Based on the story by HG Wells, First Men in the Moon begins with our historic landing on the moon (five years before the actual moon landing). But the international crew of astronauts are surprised to discover a tiny British flag already planted in the moon’s surface. Government officials quickly track down the last surviving member of that mysterious first landing, an old man named Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd). Bedford then proceeds to tell the bulk of the movie’s narrative via flashback, reminiscing about how he and his girlfriend (Martha Hyer) met a mad scientist (Lionel Jeffries) who took them to the moon in 1899.
Bedford, his girlfriend, and the scientist ended up getting more than they bargained for, which gives special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen the opportunity to concoct some cool monster for the movie. Our heroes first have to battle some giant caterpillars. Then they are introduced to the insect-like natives of the moon, the Selenites. Our heroes engage in an ongoing moral conflict about whether to regard the mysterious Selenites as dangerous or friendly. I like that the movie doesn’t reveal the creatures’ motives until the final reel.
First Men in the Moon is beautifully rendered with imaginative set design, color-saturated widescreen cinematography, and a grand score by Laurie Johnson. The Selenite leader (The Grand Lunar) is a pretty nifty character, speaking with a calm, creepy voice and hidden behind a force field so that you never see him clearly.
As far as pre-Star Wars sci-fi/fantasy films go, this one is worth a look.
Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)