First Man into Space
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (April 2010)|
|First Man into Space|
First Man into Space DVD cover
|Directed by||Robert Day|
|Produced by||John Croydon
Charles F. Vetter
|Written by||Wyott Ordung
Charles F. Vetter
|Running time||78 min.|
Commander Charles "Chuck" Prescott (Marshall Thompson) is not so sure that his brother, Lieutenant Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards), is the correct choice for piloting the Y-13 into outer space. Although Captain Ben Richards (Robert Ayres) of the Air Force Space Command says that Dan is the best pilot they have, he bucked the rules when flying Y-12, went into the ionosphere, had problems landing his ship, and then promptly ran to see his girlfriend, Tia Francesca (Marla Landi), before bothering to even make out his report. Still, Capt. Richards wants Dan to pilot the Y-13, after he has been thoroughly checked out and briefed by Doctor Paul von Essen (Carl Jaffe).
Y-13 takes off with Dan at the controls. He climbs and climbs. At 600,000 feet, when he is supposed to level off and begin his descent, he continues to climb, even firing his emergency boost. He climbs to 1,320,000 feet (250 miles) and suddenly loses control of the ship and passes through some meteorite dust, so he is forced to eject.
The next that is heard about Y-13 is a report to the New Mexico State Police that some Mexican farmer saw a parachute attached to some sort of plane land near his farm on Route 17 about 10 miles south of Alvarado. Chief Wilson (Bill Nagy) has the presence to notify the military in case it has something to do with their recent rocket firing. Wilson meets with Commander Chuck and shows him the wreckage. No way could the pilot have survived the crash. Tests on the recovered aircraft show that the automatic escape mechanism as well as the braking chute operated perfectly. Tests also reveal some sort of unknown encrustation on the hull, unusual because neither x-rays nor infrared photography nor ultraviolet will pass through it.
Later that night, a wheezing creature breaks into the New Mexico State Blood Bank in Alameda and drinks up a lot of the blood. The next day, the headline in the Santa Fe Daily News reads "Terror Roams State" and tells of brutal and inhuman slaughtering of cows on a farm right next door to where the Y-13 fell. Both the cows and the blood bank nurse show similar wounds—jagged tears across the throat. When Chuck and Chief Wilson examine the body of the nurse, Chuck notices some shiny specks around the wound as well as on the blood bank door. They see the same specks on the necks of the dead cattle. They also find a piece of what looks like a "high-altitude oxygen lead" lying under the dead cow's body. The oxygen lead appears to be the one from Y-13.
Chuck is beginning to suspect that the killings may have something to do with the crashed spaceship and requests that Wilson send samples of the shiny specks to Dr. von Essen at Aviation Medicine. The next day, Chuck stops at Aviation Medicine where Tia, who just happens to work there, has the test results sent down to them while they break for coffee. The results show that the shiny specks are particles of meteorite dust "that show no signs of structural damage such as would be expected from passage through atmosphere." Later, Dr. von Essen demonstrates for Chuck the results of metallurgical tests on the encrustation. Oddly, wherever the encrustation occurs on the hull of Y-13, the metal is intact, but in places not encrusted, the metal has transformed into a brittle substance, like crumbling carbon, that can easily be reduced to a powder. Chuck theorises that the encrustation may be some sort of "cosmic protection", like the primeval creatures that crawled out of the sea and grew skin to protect themselves from the sun.
Meanwhile, Capt. Richards is paid a visit by Senor Ramon DeGareara (Roger Delgado), consul for Mexico at Santa Fe. DeGareara tells them that the tail section of Y-13 fell from the sky into a new bullring in San Pedro. It scared the bull, which jumped from the ring and almost killed His Excellency, the Minister for Social Services. After taking care of formalities and arranging compensation for damages, a crew is sent to San Pedro to salvage the rest of Y-13.
Three more killings are reported, and Chuck is beginning to put the pieces together. He suspects that the same encrustation that formed to protect the hull of Y-13 also coated everything inside the cockpit, including Dan, and that the creature doing the killing is Dan himself, because he needs blood for some reason. Chuck further theorises that, when the canopy burst, Dan's blood absorbed a high content of nitrogen while the protective encrustation quickly formed on his body, allowing him to survive in the rarefied atmosphere of space. In addition, Dan's metabolism could have altered to a state that starved his body and brain of oxygen so that he now needs to replace that oxygen by drinking blood. That's Chuck's guess anyway.
When Dan's encrusted helmet is found in a car with his latest victim, Chuck's theory is proven right. But how are they to go about stopping him, since bullets cannot penetrate the crust? Capt. Richards and Chief Wilson put in a call to Washington while Chuck and Tia stay behind to chat about the wisdom of sending a person into space. Suddenly, Tia screams. The hulking, wheezing, encrusted creature that is now Dan enters the room by crashing through a sliding window.
Chuck realises by the wheezing that Dan is finding it difficult to breathe. He instructs Tia to get Dr. von Essen to open a high-altitude chamber and then goes after his brother. Chuck taps into the public address system and warns everyone in the building to stay out of the corridors. Chuck then instructs Dr. von Essen to get on the public address system and relay to Dan, who appears to have some remaining intelligence, the directions to the high-altitude chamber. Dan follows the directions while Chuck follows behind him.
Into the chamber Dan goes, but Chuck realises that Dan won't be able to operate the controls with his encrusted fingers, so he hops into the chamber with Dan. While Dan lumbers around, taking potshots at Chuck, the chamber technician quickly increases the simulated altitude to 38,000 feet, enabling Dan to feel more comfortable. While Chuck breathes oxygen through a mask, Dan sits down and tries to describe what happened. Unfortunately, he has no memory of the events. All he can remember is darkness, feeling suffocated, and trying to stay alive until he could find Dr. von Essen. As Tia takes metabolism and blood pressure readings on Dan, he apologises to Tia for the way things ended.
"I just had to be the first man into space," he says, then keels over dead. Capt. Richards and Dr. von Essen open the door into the high-altitude chamber and let Chuck out. While they concern themselves with the risks of space travel ("There will always be men willing to take the risk"), Chuck walks down the hall with Tia following him.
- The Incredible Melting Man, a 1979 horror film with the same premise