First Men in the Moon (1964)

103 mins | Science fiction, Comedy-drama | 25 November 1964

Director:

Nathan Juran

Producer:

Charles H. Schneer

Cinematographer:

Wilkie Cooper

Editor:

Maurice Rootes

Production Designer:

John Blezard

Production Company:

Ameran Films
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HISTORY

A film adaptation of H. G. Wells’s 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon, involving producer Charles H. Schneer and Columbia Pictures, was first mentioned in the 24 Nov 1958 and 5 Dec 1958 DV. At that time, Schneer reportedly filed a title dispute with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) against Twentieth Century-Fox and Vanguard, who were producing pictures with similar titles.
       More than one year later, the 23 Jun 1961 DV announced that the novel was “now in public domain” and the MPAA registered the title with Schneer and Columbia. Preparations for production were currently underway. According to the 30 Jun 1961 DV, Schneer had a five-picture deal with Columbia over the next three and one half years which allotted him “free rein on budgets.” Schneer planned to use the “Dynamation” process in his productions, including this picture, which was erroneously referred to as First Men to the Moon. The process was a stop-motion animation technique developed by Schneer’s frequent special effects collaborator, Ray Harryhausen, who also served as associate producer on the film.
       Schneer hired artist Bryan Kneale, brother of screenwriter Nigel Kneale, to create “lunar animal and plant life” for the picture, as noted in the 7 Mar 1962 Var, but he may not have remained with the project. The 16 Apr 1962 DV and the 25 Apr 1962 and 5 Sep 1962 Var reported that Schneer was scouting locations in Southern Spain for the production, which was expected to begin in Sep 1962. Bill Hutchinson was listed as art director at that time, but John Blezard ... More Less

