I just watched Riders to the Stars
, which I recorded on Thursday, and it was an unexpected little gem. By 1954 standards, it's a pretty solid "hard" SF movie, a very well-researched speculative portrayal of the first attempt to send humans into space, with some cool stuff about the training process for the astronauts; the centrifuge sequence in particular was rather exciting. Some of the assumptions about space are silly in retrospect, but reasonable for '50s science fiction. And the script (by Curt Siodmak, the novelist/screenwriter who wrote The Wolf Man
and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
) is well-written with some good characterization and dialogue.
The main drawback of the film is its tiny budget and ridiculously cheap, crude visual effects -- and a theme song that's about as silly as Gene Roddenberry's little-known torch-song lyrics to the Star Trek
theme. Also, the print that TCM showed was in pretty poor condition with a lot of breaks in the film. It would be a shame if there were no better, more complete copies surviving of this very impressive film.