Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1960s Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)

Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)

Two years prior, Don Knotts had put his patented comedy spin on ‘haunted house’ horror movie conventions in The Ghost and Mr Chicken (1965), and he did the same to the Western in 1968 as The Shakiest Gun in the West. So a foray into the world of sci-fi made perfect sense – Mr Knotts, after all, was not a man to be kept out of a genre.

Roy Fleming operates a space-themed kids’ ride at the local amusement park, and that’s just fine for him. But Roy’s dad, an old-school military man named Buck, wants bigger and better things for his chip off the block – and so he signs young Roy up for a NASA-sponsored space program in Houston.

Unfortunately, Roy soon finds out he’s the proud new owner of an assistant janitor’s position – not exactly Neil Armstrong!

Roy works overtime to keep up the illusion that he is indeed an astronaut-in-training, but he’s fired after donning a spacesuit and giving family and friends an official tour of the base – the base he’s supposed to be mopping up.

It doesn’t look good for Roy ever getting to the outer limits until the honchos at NASA decide to send a layperson up into orbit – what better way to one-up the Russkies and prove the utter safety of their latest spacecraft model?

With space hero Major Gifford looking on (and yes, that is Leslie Nielsen in the straight man’s role), our favourite former janitor is selected for the gig – height phobia and all.

Somehow, Roy’s adventures in space, which include his chronically shaky nerves and an extremely trying peanut-butter-in-zero-gravity experience, end up making him a hero.

No sex, no bad language, no violence – just good clean bumbling around and perpetual Knotts-brand jumpiness.

Roy Fleming
Don Knotts
Major Fred Gifford

Leslie Nielsen
Ellie Jackson

Joan Freeman
Buck Fleming

Arthur O’Connell
Mrs Fleming

Jeanette Nolan

Jesse White

Frank McGrath

Guy Raymond
Aunt Zena

Nydia Westman

Paul Hartman

Robert Pickering

Edward J Montagne