Monday, 22 December 2008

SteamPunk Review: First men In the Moon. Pt.1

H G Wells' First men In the Moon

Synopsis: In 1964 a United Nations lunar mission comes across a union jack and note claiming the moon in name of Queen Victoria and dated 1899. The U.N. Traces this back to Dimchurch, England and an elderly man called Arnold Bedford. Bedford recounts his tale to the investigators of how he and his fiancée Kate encountered the eccentric Joseph Cavor. Cavor has created an anti gravity substance. He intends to use this to take a trip to the moon whist Bedford is chiefly interested in in its mineral resources. Kate is accidentally brought along and the three encounter a subterranean and technologically advanced civilisation that Cavor names Selenites. The trio are captured and studied before escaping back to earth. In the present day Bedford is told by the U.N. That all traces of life on the moon are now extinct, wiped out by the earth men's germs.

Critique: First men in the moon is one of producer Charles Schneer and animator Ray Harryhausen's collaborations together. Clearly the producers and writers (including Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale) had a more optimistic view of the world than many at the time. Filmed during the cold war and two years after the Cuban missile crisis it is a United Nations space expedition that lands on the moon including an American a Russian and an Englishmen. Interestingly it is the American who actually gets to step foot on the surface first, although if he makes any speech about the betterment of mankind we don't get to hear it the film immediately cuts to a montage of worldwide news broadcasts.

This is merely the prologue before we are taken back to 1899 and Bedford's story. Here we are introduced to the protagonists. Bedford is a down on on his luck playwright and some thing of a prevaricator. He tells Kate he inherited his cottage from an aunt, that all his money is tied up in Boer war surplus army boots (the war had barely started in 1899) and later, whilst trying to raise finances for Cavor, persuades her to sign her name to the deeds of the cottage. Edward Judd is affable enough to make Bedford likeable through all this. Kate is American and it seems that early drafts of the script might have tried to portray her as a modern type of gal. After all she drives a motor car, or “infernal contraption” as the postman refers to it, but, and not helped by a fairly bland Martha Hyer in the role, has very little to do other than be captured and rescued. Finally we have the great Lionel Jeffries and his superb comedy talents as the wonderfully eccentric and chicken hating (but goose loving) Cavor. Cavor is largely a comic figure in the early sequences and quite similar to the role Jeffries played in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but later his obsession with the moon proves to be almost as dangerous to Bedford and Kate as the Selenites.

Guest review by Sir Guy

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