Project Moonbase (also known as Project Moon Base) is a 1953 black-and-white science fiction film directed by Richard Talmadge. The film is based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein, who shares screenwriting credit. Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured it as an episode in its first Comedy Channel season in January 1990 and it was also broadcast in a syndicated television episode of the Canned Film Festival in 1986.
The film is unusual for its time in both attempting to portray space travel in a "realistic" manner, and for depicting a future in which women hold positions of authority and responsibility equal to men; in the film the President of the United States is a woman.
Set in a future 1970, the United States is considering building bases on the Moon. Colonel Briteis (Donna Martell), Major Bill Moore (Ross Ford), and Doctor Wernher (Larry Johns) are sent to orbit the Moon to survey landing sites for future lunar missions. However, Dr. Wernher is an impostor whose mission is to destroy the US's Earth-orbiting space station, which he plans to do by colliding the rocket with the station on the way back from the Moon.
While on the way out, however, Wernher inadvertently gives his identity away. In the ensuing struggle for the control of the rocket, Col. Briteis has to make an emergency landing on the Moon. With them all marooned, Dr. Wernher redeems himself by helping establish communications with Earth, although an accident results in his untimely death. In response to the unexpected turn of events, the US authorities decide to make the immobilized spaceship the core of a new moon base. To avoid a scandal, their commander, General Greene (Hayden Rorke), cajoles Major Moore into proposing to Colonel Briteis (so as not to have an unmarried male and female astronaut alone in close quarters for weeks). Briteis accepts, but requests that Major Moore be promoted to Brigadier General after they are married so that he will outrank her. Compared to later science fiction movies and TV shows, where women are full-fledged professionals, this film portrays the main female protagonist, Col. Briteis, as a nice but incompetent female who is easily frightened and turns to Major Moore as soon as things become dangerous.
Donna Martell as Colonel Briteis
Hayden Rorke as Gen. 'Pappy' Greene
Ross Ford as Maj. Bill Moore
Larry Johns as Doctor Wernher
Herb Jacobs as Mr. Roundtree
Barbara Morrison as Polly Prattles
Ernestine Barrier as Madame President
James Craven as Commodore Carlson
John Hedloe as Adjutant
Peter Adams as Captain Carmody