Blu-ray review: “Conquest of Space” (1955)

“Conquest of Space” (1955)

Science Fiction

Running Time: 93 minutes

Written by: James O’Hanlon

Directed by: Byron Haskin

Featuring: Walter Brooke, Eric Fleming and Mickey Shaughnessy

Sergeant Imoto: “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.”

Critical Commentary

“Conquest of Space” is a 1955 science fiction film directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal. The film tells the story of a group of astronauts on a mission to Mars who must overcome various obstacles in order to complete their mission. The film is notable for its impressive special effects, which were ground-breaking for the time, and its use of a realistic portrayal of space travel. The film also features an interesting premise, exploring the concept of space travel as a means of furthering mankind’s exploration and expansion into the universe.

However, the film’s plot and character development are somewhat lacking, and the dialogue can be a bit stilted and melodramatic at times. Additionally, some of the scientific inaccuracies and outdated ideas presented in the film may be off-putting to modern audiences. “Conquest of Space” is a notable example of science fiction cinema from the 1950s, and is worth watching for its impressive special effects and exploration of space travel as a concept. However, it may not be as enjoyable for those looking for a more nuanced and character-driven story.

One of the key strengths of “Conquest of Space” is its portrayal of space travel as a realistic and achievable goal. The film presents the idea of manned missions to Mars as a logical extension of humanity’s desire to explore and conquer new frontiers. This is evident in the attention to detail given to the spacecraft and equipment used in the mission, as well as the challenges faced by the astronauts during their journey.

At the same time, however, the film’s portrayal of space travel is limited by the scientific knowledge of the time. For example, the film depicts the astronauts walking on the surface of Mars without space suits, which is now known to be impossible due to the planet’s thin atmosphere and lack of oxygen. Similarly, the film’s depiction of a manned mission to Mars as a military operation reflects the Cold War-era context in which it was made, and may seem somewhat outdated to modern viewers.

Another weakness of the film is its characterization. The astronauts are portrayed as somewhat two-dimensional, with little depth or nuance beyond their roles as soldiers and explorers. The film’s focus on spectacle and action over character development can make it difficult for viewers to become emotionally invested in the story.

Despite its flaws, “Conquest of Space” remains an interesting and entertaining example of classic science fiction cinema. Its impressive special effects and realistic portrayal of space travel make it a worthwhile watch for fans of the genre, while its exploration of humanity’s drive to explore and conquer new frontiers remains relevant to this day.

Another notable aspect of “Conquest of Space” is its religious themes, particularly its exploration of the tension between science and faith. The film depicts a conflict between the chief astronaut, who believes that space travel is a natural extension of humanity’s evolution, and the chaplain on the mission, who is concerned about the spiritual implications of such a journey. This conflict leads to a dramatic climax in which the chaplain attempts to sabotage the mission.

The film’s portrayal of religion can be seen as both progressive and problematic. On the one hand, it presents a nuanced and respectful portrayal of religious belief, and acknowledges the importance of spirituality in human experience. On the other hand, it reinforces certain religious stereotypes, particularly the idea that science and faith are inherently incompatible. Despite its flaws, “Conquest of Space” remains an important film in the history of science fiction cinema. Its exploration of space travel as a concept, as well as its impressive special effects and religious themes, have influenced numerous works of science fiction in the decades since its release. While it may not be as nuanced or character-driven as some modern science fiction films, it remains an entertaining and thought-provoking work that is well worth watching for fans of the genre.

“Conquest of Space” can be seen as a product of its time and cultural context. The film was made during the height of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a race to explore and conquer space. As such, the film can be seen as a reflection of the cultural and political values of the era.

In many ways, “Conquest of Space” represents a celebration of American exceptionalism and technological progress. The film presents the idea of space travel as a means of extending American influence and power into the cosmos, and emphasizes the bravery and heroism of the astronauts who undertake the mission. At the same time, the film’s portrayal of space as a vast, mysterious and dangerous realm reflects the fears and anxieties of the Cold War era. 

Despite its ideological and cultural biases, however, “Conquest of Space” remains a compelling and entertaining work of science fiction cinema. Its combination of impressive special effects, religious themes, and exploration of space travel as a concept have helped to make it a lasting and influential work in the genre. Whether viewed as a product of its time or as a timeless work of science fiction, “Conquest of Space” is a film that continues to capture the imagination and inspire audiences today.

Technical Commentary


Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, “Conquest of Space” arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Via Vision Entertainment. The release is sourced from an older master that was supplied by Paramount Pictures and it isn’t difficult to tell that if it is fully restored in 4K Conquest of Space would look fresher and healthier. However, despite some minor inconsistencies, this master offers a really good presentation of the film. Indeed, delineation, clarity, and depth range from good to very good, and sharpness is very solid. Also, and this is very important to underscore, while in some areas color saturation can be improved, color registration is surprisingly solid.


There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided for the main feature. The dialog and Van Cleave’s dramatic score sounded very good on my system. Is there room for improvements? If there is, I have to speculate that these improvements will not affect clarity and dynamic balance because they are already very solid.

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary by Justin Humphreys
  • Audio Commentary by Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman
  • A Fellow Journeyman: Byron Haskin at Paramount (HD – 37:08)
  • The Conquest of Space: From Book to Screen (HD – 13:55)

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