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Georges Melies 'A Trip to the Moon' (1902)
Well it’s not every day I get to write about a film that’s over 100 years old, and the reader is given the choice to view the entire film and bonus music video without leaving the hub too!
A masterwork of early silent cinema, by the French pioneer of the cinematic special effect Georges Melies (1861-1938), A Trip to the Moon (1902) is also more properly known under its original title, Le voyage dans la lune. It was the first real attempt to tell a proper science fiction story on the screen, and upon release was the longest piece of continuous film ever produced. It made cinematic history.
Melies based this amusing spectacle loosely on Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and H.G. Wells First Men in the Moon (1901), borrowing a spacecraft propelled by a gun from the former and hard-shelled Selenites from the latter. Indeed, when A Trip to the Moon was actually made, the science fiction genre as we know it did not yet exist.
A professor and a group of colleagues build an enormous gun that will hopefully propel them to the Moon. They create a vessel within which they can travel, and fire themselves into the sky, eventually coming down to land, memorably, in the eye of the Man in the Moon. They take shelter from a storm in a crater, which they find leads down into a network of underground caverns and tunnels.
They encounter a race of Selenites and are captured but soon escape. Finding their way back to the vessel, they set off for home, the force of gravity pulling them back to Earth. They splash down in the ocean and are pulled to safety, they find that a statue has been erected in their honour.
Upon finishing the film Melies intended to release it in America where he hoped it will make plenty of money. But unfortunately Thomas Edison's film technicians had already secretly made copies of the movie, which was shown across the USA making a fortune for Edison. Melies however failed to make any money from the film's successful American showings, and went broke several years later.
The film was innovative for it’s time, and can be considered the first science fiction film. The special effects are obviously primitive, but they are amusing and enjoyable and, given that this was the first time some of the techniques had ever been used to full effect, are worthy of applause.
A complete cut of the movie, entirely hand-coloured, was discovered in a barn in France in 2002. The film was restored and premiered at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival the following year.
Martin Scorsese's film Hugo (2011) stars Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies and the film features a recreation of the making of A Trip to the Moon (1902). Hugo was filmed in 3-D and has been nominated for 11 Oscars.
Rock band The Smashing Pumpkins used this film as inspiration for their multi-award winning music video "Tonight Tonight" Released in 1996, it was the fourth single and second track from their third album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It’s considered one of the greatest ever music videos, ranking number 40 on Stylus Magazine's Top 100 videos. The ship which sails in at the end of the video is named S.S. Melies.