Space Probe – Taurus (1965)

Space Probe-Taurus (1965)‘On a ship carrying four crew, there’s no place for a woman!’ 

In the near future, the ‘Hope 1’ rocket leaves Earth on a mission to find another habitable planet in the galaxy. The previous expedition was lost with all hands and the pressure is on for Col Hank Stevens and his elite crew to succeed where they failed.

Man – and a woman – boldly go where every 1950s plastic spaceship has gone before in this juvenile space adventure from AIP studios. So underwhelming was the film that it bypassed cinemas entirely and debuted as part of the studio’s mid-1960s TV package. Hardly surprising when you consider how dated it must have seemed even at the time.

We begin with the inevitable library stock footage; the usual missiles and V2 rockets as Voiceover Man gives us the usual lowdown about mankind’s heroic efforts to reach the stars. Then it’s over to Mission Control, where are there far more military types than scientists. The latest mission to find another habitable world is up the creek without a paddle and the last surviving astronaut is sent to kingdom come when the General presses the ‘Emergency Destruct’ button! This is all instantaneous which is quite impressive, considering the distances involved.

Moving swiftly on, we hitch a ride with the next mission-Hope 1-captained by dour James B. Brown. Heading for the orbiting space platform (shades of 2001 in the design), they comes across a ropey looking UFO, kill the alien astronaut with a pistol (standard space equipment I guess) and then blow up the ship with a bomb. Not exactly recognised ‘First Contact’ protocol.

Space Probe - Taurus (1965)

‘Did you see ‘The Wizard of Mars’? I was really good in that, you know.’

We then settle in to a relentlessly talky groove of pointless conversations between the dull crew. Brown is piqued by the presence of space biologist Francine York (a woman!) but we all know they’ll be making goo goo eyes at each other by the time the credits roll. The elderly doctor(?) has a job description that seems to consist mostly of calling Earth on the radio so the Captain can speak to them and the hot shot pilot keeps trying to make moves on York (yawn). He’s simply not a ‘team player’ (yawn even wider!)

The cast seem to be just be going through the motions, although York does bring some personality to her rather thankless ‘token’ role. There is little character or story development and then – just when you least expect it! – here come the meteorites! And they seem to be on fire! In space!

Inevitably, the ship crash-lands on a nearby world but falls into the ocean, where it shrinks to the size of a very small model. The crew survive the impact but are menaced by ‘giant’ crabs. The doctor repairs the computers with a roll of wire. York does something with beakers in her ‘lab’ and gets all excited. Someone gets chomped by a gill man in a rubber mask. And so it goes…

A tatty footnote in the history of science fiction cinema, this plays like a film already a decade old. The naive and tiresome sexual politics, the black and white photography and the terrible model work make it hard to believe that it was only 3 years until ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968). The two films seem decades apart.

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