First Men in the Moon (1964)

“Do you think we’ll ever see our world again?”

First Men in the Moon Poster

Synopsis:
An elderly Englishman (Edward Judd) reminisces about a turn-of-the-century trip he took to the moon with his fiancee (Martha Hyer) and a neighbor (Lionel Jeffries).

Genres:

Review:
This adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1901 novel is primarily notable for featuring the work of special effects guru Ray Harryhausen. As DVD Savant notes in his review, “Although there’s relatively little of Harryhausen’s standard animation techniques, the design and creation of the wall-to-wall effects is clearly his”, and the lunar world encountered by Wells’ Victorian-era space travelers is “imaginative, colorful and well designed”. Wells’ original storyline — about an insolvent playwright and an eccentric scientist encountering an ant-like colony of residents inside the moon — is padded here with both an irritating romantic subplot between Judd and Hyer (which merely turns our sentiments against the deceitful Judd, who is lying to Hyer), and a reasonably clever exposition, in which Judd’s elderly protagonist is finally able to tell his story with credibility once a Union Jack is found on the moon by modern-day astronauts. Unfortunately, the meat of the story — i.e., the travelers’ inter-species encounter — isn’t given nearly enough screen time, resulting in an underdeveloped sci-fi film which appears to exist simply as a showcase for Harryhausen’s work.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Impressive sets and special effects by Harryhausen
    First Men Moon Sets

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look simply for Harryhausen’s work.

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One Response to “First Men in the Moon (1964)”

  1. In complete agreement.

    Not a must – except perhaps for budding ffs patient enough to get through the first half (at which point the film gets a real jolt of life) and/or sci-fi enthusiasts who are curious to see a work clearly influential in the making of such contemporary films as the ‘Alien’ series and even minor work such as Tim Burton’s ‘Mars Attacks!’

    I first saw this as a kid, and not since til now. Sci-fi films today are way too sophisticated to allow for their first half to be a bit of a slog (which this film’s is).

    The ‘moon creatures’ – the groups of actors in creature outfits – do look a bit comical, but at least they’re mostly in shadow and are removed from Harryhausen’s work – which is, of course, very important to make note of in terms of cinema history (and impressive).

    Jeffries gets points for the liveliness of his performance.

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