merritt informs his father, Col. Samuel T. Merritt, the station's commanding officer, that he has requested a transfer, as he misses his wife and is tired of life on the "wheel." Reminding Barney that he has space "in his blood," Sam dismisses his complaints and refuses to approve the transfer. Meanwhile, near the station, Sgt. Roy Cooper is putting the finishing touches on a spaceship the station's crew has been building for the last year when he suddenly becomes paralyzed. Fellow sergeants Jackie Siegle, of Brooklyn, New York, and Imoto transport Roy to the station's sick bay, where he soon recovers. Although the doctor assures Roy that he is healthy, he tells Sam privately that Roy has suffered a bout of "space fever," which will recur unless he is returned to Earth. After leaving sick bay, Sam has an attack of dizziness, but says nothing about it. In their quarters, Roy confesses to Siegle, Imoto and Eastern European crew member Sgt. Andre Fodor, all of whom are volunteers in a special program, his fears that his paralysis will jeopardize his chances of being selected for the spaceship's as yet undisclosed mission. Siegle, Imoto and Fodor try to reassure Roy, but Roy continues to worry, even while he and the other volunteers dine on their multi-flavored space pellets in the mess hall. During the meal, one older volunteer, the Irish Sgt. Mahoney, who has served with Sam since the Korean War, disparages Barney as an ingrate unworthy of his father's devotion. Roy then becomes upset when Sam sends him a real steak dinner, as he believes that the colonel is testing his resolve. Moments later, the station begins to pitch violently due to an astronomical storm, and fires break out below. The well-trained crew soon has the flames extinguished and the station repaired. Later, scientist Dr. George Fenton arrives from Earth and informs Sam that not only has he been promoted to general but the new spaceship's mission has changed. Fenton, who helped design the station, reveals that instead of going to the moon, as originally planned, the ship will travel to Mars. When Sam protests that his men are not ready for such an ambitious mission, Fenton counters that because of the Earth's depleted resources and Sam's age, they must go now. Sam's concerns abate somewhat when Barney tears up his transfer papers and declares he is accompanying Sam to Mars. That night, Sam briefs the volunteer group about the mission, noting that the ship will hold only five men. After Sam identifies Imoto, Siegle and Fodor as the additional men he would like to have on the dangerous mission, all three volunteer. Just before the ship blasts off, the crew is honored during a live television program, broadcast from Earth. Once the ship reaches a 20,000 miles per hour cruising speed, the men discover the devoted Mahoney stowed away on board. Later, Sam reads Barney some passages from the Bible and wonders whether they are about to "invade" God's domain. Although Barney tries to convince his father of the mission's greater purpose, Sam remains skeptical. Sam's unease grows when the ship is almost descimated by an asteroid and Fodor, who is outside doing repairs, is killed when he is struck by a meteorite. In space, Sam says last rights over Fodor's body, and as the ship nears Mars, Sam's biblical mutterings become increasingly hysterical. Just before landing on Mars, Sam, at the controls, suddenly reverses directions, jeopardizing the crew's safety. Barney grabs the controls from his demented father and crash-lands the ship, then he, Imoto and Siegle take man's first steps on Mars. Imoto, a native of Japan who wants to help his people find new sources of food, inspects the Mars soil and declares it fertile. As Imoto plants some flower seeds, however, Sam begins to drain the ship's water supply. When Barney tries to stop him, Sam pulls a gun, and during the ensuing struggle, Barney accidentally shoots and kills his father. Mahoney witnesses the fight's final moments and accuses Barney of murdering Sam. Despite Mahoney's rancor, the men, who know they cannot leave Mars for at least a year, pull together, conserving their precious water supply. Then on Christmas, with the water tanks near empty, snow begins to fall. Surprised but relieved, the crew vacuums the snow into the tanks, ensuring they will have enough water until take-off. Sometime later, as they are about to leave Mars, Imoto discovers that the flower seed he planted months before has sprouted. Just then, however, an earthquake hits, almost toppling the ship and making take-off impossible. The earthquake exposes a series of crevices just below the planet's surface, and Barney gets the idea to use the rocket's jets to blast open the soil underneath them and right the ship. Although they must blast off before they are harnessed, the men survive take-off, and the ship heads for home. Impressed by Barney's courage and resourcefulness, Mahoney finally forgives him for Sam's death and announces that when they get back to Earth, they will all say that Sam died a great hero.
Maurice B. Hart
Kei T. Chung
C. Kenneth Deland
Frank Freeman Jr.
