Blu-ray Review: First Men in the Moon - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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The quaint sci-fi thriller First Men in the Moon arrives on Blu-ray via Twilight Time as a limited edition (5,000 copies issued). Directed by Nathan H. Juran (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), the 1964 British production boasts stop-motion effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. It’s a rollicking blast from the past that looks stunning as presented in high definition on this new edition. Based on an H.G. Wells novel from 1901, it’s an interesting combination of Wells’ turn of the century envisioning of lunar exploration and then-contemporary notions. A framing device presents an international team of lunar explorers who discover, in 1964, that they are not the first to set foot on the moon.

Admittedly, some elements play like a children-oriented family film more than anything else. The visual effects hold up remarkably well, with depictions of a 1964 lunar landing that are rather ingeniously conceived (NASA is mentioned in the credits, but it’s unclear for what reason). Once the pioneering astronauts are shocked to discover a Union Jack buried on the surface of the moon, we flash back to 1899 to see how humans really first made the trip. Married couple Arnold (Edward Judd) and Kate (Martha Hyer) meet a semi-crazed inventor, Cavor (Lionel Jeffries), who has created some sort of anti-gravity substance. The trio seems ripped directly from a Disney movie of the era, playing as broadly as possible. Once they get to the moon, all hell breaks loose when creatures in an underground society are discovered.

First Men in the Moon cover (212x280).jpgIt’s all strictly a wild flight of fancy. Kids will likely find more to love than adults, unless the pull of sheer nostalgia draws in older viewers of a certain age. The visual imagination at play here is what makes it worth watching. Even the youngest of today’s viewers will recognize the “moon cow” creatures as a bunch of hogwash, but the point is it’s fun hogwash even half a century later. The 1899 spacecraft developed by Cavor is actually probably the least inventive aspect of the film. The deep-sea diving gear the early explorers use on the lunar surface, exposed hands and all, will likely provoke laughter. But those who just go with it will likely find First Men in the Moon an entertaining adventure.

Framed at 2.35:1, the 1080p transfer is simply remarkable. There’s basically nothing to carp about. The decades have melted away and First Men in the Moon practically looks like it could’ve been shot recently. The cinematography by frequent Ray Harryhausen collaborator Wilkie Cooper is sharp and pretty much perfect. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is also outstanding, offering a surprising amount of directional surround effects and robust LFE activity.

There’s a nice little selection of special features here, including an audio commentary by Ray Harryhausen and visual effects designer Randall William Cook. Cook also provides a five-minute introduction to the film. Laurie Johnson’s score is available as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated track. There’s also a short featurette, “Tomorrow the Moon,” and a pair of theatrical trailers.

Fans of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects, H.G. Wells, or older sci-fi in general won’t want to miss out on this limited edition Blu-ray of First Men in the Moon. Visit Screen Archives, the official distributor of Twilight Time, to order while supplies last.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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