Sunday, September 1, 2019

On The Moon in 1902

Thanks to the joy that is YouTube, I've been watching the very first science fiction film ever created in 1902. In fact, it was released TODAY, 117 years ago!  

Le Voyage dans la Lune or A Trip to the Moon was a produced and directed by Georges Méliès, and loosely based on stories in Jules Verne and H.G. Wells novels ("Earth to the Moon" and "First Men in the Moon" respectively). 

 The budget? 10,000 Francs or about $1800, which wasn't chump-change at the turn of the 20th century! (That would now be in the range of $50,000 dollars.) The silent film, originally narrated in French with a running time of 14 minutes, was extremely popular upon release, and is now public domain because its copyright expired after 100 years. 

Le Voyage dans la Lune The leader of an astronomical society proposes a trip to the moon, whereby most astronomers say the trip cannot be accomplished, but six agree to try. A hilarious scene building a "spacecraft" ensues, inexplicably showing men banging hammers onto what looks like a giant metal bullet! A pack of dancing girls push the bullet into a cannon, then "break the fourth wall" by waving to the audience! Makes me wonder if NASA ever considered hiring cheerleaders. 

The moon is characterized as a large face, and the space craft crashes into his eye – but then the view switches to a flat terrain. The astronomers fling open the hatch, disembark in their street clothes... and I guess "realism" in sci-fi mattered as much then as it does now – since they had no pesky problems with the atmosphere being breathable nitrogen and oxygen... too funny! 

 The astronomers watch Earth rise over the horizon, another understandable error of the time -- since to a person viewing Earth from the tidally-locked lunar surface, one side of the Moon always faces toward Earth and any such "rise" would only move slowly in a horizontal direction, taking many days to complete.  

You can tell I'm a barrel of laughs in movie theatres.


After the astronomers set up camp to sleep, a comet passes, and they are watched by human-faced stars in the shape of the Big Dipper. Saturn makes an interesting surprise appearance, but don't get me started on the snow flakes, the gigantic mushroom or the jumpy little Selenite acrobats exploding into smithereens. (???) 

Eventually, they are taken to a palace, where they kill the Moon King (we really can't be trusted to play well with others) and rush back to their big bullet. After toppling off a moon cliff and landing in Earth's ocean (I thought the jellyfish were nice touches), they are towed ashore where they are greeted by a parade. Hmm... wonder what Neil & Buzz thought of this masterpiece? ;)