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Tag Archive: A Trip to the Moon


By C.J. Bunce

One hundred and thirteen years ago this month, film audiences saw a bright future for the very first time.

The science fiction film was the French classic Le Voyage dans la lune, or A Trip the the Moon, created by science fiction special effects and animation pioneer George Méliès, who modern film audiences may know as one of the heroes of Martin Scorcese’s Academy Award-nominated film Hugo.  The famous scene in A Trip to the Moon where the rocketship blasts into the Man in the Moon’s eye is a classic bit of film nostalgia, the full 14-minute film based on two classic works: Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, and H.G. Wells’s The First Men in the Moon.  You can’t have a better science fiction pedigree than A Trip to the Moon.  But the first science fiction film available in color?

The Victorian era meets the future in this scene from the 1902 color film A Trip to the Moon

Film enthusiasts for literally a century were aware that A Trip to the Moon was originally released in theaters not in the typical black and white that monopolized film into the 1960s, but in color.  But how could that be?  The story was a secret treasure of sorts, that stayed hidden until 1993, when a film collector revealed the sole remaining color copy of the 1902 film in Barcelona.  The 13,375 frames of decomposed material was practically worthless until film preservationist Serge Bromberg found a way to catch the photographed images when the material was deposited with a special chemical vapor.  Every day for two years his staff worked through each frame, and in 2010 digital technology had come so far as to allow the preservationists to re-build the film at Technicolor’s laboratories in Los Angeles, using a $500,000 grant from French film foundations.  The result was revealed to audiences at the Cannes Film Festival three years ago.

Film pioneer Georges Méliès mixed stunning color animation and special effects in this view of the future of travel in A Trip to the Moon

But before the film was revealed, a matter of sound arose.  The original film was created before the concept of the talkie, or even the playing of music to accompany the film.  No score had ever been created for A Trip to the Moon.  The same foundations that had financed the restoration selected the French band Air to compose a 16-minute soundtrack for the film.  Because the homegrown film was considered by the French to be so revered as a national treasure, musicians Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel were themselves elevated to celebrity status.  After completion of the soundtrack, Air began composing a full musical score expanding on the themes they created for the film.  Their sound is both futuristic and modern, and has been compared to their influences: Pink Floyd, spaghetti Western composer Ennio Morricone, and the bands Vangelis and Tangerine Dream.

But where does the 3D fit in?

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Wind Whales of Ishmael cover

Written in 1971 by notable sci-fi author Philip José Farmer, The Wind Whales of Ishmael is intended as a sequel to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  As to genre, it fits into modern steampunk, with its exploration of Earth’s future without reference to the scientific realities of the latter 20th century, and its sailing ships in the sky.  Wind Whales continues the story of Ishmael, the only survivor of Ahab’s failed whale hunt in Moby Dick, a story many literature students have struggled to get through because of its dauntingly long passages of a solitary life at sea.  Ishmael is rescued but by clinging to Quequeg’s canoe coffin he is plunged through some type of vortex, much like the Bermuda Triangle, into Earth’s distant future.  This future world is unrecognizable, and has a few similarities to the distant planet from Avatar.  Along with other of Farmer’s works, Wind Whales is being re-issued by Titan Books in a new library aimed at steampunk readers.  The new printing of The Wind Whales of Ishmael hits bookstores tomorrow, March 12, 2013, with a foreward by editor Michael Croteau and an afterward by Farmer’s nephew, author Danny Adams.

The oddity in Wind Whales is that it has very little in relation to theme, writing style, and characterization to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  So it could have been a standalone story, or a sequel to any number of classic works.  There is of course a future world of whaling and fighting “air sharks” which ties Ishmael to his past life where he threw away all else to enter a life at sea.  Yet the future world of far distant Earth is so different that Wind Whales may have more in relation to Frank Herbert’s Dune series with its giant worms.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Re-think all you know about Flash Gordon.  Volume One of the eagerly awaited library edition of the original Flash Gordon color newspaper comic strip, Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library (Vol. 1), is now available and it will cause you to second guess what you think you know about science fiction and fantasy in its infancy.  And question just how innovative George Lucas actually was with the Star Wars series.

