Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

First Men in the Moon

Street Date:
March 10th, 2015
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
April 22nd, 2015
Movie Release Year:
1964
Studio:
Twilight Time
Length:
103 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

As the 19th century wound down, author H.G. Wells' fantastic imagination created tales that were so iconic he became one of the pioneers of science fiction. His early novels such as The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds have left an indelible mark, not just on the genre, but all of pop culture. In the 21st century, his stories continue to be adapted into different mediums.

In the middle of the 20th century, as the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union was taking place, director Nathan Juran led a cast and crew to create the second adaptation of Wells' 'First Men in the Moon' (1964), five years before Neil Armstrong took "one giant leap for mankind." Aware of what was going on in the world at the time, the filmmakers made the wise decision to add a modern-day prologue and epilogue to Wells' story.

Whereas the Space Race was a proxy battle in the cold war between the world's two superpowers, the trip to the moon in 'First Men' is an international affair set up through the U.N. Shortly after landing a capsule on the moon's surface, the astronauts discover a British flag and a declaration written by Katherine Callender that it was claimed on behalf of Queen Victoria in 1899. She is now deceased, but her husband Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) is still alive and he tells the tale of his trip to the moon, which is shown in a flashback.

Bedford is a struggling businessman whose neighbor, Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries), he assumes to be a crackpot. In reality, Cavor is a brilliant inventor, who creates a material he calls Cavorite, which has the ability to defy gravity. Bedford sees a great financial opportunity and wants to venture with Cavor to the moon. His fiancée Katherine (Martha Hyer) doesn’t want him to go and all the romantic melodrama between them bogs down the film. While it takes about 46 minutes before they finally get into space, it feels much longer.

Once on the moon, they quickly discover they aren't the first creatures there. They find what Cavor refers to as Selenites, an insectoid/ humanoid hybrid. Their appearance is frightening at first but their intentions are unclear. Bedford immediately reacts with violence towards them, but Cavor want to try a different tact. Eventually, he has a conversation with their leader, but Bedford is suspicious. The different ways of dealing with the Selenites offers an interesting conflict but the film is more about action than themes.

Although the pacing is very slow, causing modern-day viewers to possibly find it difficult to engage with the film, and the actors a bit lacking in charisma, 'First Men' boasts impressive effects. Shot under the guidance of legendary visual effects artist Ray Harryhausen, all that appears on screen, from the sphere the Earthlings travel in to the creatures brought to life through Dynamation, looks very believable, even when the science behind might not be, like their use of deep sea-diving suits to walk on the moon. Fans of special effects should enjoy the work.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Limited to 5,000 units, Twlight Time presents 'First Men in the Moon' on a 50GB Region Free Blu-ray disc in a standard case. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a six-page booklet containing notes by Julie Kirgo.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. The image looks pristine, free from blemishes due to age or wear. Right from the opening shot, there's very fine detail on display, as the moon's surface looks amazingly textured. Soon after, the capsule module shows what are supposed to be rivets on its exterior. However, some of the rear-projection images can lack clarity. The apparent depth gives a sense of dimension even in shots where effects and live action are blended.

Colors are vibrant, as seen in Kate's violet clothing and the giant bottles of colored liquid that make up a wall in the moon.  Her white top is bright and well detailed, and so are the spacesuits of the modern-day astronauts. The exterior around Bedford's cottage showcases lush greens and the browns in the modern-day home he resides are rich. Blacks are inky and contrast is good, though on occasion can be a little too dark, such as when Dr. Tock sits in a car before going to visit Bedford.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and sounds quite clear and free of hiss or defect. Composer Laurie Johnson's dramatic score fills the surrounds with percussion and horns during the opening credits. The bass kicks in with a loud rumble as the landing jets slow the UN capsule's descent, which can be heard passing across the front channels as it is shown approaching the surface.

Sounds are well positioned as the men first walking on the moon comes through in different channels. Being insects, a low buzzing can be heard throughout the surrounds when the Selenites appear, making them come across more ominous. Dialogue is always understandable and is balanced very well with the other elements. The audio's dynamic range delivers both loud and soft sounds very well.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Commentary – The late Harryhausen talks with FX artist Randall William Cook and Tony Dalton about the making of the film. He shares his techniques and tricks behind his effects.
  • Isolated Score – On this track Laurie Johnson's music and the effects can be heard.
  • Randall William Cook Introduction (HD, 5 minutes) – Cook briefly pays homage to Harryhausen and the film.
  • Tomorrow the Moon (HD, 5 minutes) – A Columbia featurette from the archives promoting the film with references to the Americans involvement in space.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 minutes) – It gives away quite a bit of the story.
  • Teaser (HD, 1 minutes) - A better trailer for those who haven't seen the film yet.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

While I am not overly enthusiastic about the movie itself, I am a fan of Harryhausen's work,  Combined with the spectacular job Twilight Time has done with the HD presentation, I find myself leaning more towards recommending the 'First Men in the Moon' Blu-ray since there's only a limited supply of them rather than looking/renting, which likely won't be options.  It's a good adventure for the right family to watch together.

Technical Specs

  • Limited to 5,000 units
  • 50GB Blu-ray Disc
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Isolated Score Track
  • Randall William Cook Introduces 'First Men in the Moon'
  • Tomorrow the Moon
  • Trailers

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