Friday, 26 February 2016

First Men in the Moon (1964)

"Not married?!! Kindly leave the room!"

It rather pleases my geek sensibilities to see that Ray Harryhausen worked on a film co-written by Nigel Kneale. Harryhausen isn't really called upon to do much in comparison with some of his other work, but this is still a damned fine adaptation of H.G. Wells' little parable on the evils of capitalism.

I note, of course, that the baddie is a Mr. Bedford- sounds a well dodgy type, although I have no idea why "Julius" was changed to "Arnold" for the film. Rather spoils the "Caesar in Gaul" subtext.

It's 1964. The late St John F. Kennedy of blessed memory has alteady vowed to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and both superpowers are quite visibly and excitingly progressing towards that age. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, when the future was not yet passé. They would have been appalled to discover that, as of 2016, no one has set foot on the moon for a staggering 44 years. It was a very different age, but also a very different age from 1901 when the novel was published. So it's good to see the story bookended by modern day sections in which astronauts discover evidence of Cavor's exploits. It's rather utopian to propose a multinational UN mission, though. And rather fanciful to suggest that the Yank and the Russian would be joined by a Brit...!

Still, it frames the film nicely. It's surprisingly late on until our (anti-)heroes reach the Moon, but the design and effect is fantastic much they do. I'm reminded visually of The Daleks, a Doctor Who story of the same year: must have been something in the zeitgeist.

It's an excellent version of a much under-utilised novel, in spite of it's largely unknown cast. That ending, though? Shameless rip-off from The War of the Worlds. H.G. Wells should sue himself.

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