Rarely can you so precisely identify the source of “the modern.”  In science fiction film it is Georges Méliès’s 1902 French movie A Trip to the Moon, from 1902.  For science fiction novels you much reach back further to its Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all the way back in 1818.  For the intersecting genre of “science fiction-fantasy”–our key focus at borg.com–you must turn to January 1934 and a detail-oriented artist with an eye toward realism named Alex Raymond, and his new character, Flash Gordon.  Whether or not you are a fan like I am of the 1980 movie Flash Gordon with Timothy Dalton and a host of other cult favorite actors and an excellent soundtrack by Queen, or Alex Ross’s Dynamite Comics series Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist, or even a fan of the old black and white Buster Crabbe TV serials, you should check out the original source material.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Whether you’re a fan of the original novel, Orson Welles’ radio drama, or any of the film adaptations, you’ll be hard-pressed finding anyone who isn’t familiar with H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, in which giant tripod Martian invaders take over on Earth.  What if H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds as a cautionary tale, based on facts known only to him and a few other government insiders?  Author Kevin J. Anderson asked this question and many more in his 2006 novel Martian War, re-released this month in a trade paperback edition.

Anderson ponders several “what ifs”–What if the Moon and Mars were as Wells and his contemporaries had predicted in the 19th century, with roaming animals, birds and vegetation and advanced lifeforms?  What if the Invisible Man was a real inventor, Doctor Moreau an actual twisted scientist, and they teamed with a young Wells, his would-be wife Jane, and real-life contemporary English biologist Thomas Huxley and astronomer Percival Lowell?  It all sounds like another take on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and to an extent it is.  Martian War is also every bit in the same genre as Guy Adams’ 2012 release, Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau, reviewed here this summer.

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By C.J. Bunce

Outer space looks so peaceful and tranquil from the images we have received over the years from NASA astronauts.  Yet the reality of space is that it is an unforgiving place, and impossible to survive in without adequate protective gear.  Without a space suit you would lose consciousness within seconds because there is no oxygen.  Blood boils and then freezes because of the lack of air pressure.  Extreme changes in temperature would kill you one way or the other:  In sunlight temperatures reach 248 degrees Fahrenheit and in shade temperatures drop to -148 Fahrenheit.  And you’d be exposed to radiation.  Basically, no spacesuit… and you’re done for.

Above is an image of the actual space suits used by American astronauts in the 1960s and 1970s.  I grew up with stories from my dad about being on one of the recovery ships for John Glenn’s (first!) historic space flight.  I was fortunate to have worked with a NASA spacesuit on display at the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution on the Moon Landing’s 20th anniversary, and witnessed the three Apollo 11 astronauts speaking of their journey.  Since then I have met two other men who went to the moon.  On the one hand they are just people like everyone else.  On the other, they all realize they have done something incredible.

Harrison H. Schmitt, the 12th and last man to walk on the moon, at book launch with Elizabeth C. Bunce and C.J. Bunce.

I’ve also been lucky enough to see in person not only the several space capsules in Washington, DC, but something I never thought I’d see when I was a kid–Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 capsule, cleaned up after being found at the bottom of the Atlantic resulting from his controversial flight.  Real life space travel carries a special kind of magic, and to try to match it, Hollywood has its work cut out for it.

Gus Grissom’s restored Liberty Bell 7 module, now at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

More than a century of science fiction has recognized the need for some travel suit or the other for space travelers of the future.  As reflected in science fiction films, costumers in Hollywood have adapted to the cutting edge science of the day to perfect the look and feel of the future for their science fiction fan audience.  But it wasn’t until the space race that the modern real space suit look was established as the standard, when costumers realized that realistic travel in space required pressurized suits, including what is obvious today, components like gloves and airtight helmets.

