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On the Threshold of Space

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Director  Robert D. Webb
Music director  Lyn Murray
Country  United States
6.8/10 IMDb

Genre  Drama
Cinematography  Joseph MacDonald
Language  English
On the Threshold of Space movie poster
Writer  Shimon Wincelberg, Francis M. Cockrell
Release date  April 30, 1956 (1956-04-30) (United States)
Cast  Guy Madison (Capt. Jim Hollenbeck), John Hodiak (Maj. Ward Thomas), Virginia Leith (Pat Lange), Dean Jagger (Dr. Hugo Thornton), Warren Stevens (Capt. Mike Bentley), Martin Milner (Lt. Mort Glenn)
Similar movies  Strategic Air Command (1955)

On the Threshold of Space (aka Threshold of Space) is a 1956 drama directed by Robert D. Webb, starring Guy Madison, Virginia Leith and John Hodiak. It was Hodiak's final film; he died six months before it was released. On the Threshold of Space provides a historical depiction of tests done to prepare the United States for space travel.


On the Threshold of Space wwwgstaticcomtvthumbmovieposters37000p37000


On the Threshold of Space On the Threshold of Space 1956 DVD Guy Madison Virginia Leith

Capt. Jim Hollenbeck (Guy Madison), a dedicated physician assigned to the space branch of the United States Air Force Medical Corps, voluntarily undergoes jump school training. He wants to better analyze the effect of parachute jumps on the human body. After jump school, Lt. Col. Masters (Walter Coy), the head of the space program, sends Jim to Sovern Air Force Base in Florida to evaluate a problematic, experimental ejection seat.

On the Threshold of Space Guy Madison boarding spacecraft On the Threshold of Space 8x10

While ejecting from his aircraft, test pilot Mike Bentley (Warren Stevens) broke his shoulder. Jim is assigned to determine what happened. In a test, when his arm is also broken, Jim determines that the wind blast during ejection forced his arm off the ejection release.

On the Threshold of Space On the Threshold of Space Movie Posters From Movie Poster Shop

Once the seat mechanism is modified, a series of tests at supersonic speeds are begun with rocket sleds launched at 1,000 miles per hour. Dr. Hugh Thornton (Dean Jagger) head of the program and Jim's mentor, wants Jim to test the first balloon gondola designed to carry a man 20 miles up into the "threshold of space," the first step toward putting a man into space.


Before accepting the assignment, Jim asks his fiancée, Pat Lange (Virginia Leith) for her blessing and they wed but their honeymoon is cut short by the news that Col. Masters was killed in an automobile accident. Jim rushes back to the base, where Maj. Ward Thomas (John Hodiak), is the new head of the program. Thomas is more cautious and cancels Jim's high altitude balloon flight. Jim is instructed to take Lt. Morton Glenn (Martin Milner) to a height of 55,000 feet, then lower the gondola to 10,000 feet, where Glenn will parachute to earth.

On the Threshold of Space 13 ON THE THRESHOLD OF SPACE No Monsters 1956

The test goes badly with Glenn freezing and Jim completing the jump but is reprimanded. Meanwhile, tests proceed on the rocket sleds with crash dummies. After a dummy is decapitated, Thomas plans to test the sled himself and has assigned Jim to act as physician for the trial. At 1,000 miles per hour, the major is temporarily blinded, but soon regains his sight, and the test is proclaimed a success.

On the Threshold of Space On the Threshold of Space PremiereRelease March 29 1956 TVWeek

When Washington authorizes a floating high-altitude platform, Jim is assigned to the first high altitude balloon flight. Reaching 100,000 feet, his radio fails, and when he drifts over a rugged mountain range, Jim discovers that his oxygen is nearly gone, forcing him to land. While descending, his matter-of-fact reports to his supervisors relay what is happening to his body. After the gondola crashes in the mountains, a helicopter locates the balloon and finds Jim alive, but dazed.


On the Threshold of Space documents the testing of downward firing ejection seats from Boeing B-47 Stratojet bombers that were conducted at Eglin AFB, Florida, initially between October 7 and October 21, 1953. Nine tests were conducted of the seat from a B-47 over Eglin's water ranges over the Gulf of Mexico, by the Air Proving Ground, at an altitude of 10,000 feet and various speeds. A second series of tests was also conducted beginning July 8, 1954 after refinements to the system. These tests were recreated in the film, shot at Eglin in 1955, with a different Stratojet from the one in the actual missions.

"Actually, we feel that the star of the movie will be the Air Force and the progress it is making in the aero medical field," said Robert Webb, director, in commenting on the film.

"It will deal with [the] Air Force's work in the aero medical field and will include actual shots of experimentations with the Air Force sled being made under direction of Lt. Col. John Paul Stapp, Air Force surgeon, who appeared on the cover of the Sept. 12 [1955] issue of 'Time' magazine."

Filming locations

On the Threshold of Space was filmed in part at the Air Proving Grounds Command, Eglin AFB, Florida, the Shoreline Hotel in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. Filming in Florida took place in mid-September 1955. "A crew consisting of 79 members including technicians and cast, of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation" shot in the Eglin / Fort Walton Beach area for about seven days, starting on September 15. Some Eglin personnel were used in shooting regional scenes. Production then moved to New Mexico.


On the Threshold of Space was reviewed in The New York Times. A. M. Weiler noted: "Colorful proof that science can be stranger and more interesting than science-fiction is presented in 'On the Threshold of Space,' which landed at the Globe yesterday."


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