First Men in the Moon (1964)

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Released 10-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Audio
Featurette-'This Is Dynamation'
Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 98:50 (Case: 103)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Nathan Juran
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Edward Judd
Martha Hyer
Lionel Jeffries
Miles Malleson
Norman Bird
Gladys Henson
Hugh McDermott
Betty McDowall
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Laurie Johnson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is a British science fiction film based on the story by H. G. Wells, with visual effects by visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen. Even he couldn't save it.

    Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) is a wannabe playwright who owes a lot of money to his creditors. However, in his theatrical pursuits he has met up with a young wannabe actress, Kate Callender (Martha Hyer), and they plan to be married. While he has gone into town from his country cottage, the eccentric Dr. Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) turns up and offers an exorbitant amount for the cottage. Then he starts yelling about "the furnace" and runs off.

    When Kate tells Bedford that she has sold the cottage, he decides to confront Cavor. But Cavor, who turns out to be an inventor, reveals that he has invented Cavornite, a substance that when hardened blocks out gravity. Bedford sees commercial potential in the substance, but Cavor simply wants to use it to travel to the moon. Convincing Bedford by means of telling him that there are gold nuggets everywhere on the moon, he agrees to travel with him in his purpose built sphere. And Kate accidentally gets to go too. Once on the moon, they find it isn't uninhabited after all, with a race of Selenites, large blowflies of a sort.

    There are all the ingredients available here for a superior science fiction flick, but there is one ingredient too many: low-grade humour. Often these genre films would include some comedy relief, but I found myself waiting for some relief from the comedy relief. Director Nathan Juran appears to have been either unable to control Jeffries' over-the- top performance, or was complicit in it. Jeffries yells and shouts his lines and overplays the eccentric scientist to the hilt and beyond. By contrast Edward Judd is a serviceable but somewhat dour leading man. Martha Hyer is chronologically way too old for the part of Kate - she was 40 when the film was released - but she looks not a day over 25. A few familiar British character actors enliven the early proceedings, including Miles Malleson as a befuddled town clerk and Gladys Henson as a retirement home nurse. Peter Finch makes a cameo appearance as a bailiff.

    The film was made in Dynamation, a Harryhausen process for integrating stop motion photography and live action. Most of the time the special effects are very good, but the joins often show too obviously. This movie could have been a lot better if it took itself more seriously and was aimed at an adult rather than a juvenile audience. That being said, kids may get a lot out of it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film has been transferred in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a very good transfer with no significant problems to report. There is a lot of fine detail visible in the backgrounds as well as the foregrounds, for example in Bedford's cottage and inside the sphere. Contrast and brightness seem just about ideal, while there are some vivid colours on show. Flesh tones are realistic and black levels are good, and shadow detail is pretty good too.

    I found nothing in the way of film to video artefacts to report. There are some minor film artefacts, occasional flecks of dirt and scratches, but these were mainly on background material in process shots, so this was probably in the original material anyway.

    Optional subtitles are provided in white font, and generally seem to match the dialogue. This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change placed at 68:01. While there was a slight interruption to the background audio, the layer break is well positioned, and was very quick.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film was released in Cinerama in some areas and the audio has been remixed based on the stereophonic Cinerama soundtrack. So what we get is Dolby Digital 4.0, basically a 3-channel frontal mix with a mono rear channel signal.

    The audio is very good indeed. In the dialogue scenes it is frontally located, with all of the audio coming from the centre channel. Music tends to be directed to the main speakers, and there are some effects which come from the rear channels. It all sounds authentic to me. Dialogue is clear and distinct, and the audio is clean. There is no distortion and no audible hiss, so there is nothing to distract from the shenanigans on screen.

    The music is by Laurie Johnson, and he certainly tries to add a sense of the dramatic and an epic feel to the film. Some reviewers have likened it to a Bernard Herrmann score, and that is an apt analogy (though Herrmann would have done it better).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There's only so much of Leonard Nimoy that one can take. This disc has the same extras as the other two Ray Harryhausen releases coming out on the same day. Frustrating, given that not only is Harryhausen still with us, but so are all three leading actors. Such an opportunity for recording some new material with them may not be available next time this gets released (for example on high-definition video in a few years time).

Menu Audio

    The main menu has some of the musical score as background.

Featurette-'This Is Dynamation' (3:27)

    Billed as a featurette, this is really just a widescreen promotional trailer for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad showing how some of the effects were achieved.

Featurette-The Harryhausen Chronicles (57:58)

    This is a 1997 film made by critic Richard Schickel that chronicles Harryhausen's life and work, and is narrated by Leonard Nimoy. There is a lot of footage of his work, including test footage for projects that did not get off the ground and some of the surviving models. There are interviews with Ray Bradbury and producer Charles Schneer, as well as a few other filmmakers who claim to be influenced by Harryhausen's work. There is also footage from the Oscars of Harryhausen getting his honorary award in 1992, when the telecast looked like it was coming from the local school hall. Interesting stuff.

Gallery-Photo

    A few production and publicity stills. Nothing to get excited about, and you won't get carpal tunnel syndrome from scrolling through these.

Theatrical Trailer (3:14)

    An original theatrical trailer that looks worn and washed out, it plays down the comedic elements of the script.

Trailer-The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (2:52)

    A likewise dilapidated trailer for a later Harryhausen effort.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    If you really like Leonard Nimoy, you could buy either the US Region 1 or the UK Region 2 versions, both of which have the same extras as the Region 4.

Summary

    A juvenile version of the Wells classic, this film has excellent production values but is ruined by the nearly continuous comedy in the first half.

    The video quality and audio quality are both excellent.

    The same old extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
A mixed bag -
I prefer the MST3K version -