H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon Reviews
The second H.G. Wells story to feature encounters with alien lifeforms after his most famous sci-fi story The War of the Worlds. Obviously a more fantastical story from Wells and this British made film certainly has that outlandish angle that's for sure. Although it seems this film isn't as surreal or fantastical as the original story surprisingly.
The whole story is narrated by the main character as an old man. It tells the story of how his eccentric inventor neighbour creates a substance that defies or eliminates gravity thus allowing them to fly to the moon in a homemade space sphere (hexagon). There on the moon they encounter insect-like aliens hungry for knowledge.
Interesting to note that this film was of course made before man actually reached the lunar surface (1969). This of course doesn't mean people in 64 thought there were aliens running around up there, but back when the original story was published in 1901 I'm guessing people could of thought it possible. The whole idea that the two main characters in this film use deep sea diving gear on the lunar surface is cute.
Whether or not this was an actual belief of the era or just Well's fantasy, I don't know (I'm not even sure if this is accurate with the original source material). I think its fair to say back in the early 1900's the knowledge on resources/materials required for space travel/space crafts in general was probably very limited and underestimated, so what we see in this adaptation could well have been real concepts of the time (maybe not the moon bugs though).
Putting aside the real science plot holes (of which there are absolutely tonnes), the film itself is highly enjoyable. This is my first ever viewing of the film and straight away you can see many little sequences which have been homaged by other sci-fi films, mainly 'Mars Attacks'. It seems Mr Burton liked this particular sci-fi film. The big bug idea could also have spawned the likes of 'Starship Troopers', mainly the huge centipede-like insects (space cows) that roam the lunar surface.
The alien creatures known as Selenites are bug-like in appearance, bipedal and live underground like ants. These guys are mainly men in rather cheap basic looking rubber suits but some of the main aliens are animated by Ray Harryhausen including the wonderful lunar centipedes.
Visually the whole film is very striking offering some lovely matte paintings, sets, models, and that typically dapper Victorian attire that you see in many Wells and Verne adaptations. Even the inside of the space sphere is lined with that diamond shaped patterned leather upholstery effect. I think that concept was started by the 1960 film 'The Time Machine'. The small space flight sequences at the start of the film are a joy to behold, very dated but very effective (not too far from reality either with the flight suits); surely everyone will appreciate them.
The only downside to the film for me was the bland characters. Bedford (Edward Judd) has that stereotypical male chauvinistic streak about him coming across as rather unfriendly and rude. He's always shouting at his fiance Kate who does pretty much nothing accept look pretty and shout back. Then you have the main character of Cavor played quite oddly by Lionel Jeffries. His performance was a strange one as it comes across as though he's improvising, it doesn't feel like he's in character or simply he can't act too well. His constant yelling and rather frantic red-faced performance does become tiresome.
At the time this film was made, space travel and reaching the moon (the space race) was at its peak with public interest. So to go backwards and make a film so 'medieval' must have been a hard sell, despite being an adaptation. But this film is pure and utter silly fantasy (no further explanations required for that); its not a film for actors and its not really about the characters either. Its a visual spectacle, an effects film, an early 60's blockbuster if you will. Take all the gigantic scientific plot holes and complete lack of realism as part of the fun (as was intended), and you can't fail not to enjoy.
The Earth's first space mission lands on the moon only to find that there are artifacts already there. When the artifacts appear in a news broadcast, an old scientist is astonished to see his items on the news. A group of scientists arrive on his doorstep asking for an explanation. The old man takes the scientists on a trip they'll never believe.
"Staring at me like an animal in the zoo."
Nathan Juran, director of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and Jack the Giant Killer (1962), delivers The Men in the Moon. The storyline for this picture is entertaining and fun to watch unfold. The action is dated but interesting and the acting is average. The cast includes Edward Judd, Martha Hyer, and Lionel Jeffries.
"Stay away or I'll shoot!"
I found this on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and had to DVR it. This was a fairly average movie but a nice addition to the science fiction genre for this era. This is far from a masterpiece, but it isn't a waste of time. I recommend giving it a viewing.
"I sold the cottage."
(1964) First Men In The Moon
Based on the H.G. Wells novel author of "War Of The Worlds" fame which has many things wrong with it but still moderately amusing. The story is not your typical 'man on the moon' movie where it starts off with the first men walking on the moon, and while browsing around stumble onto a piece of paper dated back in 1899 with the name Katherine Callender on it with a small UK flag holding it down. Upon coming back to the earth, they then try to locate whether that name ever existed and eventually find that this person is connected with an old man named Arnold Bedford, they go and see him and he tells his story and it's nothing what viewers can expect.
They're so many things wrong with this feature that it's hard to take this film seriously but still full of imaginative nevertheless. Of course, made before the actual first man on the moon of Neil Armstrong, and instead of using real space suits, this film substitute it with 'deep sea diving' outfits. Special effects by Ray Harryhausen of Clash Of The Titans and The Thief Of Bagdad to Sinbad films, it's not bad marred only by very pretentious dialogue.
2.5 out of 4