Retro Review: First Men In The Moon (1964)

A spaceship lands on the moon and is hailed as a new accomplishment. It soon becomes clear that a Victorian party completed the journey in 1899
First Men

Synopsis: In First Men In The Moon. A spaceship lands on the moon and is hailed as a new accomplishment. It soon becomes clear that a Victorian party completed the journey in 1899, leading investigators to that mission’s last survivor.

 

The Story

When an international group of Astronauts find a note and a Union Jack flag on the moon. It becomes obvious that they are not the first people to land on the moon. Consequently, the UN Space Program launches an investigation to find out who was. Soon enough they find Arnold Bedford who is advancing in years. Bedford proceeds to tell them of his trip to the moon and warns that their astronauts are in grave danger.

He reveals that he journeyed to the moon in 1899 with professor Joseph Cavor. He tells of how Cavor had invented a special paint that can break the law of gravity. Cavor demonstrates the paint on a chair and informs Bedford that he intends to go to the moon.

Pretty soon. Cavor, Bedford, and his girlfriend Kate Callender journey to the moon where they encounter an insectoid alien race.

 

The Acting

 

 

Edward Judd does a pretty good job in his role of Arnold Bedford who is a frustrated writer trying to write a book so he can pay off his debts. Bedford is very much the grounding force in the film. In contrast, Lionel Jeffries gets to be the eccentric professor and gets many of the more comedic moments in the film. While Martha Hyer’s portrayal of Kate is pretty much the stereotype of the time but does show some signs of being fairly capable.

The real stars of this film are the set designs and the Selenites and other creatures that stop motion wizard Ray Harryhausen created for the film.

 

Visual Effects & Stop Motion

First Men In The Moon is a fun film to watch and also quite an ambitious film to make given the level of technology that was available at the time. The Stop Motion in the film is fantastic. Particularly the sequence in which Bedford and the Professor are running away from the monster, which the Selenites are hunting.

Unusually we only see four Selenites that are animated via stop motion. The rest of them are people in costume. Which is something that Harryhausen was not a fan of. But due to budget constraints and time he had to compromise for this movie. However, the fact that we have people dressed as Selenites doesn’t really detract from the film. The sets of the moon and the cave network that the Selenites live in are very well put together. Sure it is not as realistic looking as it could be now. But that is part of the charm of the film.

 

Overall

First Men In The Moon is a really entertaining film with some solid acting performances and nice visuals. We get a nice balance of comedy, drama and action. And I loved how it was bookended with a modern space mission discovering that it was not the first to land on the moon. Also, the idea of a United Nations Space program was very progressive for 1964 given that it was the height of the cold war and indeed the space race.

 

See our review of 7th Voyage of Sinbad here

 

9.2
First Men In The Moon (1964)
  • Story
    9.4
  • Acting
    9.7
  • Visual Effects
    8.6
  • Incidental Music
    9.0

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: [email protected]
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