Here Be Martians

Prior to John F. Kennedy famously touting America’s plan to reach the moon, a small segment of religious scholars believed space travel was not meant fo humankind; space was God’s territory. Then Kennedy spoke, and those against the mission were quickly forgotten – were it not for Conquest of Space, anyway.

Of the pre-moon landing, space-faring sci-fi, Conquest of Space isn’t a particularly notable one. Were it not for George Pal’s producer credit, fewer still might give it notice. But there’s the character arc of the seemingly stable, mission-focused General Samuel Merritt (Walter Brooke), who upon arrival to Mars, questions the cause, attempting to crash the ship.

Conquest of Space has only its antique charm left

His beliefs, shared by those against human space exploration, are steeped in Biblical readings. Multiple times, he mentally breaks, quoting scripture as a reason to doom this mission. It’s an interesting look at psychosis, how religion and science collide, and a dramatic success.

The rest is primarily visual, the uneven visual effects chugging along with impossible sights so far from authenticity as to be less sci-fi than outright fantasy. It’s satisfying to see multiple nations represented, even if the lone Asian played by Benson Fong must give an awkward speech apologizing for Japan’s aggression to help sooth audiences within a decade of WWII’s close. Considering the Red Scare, it’s an unusually diverse crew.

Conquest of Space’s wonky first half is played mostly for comedy, showing the advancement needed in food and technology to make any of this possible. Laverne & Shirley’s Phil Foster hams it up as uneducated, native Brooklyn-ite Jackie Siegle, the most notable character aside from Merritt, if only because he speaks so many lines as comic relief.

In space, the team dodges an asteroid, crash lands on Mars, and investigates the planet’s surface while Meritt tries to sabotage the whole thing. It’s clunky, slow, and now so ludicrous, Conquest of Space has only its antique charm left. Watching the crew takes gloves off to touch the surface or somehow grow plants in the open air Martian soil is more to give the viewer hope for any future real life missions. If only the writers knew the reality then, maybe Conquest of Space would’ve headed right to the moon instead.


On the dusty side of things, Conquest of Space’s beautiful Technicolor makes an immediate impact. Flesh tones appear with a brilliant spark, and other primaries delight too. It’s generous, bold, and dense. Fluctuation happens, usually brief, but it’s noticeable when it happens.

Definition sags a little, but that’s not unexpected. The three-strip process aligns well enough, leaving fuzzy edges around the frame. Still, it’s a spectacle in the way Technicolor masters usually are. Scream’s encode handles a hefty grain structure problem-free. Texture shines when at its best, and that’s not consistent, but normal.

Awesome black levels give Conquest of Space a kick worthy of the modern era. The dimensionality in this imagery is simply outstanding, even with the other minor faults noted. There’s never a lapse in contrast either.


On the routine side, thin mid-’50s audio handles the score well enough, minus range. Dialog varies from pristine to roughened and scratchy. DTS-HD keeps the mono audio as consistent as it can based on the source. A pop or two isn’t unusual either.


Podcasters Emily Higgins and Billy Dunham provide a commentary for Conquest of Space, and a second comes from Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw. A profile on director Byron Haskin’s work at Paramount is followed by another featurette that looks at the book-to-screen adaptation. Joe Dante’s Trailers from Hell episode on this movie is next, with an image gallery and trailers finishing things up.

Conquest of Space
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Of course the science is a mess, but Conquest of Space at least has a unique angle on the pre-moon landing space race genre.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 39 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

One thought on "Conquest of Space Blu-ray Review"

  1. James S Krisvoy says:

    I was 8 when I saw this first run…and found fault with it even back then. But it looked great.

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