Friday, 1 July 2011

Small details

It's amazing how one little thing can annoy you to distraction like a caraway seed caught in your teeth.  The First Men in the Moon is one of my favourite H G Wells novels and Ray Harryhausen films, so it isn't surprising that this caught my eye in a Wikipedia article on spacesuits in science fiction:
The film depicts the 1960s astronaut spacesuits as run-of-the-mill film prop spacesuits with a 1960s-type aqualung cylinder each instead of a NASA-type life support backpack.
Leaving aside the question of how the blazes the costume designers were supposed to get their hands on a "NASA-type life support backpack" in 1964 when NASA didn't even have them, I couldn't believe that the writer claimed that these:
From Wikipedia
were "run-of-the-mill film prop spacesuits".

NOT a prop.
Sorry, Lads, but these didn't come from the costume department.  Even when I was a kid with too much time on my hands, I knew that these are, in fact, British high-altitude pressure suits of the sort intended to be used aboard the TSR-1.  

That's the trouble with Hollywood: You sweat blood over authenticity and nobody even notices.

By the way, if these helmets from the link page look familiar, it may be because you've also seen a dolled up one on the flight deck of the commercial transport Nostromo.


eon said...


Thanks for the link. I also recognized them as high-altitude pressure suits, but wasn't aware that they were specifically RAF issue.

Partial-pressure suits often showed up in low-budget Hollywood films as "spacesuits" in the late Fifties and early Sixties, which probably explains the Wikipedia remark. The most common was probably the T-1 partial-pressure/G-suit, with its characteristic "tubes" running down the sides of the body-stocking like flight suit.

My favorite movie gaffe of this type was in "Missile to the Moon" (1958), in which they took great pains to explain the need for full pressure integrity in vacuum- and then walked out onto the "lunar surface" wearing U.S. Air Force T-2 helmets with clear faceplates- that were open to the outside "air" under the chin. At least in "12 to the Moon" (1960), they made a passing reference to "force fields" to lampshade the obvious shortcomings of using such a helmet in entirely the wrong environment.



jayessell said...

2001: A Space Odessy suposededly missed a 'best costume' oscar for the hominids because the members didn't notice they were costumes.

Maybe it fell in the gap between 'best makeup' and 'best costume'.

Years later the DeLarentis 'King Kong' gets a best special effects nomination for Rich Baker's gorilla suit.

Anonymous said...

I believe the first episode of the TV series 'Men into Space' used U.S. Navy pressure suits. After the one episode, they went to 'prop' space suits. (Probably the Navy wanted their hardware back.)

Col McCauley's wife was played by Angie Dickinson, but (also) only in the pilot.