Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Ray Harryhausen in the UK: First Men in the Moon

After tackling ancient Greece, Ray Harryhausen lent his talents to a Victorian lunar expedition in his second British film: 1964's First Men in the Moon. Nathan Juran directed, while Nigel Kneale (of Quatermass fame) and Jan Read adapted the script from the novel by H.G. Wells.

The overall aesthetic of the film is an odd mix of what is now known as steampunk alongside the slightly gaudy Technicolour fantasy of the period - some scenes make the interior of the moon look like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

Most of the Selenites are portrayed by men in suits, but Ray Harryhausen provided the bulbous-headed leaders, the giant caterpillar-like creature and even one of his trademark skeletons (thanks to a brief sequence involving an x-ray machine). Unfortunately, his skills are not put to their best use in this film: his aliens get very little to do, with a short tussle against the caterpillar being the high point of the animation in First Men in the Moon.

Still, Harryhausen's models are as beautifully designed as ever, and his fans will find something to appreciate here.

The following images were scanned from the books The Art of Ray Harryhausen and Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life.

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