Tuesday, 28 May 2013

First Men In The Moon (1964)

Based on a story by H. G. Wells (though I'm not sure how faithful it is to the source material), First Men In The Moon is a fantastical sci-fi movie that also proves to be very family-friendly. There are one or two moments of possible tension, but they're easily offset by the character interactions and enjoyably silly plot.

Things begin with some folk landing on the moon, only to find that there have been others there before them. This news is, of course, pretty shocking and people want to know just who was on the moon previously and what happened. They end up meeting Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), who proceeds to tell them a tale that involves himself, the lovely Kate Callender (Martha Hyer) and an inventor named Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries). It turns out that, many years ago, Cavor created a substance that could be used to coat things and make them defy gravity. He then used the substance to coat a vehicle that he'd created for space travel and the three main characters ended up being the first people to land on the moon. But why didn't they tell anyone about their adventures, and what happened when they were up there?

Jan Read and Nigel Kneale are the people responsible for the script, and those familiar with Kneale's other works will find that this is much more lightweight and fantastical than his more celebrated stuff. It's very childish throughout, in a sweet way, and director Nathan Juran keeps everything simple and entertaining enough (with the first half of the movie being all about the inventor and his attempts to get things just right and the second half showing viewers the wonders to be found on the moon).

The cast all do a good enough job. Jeffries can do the amusing eccentric in his sleep and is, unsurprisingly, the highlight, while Judd steps up to the mark when required and Hyer gets to play a woman with a strong will and a good heart. There are a few other people onscreen, but most of the runtime leaves viewers with these three characters, and they are good company.

It may not be his very best work, but the special effects by Ray Harryhausen are also enjoyable enough, and also childish in a cute way (though that may just be my own mind connecting things to The Clangers). The movie is far from his best showcase, but it's also far from his worst.

You may need to get yourself into the right frame of mind to enjoy First Men In The Moon, but it's worth it for a one-time watch. Just empty your mind, reclaim a sense of innocent wonder and remember what it felt like to be carried away by the sights and adventures passing in front of your eyes.



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