War of the Satellites is a 1958 independently made American black-and-white science fiction film drama, produced and directed by Roger Corman, and starring Richard Devon, Dick Miller and Susan Cabot. It was distributed in the U.S. and the U.K. by Allied Artists. In the U.S., it was released as a double feature with Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
In the film, an “unknown force” declares war against Earth when the United Nations disobeys its warnings against assembling and launching the first satellite into space.
Special effects maven Jack Rabin suggested to Roger Corman the idea of making the film, while the topic of space satellites was still hot in the news headlines. In a 2019 interview, Corman recalled his meeting with Steve Broidy of Allied Artists: “I said, ‘Steve, if you can give me $80,000, I will have a picture about satellites ready to go into the theaters in 90 days.’ And then he said, ‘What’s the story?’ And I said, ‘I have no idea, but I will have the picture ready.’ And he said, ‘Done.’ And he gave me the money.” Broidy claimed in interviews that when Corman delivered the finished product on time, “he gave him $500.00 to throw a cast party. They’re still waiting for the party…”
Susan Cabot’s casting was announced in November 1957. She had previously made Sorority Girl, Carnival Rock and The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent for Corman.
Filming started 9 December 1957.
Dan Haller was Corman’s art director on the film and revealed in an interview how low-budget the spaceship’s interior set was, consisting of “four arches to make the hallways in the spaceship…and two lounge chairs. That was the entire ship”.
Dick Miller, at 5-foot-5-inch, was a bit intimidated by the six-foot-two Richard Devon. The film’s script said Miller was supposed to fight him. At the time, he said he felt that his part should have gone to a more powerful-looking actor, such as “William Lundigan or Richard Carlson“. He said, “I looked up at Dick Devon…and said ‘Jesus Christ, I gotta beat him up'”? Miller added the part “didn’t sit too well. It was a real, quote/unquote, leading-man type, and I was a foot too short for the part.”
Miller said filming took place over a “leisurely” 10 days.
We had two of the best lounge chairs money could buy to take off for the moon in. The type where you hit the sides and the chair slides down into a lying-down position. At the time, they looked pretty good, except they really looked like lounge chairs. We had a lot of fun on those. I remember for the hallways on the spaceship…we had four arches, that’s all they were, the entire set was arches. You could set them close together to make a short hall or set them further apart and make a long hall. At the end of the hall was a flat— you made a turn. So on our spaceship you always ran down to the end of the hall and made a turn. That was the entire ship.
Susan Cabot remembers being intrigued by the costumes and wished that Corman could have expanded the plot. Richard Devon said the film was one of the few he enjoyed making with Corman, due to the quality of his role.