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Although part murder mystery, 1953ís SPACEWAYS ($25) is the first science fiction movie to be produced by Britainís Hammer Studios. SPACEWAYS tells the story of a group of scientists working on developing rocket technology to carry men into space at a top-secret base in England. Howard Duff stars Dr. Stephen Mitchell, a scientist whose dedication to his work blinds him to the fact that his wife Vanessa (Cecile Chevreau) is having an affair with one of his colleagues. Eventually, Dr. Mitchell discovers his wifeís infidelities, but his work seems to remain the central focus of his life. Everyone else at the base is also oblivious to the situation, until Vanessa and her lover Philip Crenshaw (Andrew Osborn) go missing around the same time that the latest rocket is launched into orbit around the Earth. After the military intelligence investigator Dr. Smith (Alan Wheatley) looks at all the evidence and the tight base security, he draws the conclusion that Mitchell murdered his wife and her lover, and then deposited the bodies on the rocket ship prior to its launch. Mitchell denies the allegation and sets out to prove his innocence by making the first manned space flight to retrieve the first rocket. Although Mitchell could be undertaking a suicide mission, Dr. Lisa Frank (Eva Bartok) decides she must aid the man she has fallen in love with on the first manned space flight. Although SPACEWAYS runs a scant 76 minutes the story is intelligent and the movie proves to be quite entertaining. Director Terence Fisher moves the film along at a snappy pace. in addition to carefully balancing the storyís elements of mystery and science fiction.

SPACEWAYS comes to DVD as part of The Wade Williamís Collection via Image Entertainment and Corinth Films. The black and white transfer presents SPACEWAYS in its proper 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio. SPACEWAYS looks very good on DVD, with the image being very sharp and offering a lot of detail. The level of detail makes the weaves of fabrics and the tiny lines in the actorís faces plainly visible. Shots with optical fades appear somewhat soft, but these arenít too bad. There is some speckling on the film elements and film grain is noticeable in places; however neither is terribly distracting. Blacks are true black, plus the picture boasts excellent contrast, as well as clean reproduction of distinct shades of gray. Overall, this is a very good transfer of an almost fifty-year-old film not preserved by a major studio. There are no signs of digital compression artifacts during the presentation. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is relatively clean and free from distortion. There is a mild background hiss that only becomes noticeable at higher volume levels, but it is doubtful that anyone will be playing this track too loudly. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and precise. Frequency limitations make the musical score sound a bit thin, but otherwise it is fine. There are no alternate language tracks or subtitles on the DVD. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as a theatrical trailer.

SPACEWAYS is an intriguing early science fiction outing from Hammer, which fans will want to add to their collections. The presentation is solid, so one canít go wrong in picking up the DVD.






DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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