First Men in the Moon, The (1964, Edward Judd, Lionel Jeffries)

First Men in the Moon

In 1964, the year The First Men in the Moon was made, the Gemini missions were underway, paving the way for the first moon landing in 1969. So what better time for an adaptation of HG Wells novel of the same name, First Men in the Moon, that deals with a fantasy trip to the moon in 1899? But rather than the Victorian version Wells foresaw, the film begins with a contemporary launch, only to discover that someone else had got there first.

Joy turns to amazement and shock when the apparent first trip to the moon discovers a British flag and a document claiming the moon for Queen Victoria. Back on earth, the sole survivor of that trip, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), is tracked down.

Arnold then tells in flashback of how he, his girlfriend Katherine (Martha Hyer) and inventor Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) had flown to the moon in a gravity-deflecting sphere. There, they encounter grotesque but human-like ant forms, the Selenties, who live in immense crystal caverns but who are none too friendly to the three intruders.

First Men in the Moon

Arnold and Katherine finally return to earth but Joseph stays behind to meet the chief of the Selenties and to further his scientific efforts.

Pre-Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jeffries gives a top performance as a comically highly-strung inventor while Ray Harryhausen’s effects produce a haunting, eerie atmosphere. As an exercise in escapism, for children and adults alike, this is as good as it gets.

UK / 1964

Director: Nathan Juran
Writers: Nigel Kneale, Jan Read from the book by HG Wells

Cast: Edward Judd, Martha Hyer, Lionel Jeffries, Hugh McDermott, Betty McDowall, Erik Chitty, Laurence Herder, Gladys Henson, Miles Malleson, Sean Kelly, Ray Harryhausen,