Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

First Men in the Moon

(UK, 1964)

… and a woman. She, of course, is fairly useless, taken along by accident, but still, she’s there. This is one of my favorite fun SF movies. It’s broadly based on a novel by H.G. Wells, who thought that when you got there it would be possible to breathe the atmosphere. The filmmakers had the people wear diving suits with no gloves, which would have been as useless as street clothes, of course, but who cares? There is a thread on IMDb that lists the scientific “mistakes,” which are legion, but I thought “Get over yourselves!” This trip was allegedly made in 1899, and they claimed the moon for Her Majesty Queen Victoria. It’s fun, dudes! The moon ship is padded inside with Victorian brocade and furnished with wood. The ship is made of wood. And you’re worried that the “facts” are wrong? The story is played not for laughs, but for wit and chuckles here and there. By taking itself semi-seriously, they ended up making a real gem of a movie.

It’s fun to see 1964’s version of the “first” moon landing, where the expedition is by the U.N., and the crew of about a dozen is mixed between Russians and Americans. Would that it could have been so. Naturally, they just happen to land where the earlier expedition had left a Union Jack and a written claim, so they must seek out the last surviving member of the trip, a crotchety old man in a nursing home.

Lionel Jeffries is superb as Cavor, a scientist who is not mad, but rather impractical and absent-minded. He invents a substance called Cavorite, which shields things from gravity. Without gravity, naturally the spaceship painted with it will spring into space! When our trio gets there they find a race of insectile creatures and giant caterpillars, animated by the great Ray Harryhausen. (This was his only wide-screen movie, because stop-motion and anamorphic lenses don’t mix very well. Early in the credits the claim is made that it was filmed in LunaColor!) The colors are glorious and the sets magnificent. But the main reason to see this is Lionel Jeffries.