If it’s Harryhausen, it’s good; that’s a general rule for anyone to live by. This is Harryhausen and it is good – but it’s also quite tacky and seriously outdated. However, we can forgive the science, and all the other fluff and enjoy a rip-roaring romp of the sort I loved as a child and which are fine introductions to sci-fi and horror to any youngster.
A loose adaptation of the HG Wells story it features an interesting story within a story framing. The film begins in 1964 (the time of filming) as the UN has just sent a team of multi-national astronauts to the moon – none of this Cold War/Space Race nonsense. In the early searches of the moon’s surface they uncover a Union Jack already planted. ‘WTF’, they all scream. Further searching reveals a woman’s name. Back on Earth there is a frantic search to find this woman and lo and behold her husband is found – boy does he have a tale to tell. We flash back to 1899 where the man and his wife are planning their life together before meeting an excitable old inventor – Cavor. Before long the three of them find their way to the moon and are bewildered to find creatures already living there. The English inventor wants to engage with them, learn and teach, while the Yank wants to kill them. 1899 or 2017 – you decide.
And so we see Bedford tell his tale – there are moon cows, wobbly aliens, and ancient collapsing structures. There is a sense of wonder at it all, which should still stir up questions and interest in kids – I watched it, or most of it with my eldest daughter who moved between being bored, freaked out, wanting to turn it off, and wanting to watch it later. For all the hokey effects as viewed through our modern stained eyes, we see the film’s other merits – a sort of political discussion, a sort of enthusiasm for science and exploration, and Lionel Jeffries hamming it up. It does take a while before we get to the moon, and it would have been nice to see what happened in the immediate aftermath of Kate and Bedford returning home, but these gripes aside it’s still an interesting snapshot of both Victorian error sci-fi and what people pre-moon landing made of it all.
Let us know in the comments if you have seen The First Men In The Moon and what you thought of the movie.