A film adaptation of H. G. Wells’s 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon, involving producer Charles H. Schneer and Columbia Pictures, was first mentioned in the 24 Nov 1958 and 5 Dec 1958 DV. At that time, Schneer reportedly filed a title dispute with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) against Twentieth Century-Fox and Vanguard, who were producing pictures with similar titles.
       More than one year later, the 23 Jun 1961 DV announced that the novel was “now in public domain” and the MPAA registered the title with Schneer and Columbia. Preparations for production were currently underway. According to the 30 Jun 1961 DV, Schneer had a five-picture deal with Columbia over the next three and one half years which allotted him “free rein on budgets.” Schneer planned to use the “Dynamation” process in his productions, including this picture, which was erroneously referred to as First Men to the Moon. The process was a stop-motion animation technique developed by Schneer’s frequent special effects collaborator, Ray Harryhausen, who also served as associate producer on the film.
       Schneer hired artist Bryan Kneale, brother of screenwriter Nigel Kneale, to create “lunar animal and plant life” for the picture, as noted in the 7 Mar 1962 Var, but he may not have remained with the project. The 16 Apr 1962 DV and the 25 Apr 1962 and 5 Sep 1962 Var reported that Schneer was scouting locations in Southern Spain for the production, which was expected to begin in Sep 1962. Bill Hutchinson was listed as art director at that time, but John Blezard received sole onscreen credit. Although the 30 Jan 1964 DV restated that the film would shoot in Spain, Spanish locations were not ultimately used.
       According to the 2 Jan 1963 Var, Ray Harryhausen had flown from London, England, to Los Angles, CA, to meet with public affairs officer Ben James of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to research rocket designs. Seven months later, the 15 Aug 1963 DV reported that Schneer was meeting again with James at NASA in preparation for production, set to begin on 1 Oct 1963, with Nathan Juran directing. The 11 Sep 1963 DV noted that filming would occur at Shepperton Studios near London, England. Principal photography did not begin until 7 Oct 1963, according to the 9 Oct 1963 Var.
       On 11 Dec 1963, Var announced that filming had recently completed, but ten months of special effects work was expected before the picture would be ready for release.
       The world premiere of First Men in the Moon was held at the Science-Fiction Film Festival in Trieste, Italy, in late Jul 1964, as stated in the 29 Jul 1964 Var. The feature was released in London, England, soon afterward, as indicated in the 3 Aug 1964 DV. According to the 16 Sep 1964 Var, the picture was set to be screened on 17 Sep 1964 at the Cork International Film Festival in Ireland, with Columbia executives in attendance.
       The 7 Oct 1964 Var announced a “long-term” promotion for the movie sponsored by Columbia Pictures, offering $10,000 to the American who correctly predicted the first U.S. astronaut to walk on the moon, including the accurate day, month, and year.
       The 26 Oct 1964 DV reported that the film would open on more than 400 screens nationwide during Thanksgiving week of 1964. A five minute “featurette" entitled “Tomorrow the Moon,” which contained “footage made available by NASA,” was currently playing in 600 theaters to promote the feature, as stated in the 11 Nov 1964 Var.
       The 19 Nov 1964 LAT announced a 25 Nov 1964 opening in Los Angeles theaters. According to that day’s Var, a float promoting First Men in the Moon was scheduled to appear in New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and would tour the greater NY area thereafter. Var also indicated that the film had already been in release for a week in Detroit, MI, sharing the bill with the 1964 UK release, The Devil-Ship Pirates, with earnings of $24,000 in first week totals.
       The 30 Nov 1964 DV stated that First Men in the Moon received the Certificate of Award for December from the Southern California Motion Picture Council. The 30 Dec 1964 Var noted that the picture was released in both 35mm and 70mm prints. The copyright length for the film is 107 min, although the running time is 103 min. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Nov 1958
p. 15.
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1958
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1961
p. 15.
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1931
p. 124.
Daily Variety
16 Apr 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 1963
p. 8.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
20 Sep 1963
p. 6.
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Oct 1964
p. 14.
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1964
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
19 Nov 1964
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1964
Section D, p. 22.
New York Times
26 Nov 1964
p. 52.
Variety
7 Mar 1962
p. 21.
Variety
25 Apr 1962
p. 61.
Variety
5 Sep 1962
p. 2, 5, 11.
Variety
2 Jan 1963
p. 54.
Variety
9 Oct 1963
p. 18.
Variety
11 Dec 1963
p. 20.
Variety
29 Jul 1964
p. 25, 29.
Variety
16 Sep 1964
p. 12.
Variety
7 Oct 1964
p. 14.
Variety
11 Nov 1964
p. 14.
Variety
25 Nov 1964
p. 9, 23.
Variety
30 Dec 1964
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Charles H. Schneer Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Tech staff
Tech staff
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells (London, 1901).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 November 1964
Premiere Information:
World premiere at the Science-Fiction Film Festival: late-July 1964
Detroit opening: 20 November 1964
Production Date:
7 October--early December 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Ameran Films
Copyright Date:
1 October 1964
Copyright Number:
LP29388
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Pathé
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision and Dynamation
Duration(in mins):
103
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The first manned United Nations space flight, with a crew of three astronauts representing the United States, England, and the Soviet Union, lands on the moon, and the crew discover the British flag with a message dated in 1899. On the earth, U. N. experts seek out aged Arnold Bedford, who claims to have made the trip to the moon 65 years earlier, and he tells them his story: In a Kentish village in 1899, Bedford, an aspiring playwright, and his fiancée, Kate, meet Joseph Cavor, an eccentric scientist who has discovered an antigravity substance he plans to use in the construction of a spaceship for a flight to the moon. Bedford contributes money to support the project, in which he sees a possible solution to his financial difficulties, and he and Kate go along on the trip. They find the moon to be inhabited by Selenites, ant-like creatures with whom Cavor learns to communicate. The Selenites live beneath the moon's surface, surviving by filtering the sun's rays through huge crystals placed at their city's gates. After many adventures with the Selenites, Bedford becomes hostile to them and returns with Kate to the earth, while Cavor, who is fascinated with the Selenites' scientific advances, chooses to remain behind to meet their leader and further his scientific knowledge. The U. N. astronauts on the moon enter the underground city described by Bedford, but they find only mysterious ruin and decay. Bedford watches their exploration from earth on television beamed from the moon, and he recalls that Cavor had a cold, which apparently spread and caused the extinction of the Selenites. ... +


The first manned United Nations space flight, with a crew of three astronauts representing the United States, England, and the Soviet Union, lands on the moon, and the crew discover the British flag with a message dated in 1899. On the earth, U. N. experts seek out aged Arnold Bedford, who claims to have made the trip to the moon 65 years earlier, and he tells them his story: In a Kentish village in 1899, Bedford, an aspiring playwright, and his fiancée, Kate, meet Joseph Cavor, an eccentric scientist who has discovered an antigravity substance he plans to use in the construction of a spaceship for a flight to the moon. Bedford contributes money to support the project, in which he sees a possible solution to his financial difficulties, and he and Kate go along on the trip. They find the moon to be inhabited by Selenites, ant-like creatures with whom Cavor learns to communicate. The Selenites live beneath the moon's surface, surviving by filtering the sun's rays through huge crystals placed at their city's gates. After many adventures with the Selenites, Bedford becomes hostile to them and returns with Kate to the earth, while Cavor, who is fascinated with the Selenites' scientific advances, chooses to remain behind to meet their leader and further his scientific knowledge. The U. N. astronauts on the moon enter the underground city described by Bedford, but they find only mysterious ruin and decay. Bedford watches their exploration from earth on television beamed from the moon, and he recalls that Cavor had a cold, which apparently spread and caused the extinction of the Selenites. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.