Orville (Lou Costello) is demonstrating a toy plane for the kids at the orphanage he works at, but he is also demonstrating that he knows nothing about jet propulsion or how space rockets work. Befuddled, he allows the toy to fly into a policeman, knocking off his hat, so to escape punishment Orville jumps into the back of a delivery van driven by Lester (Bud Abbott), who inadvertantly takes his stowaway to the site of an actual space mission. When he discovers him, Lester marches him to his boss, but Dr Wilson (Robert Paige) decides Orville has seen too much...
And so Orville is put to death - oh, no, not really, this is a silly comedy and nothing truly serious is going to happen to our bumbling heroes, who couldn't even follow the directions in the title of their own movie, as famously they never went anywhere near Mars and ended up on Venus instead. This was one of the duo's final movies, as their appeal was getting to be solely based on their fanbase of kids rather than their parents who had made them such stars in the previous decade. Nevertheless, Universal opted to give them a fairly high budget for what wasn't exactly a prestige production.
You can see that quite a bit of money was spent on special effects, set design and costumes, even if they were rarely convincing but as this was dedicated to getting the laughs how realistic the film was didn't exactly run high on the list of priorities. Actually, there were two reasons for making it, one for a vehicle for the ageing comedians, and two to make good on their promise to the contestants of that year's Miss Universe contest to offer them roles in one of the studio's movies. This being the beginning of the sci-fi boom, the obvious choice was to place them all in a fantasy setting, and Arabian Nights just wouldn't cut it anymore.
But before we reach Venus and those beauties who populate it (this was before the planet was revealed to be labouring under constant, fierce and toxic storms, not that this movie was any more plausible before) we had to visit the New Orleans Mardi Gras. This is where the buffoons end up having accidentally shot the rocket into space with them the sole occupants, but instead of the Mars they think they've wound up on they're actually part of the celebrations that ask the crowds to dress up in masks that naturally make the boys see Martians when they're actually seeing costumes. Obvious gags ensue, along with the inclusion of two more characters.
They are the escaped convicts Harry (Jack Kruschen) and his sidekick Mugsy (Horace McMahon) who in this light look to have been the basis of the relationship between Lex Luthor and Otis from the first two Superman blockbusters of twenty five years later, but that's probably just coincidental. They use paralysing ray guns stolen from the rocket to rob a bank, Lester and Orville get the blame, and have to flee, which leads to the second half of the plot where they reach space and that distant planet, a premise of it being full of lovely ladies blessed with eternal youth that was quite the fantasy in this era - Cat Women of the Moon and Queen of Outer Space used it as well, among others. Cult pin-up Mari Blanchard essays the Queen role here, and it's the basis of mild sexism and daft humour that is at least more palatable than the rather too forceful slapstick that takes up the rest of the film. As kitsch, this isn't too bad, but for anything better there were plenty of other options.