First Men in the Moon (1964)

FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964)
Article 2780 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-17-2008
Posting Date: 3-24-2009
Directed by Nathan Juran
Featuring Edward Judd, Martha Hyer, Lionel Jeffries
Country: UK

At the end of the nineteenth century, a scientist creates a substance which can cut off the force of gravity. He decides to use the substance to hurtle himself in a sphere he has built to the moon.

I have distinct memories of seeing parts of this movie when I was a kid, with the sequence in which Dr. Cavor speaks to the head Selenite the one that remained most distinctly in my memory. For some reason, I never took the opportunity to see it again until now some forty years later, and I was really curious to see the movie as a whole and see how it stood up.

I was initially impressed to see Nigel Kneale’s name in the credits, but was wary when I saw that he shared the screenplay credit with another writer. After having watched the movie, I would love to know just how much of it was Kneale’s work, though I suspect that the scene with the Head Selenite above is his. I’m not happy with many aspects of this movie. I don’t mind the framing device of the modern-day moon landing leading us to the main part of the story as a flashback; I think it’s a clever touch. However, I’m really annoyed with the portrayal of Cavor during the first half of the movie; he belabors the dotty eccentricity to the point that I think I’m watching something like THOSE FANTASTIC FLYING FOOLS. Things settle down once they get to the moon. Ray Harryhausen’s animation here is mostly intent on giving a sense of life to some of the bizarre moon creatures; only the battle with the giant moon caterpillar comes across as a typical Harryhausen centerpiece. The story itself is a little unfocused, much of the action is too obvious, but I still love the scene with the head Selenite, and I suspect a much better movie is lurking around in here somewhere. All in all, I found this one a disappointment, though only a mild one.

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