Filmed in LunaCOLOR (by Pathe), H.G. Wells' classic tale of Victorian space exploration is a feast for the eyes. Director Nathan Juran was no stranger to the science fiction and fantasy genre, having already worked for producer Schneer and Ray Harryhausen on "Twenty Million Miles to Earth" (1957) and "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958).
With a wide Panavision ratio, the combination of Juran's lively direction, cinematographer Wilkie Cooper's exquisite composition, and Harryhausen's visual effects, "First Men In The Moon" is a feast for the eyes. The film's stirring title sequence sets the visual tone, using bold graphics and shimmering combinations of violet, turquoise and aquamarine; it's the base palette that's used for the moon's interior. The English locations, particularly the lush countryside, boasts strong greens, delicate pinks, and subdued earth tones. Columbia's DVD respectfully maintains a solid colour balance, and though the print shows wear in spots - marks during the opening titles, and residual static visible on a few lunar sky shots - "First Men" has never looked so good. One need only watch the trailer, or the included "Harryhausen Chronicles" doc that uses old 3/4" video masters for clips, to see the difference.
The film's 4.0 discreet surround mix is just wonderful. Rather than use sound effects for basic trickery, the mix goes for a complete landscape, often using Laurie Johnson's rich score (in crystal clear stereo!) to envelope the audience, and sweeten the soundscape with effects. The dialogue is clear and occasionally directional, and you'll find this 1964 film will really make good use of the most rudimentary surround setups.
With the exception of a short still gallery (11 images) and the film's trailer, the included featurettes are also present on Columbia's "Three Worlds of Gulliver" disc. Details regarding "The Harryhausen Chronicles" and the featurette "This Is Dynamation" can be read in the archived "Gulliver" review.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
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