From the Earth to the Moon
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When Walt Disney's adaptation of the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea became a commercial and critical hit in 1954, Verne was suddenly popular again. In truth, his work had been the subject of many films already (in the U.S. and abroad) practically since the advent of cinema, but following 20,000 Leagues a host of new Verne movies went into production. There were the big-budget pictures: Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Mysterious Island (1961) and In Search of the Castaways (1962). And then there were the low-budget films: From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Valley of the Dragons (1961) and Master of the World (1961).
From the Earth to the Moon features Joseph Cotten as a post-Civil War mad scientist who invents a source of infinite energy called Power X, a fuel he believes can propel a manned rocket to the moon and back. (Parallels to modern atomic weapons are also drawn strongly.) George Sanders plays a rival scientist and Debra Paget plays Sanders's daughter, who stows away on the rocket without too much trouble.
The movie suffered creatively from the demise of its original releasing company, RKO. (Warner Bros. handled the release instead.) This led to the film's budget being greatly slashed during production. The effects department suffered the greatest hit, and scenes on the moon were eliminated from the script. What remains once the rocket blasts off is a disappointingly verbose chamber drama aboard the rocket with little in the way of special effects.
All that leaves is the cast as probably the most interesting reason to take a look at From the Earth to the Moon. Cotten and Sanders are always worth watching, but also present are popular character actors Carl Esmond and Henry Daniell, both of whom excelled as suave, sinister villains in their careers. Among his many roles, the British Daniell played perhaps the best Prof. Moriarty to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes in The Woman in Green (1945). Esmond, an Austrian, appeared in everything from Sergeant York (1941) to Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947), and he died just a few months ago in December 2004, at age 102. Morris Ankrum, who here plays Pres. Ulysses S. Grant, is fondly remembered for his many 1950s sci-fi films in which he usually played gruff military men, policemen or other officials.
From the Earth to the Moon had been made into movies prior to 1958 and it would be again. A famous Georges Melies short loosely based on the book appeared in 1902, and further screen versions appeared in 1914, 1967, and 1986 (a French TV movie). The title was also used for a 1998 HBO mini-series hosted by Tom Hanks.
Electronic sound effects lifted from Forbidden Planet (1956) were used as part of the score.
Producer: Benedict Bogeaus
Director: Bryon Haskin
Screenplay: Robert Blees, James Leicester, based on the novel by Jules Verne
Cinematography: Edwin B. DuPar
Editing: James Leicester
Music: Louis Forbes
Production Design: Hal Wilson Cox
Cast: Joseph Cotten (Victor Barbicane), George Sanders (Stuyvesant Nicholl), Debra Paget (Virginia Nicholl), Don Dubbins (Ben Sharpe), Patric Knowles (Josef Cartier), Carl Esmond (Jules Verne), Henry Daniell (Morgana), Morris Ankrum (President Ulysses S. Grant), Robert Clarke (Narrator).
C-100m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold