A MESSAGE FROM MARS (1913)
Article 4739 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Wallett Waller
Featuring Charles Hawtrey, E. Holman Clark, Crissie Bell
What it is: The reformation of a scoundrel
A Martian is sentenced to exile on Earth until he reforms a resident there of his selfish ways.
This is no doubt one of the earliest full-length science fiction movies ever made, and therefore it has a certain amount of historical and novelty value. It is also, however, little more than a variation on A CHRISTMAS CAROL with the substitution of a Martian for the various ghosts of that story; in this movie, the Martian is little more than a variety of supernatural creature. It is also, sadly, a very slow-moving movie. It was based on a stage play, but it appears that the makers weren’t quite sure how to find a good visual substitute for the missing dialogue, and the end result is that a bare-bones plot is stretched out to a full length movie by padding out everything; each scene feels as if it runs three times longer than it needs to in order to make its point. There are a couple of nice moments, though; my favorite is a comic bit where the selfish-man-to-be-reformed thinks that he can back track on the Martian’s command to go a certain direction, but when he does, he discovers he can only walk backwards. Most of the rest is obvious and overlong; despite being one of the first full-length SF features, it would have worked better as a short.