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

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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.

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.

production details
UK / 103 minutes / 1964

cast
Edward Judd as Arnold Bedford
Martha Hyer as Kate Callender
Lionel Jeffries as Prof. Joseph Cavor
Miles Malleson as Dymchurch Registrar
Norman Bird as Stuart
Gladys Henson as Nursing Home Matron
Hugh McDermott as Richard Challis
Betty McDowall as Margaret Hoy

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