A Trip to the Moon

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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

01 September

Generally speaking I’m going to choose historical events rather than movie events as a peg off which to hang the Film of the Day. But today is the first one so why not make an exception?

Debut Screening by George Méliès of A Trip to the Moon, 1902

On this day in 1902, the great showman, illusionist and restless inventor George Méliès gave the first showing of Le Voyage dans la Lune. It was the Star Wars of its day and a huge international hit. If it wasn’t the first sci-fi film ever made, it was, along with the Parisian’s other films, one of the first. It can also claim to be one of the first special effects movies. And on top of that it was also the first work to be designated as a World Heritage film by Unesco.

A Trip to the Moon (1902, dir: Georges Méliès)

Méliès took the basic idea from Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (a gun club shoot a spaceship at the moon) and mixed it with HG Wells’s The First Men in the Moon (when they get there they find a highly civilised society) and turned it into a 17-minute feast of colour (hand-tinted), drama and special effects. Regardless of whether or not you think it still stands up, the image of the capsule hitting the Moon square in the eye is iconic – and the capsule itself strongly prefigures Nasa’s, which wouldn’t be designed for more than 50 years. Martin Scorsese drew heavily on the story of Méliès for his 2011 film Hugo, casting Ben Kingsley as Méliès.

Why Watch?

  • Completely iconic – and Méliès’s most famous film
  • Genre movie-making, sci-fi movies and grandiose special effects films start here
  • It’s the film that sent Méliès bankrupt (after Edison copied it, made a fortune and wouldn’t pay any royalties)
  • This is what Scorsese was getting so excited about when he made Hugo

A Trip to the Moon (restoration of the hand-tinted version) – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2013

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