John P. Fulton
Joseph Macmillan Johnson
George Worthing Yates
This is a story of tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, when men have built a station in space, constructed in the form of a great wheel, and set a thousand miles out from the Earth, fixed by gravity, and turning about the world every two hours, serving a double purpose: an observation post in the heavens, and a place where a spaceship can be assembled, and then launched to explore other planets, and the vast universe itself, in the last and greatest adventure of mankind, the plunge toward the...- Narrator
conquest of space!- Narrator
According to the Bible, Man was created on the Earth. Nothing is ever mentioned of his going to other planets. Not one blessed word.- General Samuel T. Merritt
Well, at the time the Bible was written, it wouldn't have made much sense, would it?- Captain Barney Merritt
Does it now? The Biblical limitations of Man's wanderings are set down as being the four corners of the Earth. Not Mars, or Jupiter, or infinity. The question is, Barney, what are we -- explorers or invaders?- General Samuel T. Merritt
Invaders? Of what, sir?- Captain Barney Merritt
The sacred domain of God. His heavens. To Man, God gave the Earth, nothing else. This taking of... of other planets... it's almost like an act of blasphemy.- General Samuel T. Merritt
Some years ago, my country chose to fight a terrible war. It was bad, I do not defend it, but there were reasons. Somehow those reasons are never spoken of. To the Western world at that time, Japan was a fairybook nation: little people living in a strange land of rice-paper houses... people who had almost no furniture, who sat on the floor and ate with chopsticks. The quaint houses of rice paper, sir: they were made of paper because there was no other material available. And the winters in Japan are as cold as they are in Boston. And the chopsticks: there was no metal for forks and knives and spoons, but slivers of wood could suffice. So it was with the little people of Japan, little as I am now, because for countless generations we have not been able to produce the food to make us bigger. Japan's yesterday will be the world's tomorrow: too many people and too little land. That is why I say, sir, there is urgent reason for us to reach Mars: to provide the resources the human race will need if they are to survive. That is also why I am most grateful to be found acceptable, sir. I volunteer.- Sergeant Imoto
Thank you, Sergeant Imoto. You're not a little man.- General Samuel T. Merritt
Remind me, next time, to take the train.- Siegle
Merritt speaking. Here's the report. Lost course for several days due to near-collision with asteroid, but we can still reach destination as planned... which may be Mars, or Hell. This voyage is a cursed abomination! If it were possible I'd come back now, return the ship to Earth and blow it up--- General Samuel T. Merritt
General, please!- Captain Barney Merritt
--together with all plans in existence for building another! We're committing Man's greatest sacrilege, and we can't stop.- General Samuel T. Merritt
Before any of you accept, I should like to make it unmistakably clear that the dangers of this journey are above and beyond anything that the Space Corps or your own governments have any right to ask of you. I can give you confounded little reason for this attempt to reach Mars, and no assurance at all that it will even be successful. It's my personal conviction that no one but an idiot would volunteer, and I shall strongly suspect the sanity of anyone who does. All right, we've all got it straight. Who wants to go?- General Samuel T. Merritt
The spaceship design was taken from Wernher von Braun's actual designs that appeared in a 1954 issue of Collier's.
The film's title card is preceded by footage of the space station and ship and voice-over narration describing the not-too-distant future of space exploration. When the narrator says the words "conquest of space," the title card comes up at the same time. Cast credits appear only at the end of the film. Chesley Bonestell, who is credited onscreen both as the co-author of the book on which the film was based and as "astronomical" artist, was the book's illustrator and had worked with producer George Pal on previous science fiction projects.
According to a June 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, Pal and associate producer Y. Frank Freeman, Jr. went to New York to "confer with scientists" about the script. In September 1953, Paramount announced plans to shoot the film in a new type of 3-D, noting that the decision had been inspired by the studio's successful use of the illusion on a "Popeye" cartoon, "Ace of Space." The film was shot in standard format, however.
Actor Ross Martin made his screen debut in the picture. Footage of Rosemary Clooney singing part of the song "Ali Baba" from the 1953 Paramount release Here Comes the Girls , is seen during the television broadcast sequence of the picture. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Georgiann Johnson to the cast, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In November 1954, Daily Variety reported that portions of the picture involving Benson Fong's character "Imoto" were to be "revised" in order to incorporate information that scientists had recently discovered about Mars. According to a July 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, score composer Van Cleave wrote a marching song for the film, entitled "Up! Up! Up!" No songs were included in the final film, however.
Conquest of Space was not well-received by reviewers and marked Pal's last film for Paramount, the studio at which he had made the successful science fiction films When Worlds Collide and War of the Worlds (see entries below).