Whether film producers are making TV series or movies, space suits end up as a large chunk of the production budget.  Looking right costs money.  Leading the way in the future of dress in outer space was the original Star Trek series and subsequent Star Trek series.  But because of budget constraints there was a surprising lack of actual space suits on each of these series.  Even though the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation referred to their shipwear as “space suits” on a daily basis on set, that’s not the type of gear we’re discussing here.  A chronicle of those types of suits would fill a book, from Star Trek to Babylon 5 to all the other science fiction TV series made by the Syfy Network alone.  Those typically form-fitting and more military styled suits were a much cheaper way to make a TV series that could survive financially.  Likewise, we’ll save for another day space pilot suits, like Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing fighter flight suit from Star Wars and Apollo’s Viper flight suit from Battlestar Galactica.  But even Star Trek was able to spend budget dollars on space “outer wear” over the years from time to time.

The following is a look at the change of the design of the space suit in film over the years.  Literally thousands of artists’ renderings of space suits can be found in countless covers to pulp novels, comic books, and other works, too.  Many of them influenced or mirrored the designs below, and ultimately the costume designers rarely stray from reflecting the forward looking vision of their time. Note: Please send us your updates, new images and old, suits we missed and those published since this article was written, care of editor@borg.com.

In the 1902’s A Trip to the Moon, probably the first real science fiction film, they didn’t even bother with a space suit, just the explorer’s formal dress of the day.

The dawn of sci-fi serials arrived.  In the 1950s serial Captain Video, the heroes wore basically modified football helmets and contemporary air force gear.

But Captain Video also had more futuristic garb.

In 1950’s Destination Moon, we see the first of the color-coded space walkers, a concept used as recently as in Star Trek 2009.

In 1950’s Space Patrol we begin to see a costuming theme–the multiple cuff rolls–an element that makes it to the Star Trek movies in the form of the radiological suits.

In 1951, serious science fiction comes of age with The Day the Earth Stood Still, and with it we get a peak at not what Earthlings might wear in space, but what the aliens already there wear.

In Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) we see more of the rolled armwear that would become typical of 1950s TV and film, and the glass globe found in many lesser sci-fi works.

More cuff rolls! With the comedy Have Rocket Will Travel (1959) the Three Stooges enter the Space Age.

Throughout the span of the series, The Twilight Zone featured several episodes focusing on astronauts, and made the best of a small budget, including these costumes in the episode Elegy…

… and Little People, again with the football helmet.

In 1961, no “costume” was necessary as Earth witnessed the first astronaut donning a space suit in outer space, with Yuri Gagarin’s epic flightas the first human in space.

In 1965 Lost in Space not only featured John Williams’ first sci-fi soundtrack, but cutting edge, cool space stories and characters filled the TV screen, including Dr. John Robinson’s space suit.

The TV series The Outer Limits offered up various versions of spacesuits in the early 1960s, but no performance in-suit was as memorable as that of William Shatner in the episode “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” a realistic space suit like those worn by real astronauts.

In the 1970s one of my favorite comedic actors was Jerry Lewis. Being a kid I laughed at everything he did, and I remember not quite understanding more of the risque bits of his 1966 film with Connie Stevens about bringing both sexes together in space: Way, Way Out. It also makes me think this was the start of me thinking all space suits should be made of aluminum fabric.

My love of the silver space suits, of course, may also be because of the Mercury program space suits…

… and of the great astronaut G.I. Joe.

In 1966 the original Star Trek arrived. I’m not sure if it is truly a space suit or more of protective wear, but here is Spock sporting full gear in the episode The Naked Time.

1967 saw the first of the James Bond films addressing outer space with You Only Live Twice, with Russians in space.

In the bawdy comedy In Like Flint, James Coburn ends up in space with a silver suit… and good company

The typical bumbling Don Knotts role was even more fun in space, as seen in 1967’s The Reluctant Astronaut.

In 1968 Star Trek got real space suits instead of velour shirts, as seen here worn by the Enterprise crew in the classic episode The Tholian Web.

Upping the ante, Stanley Kubrick spared no expense to create multiple space suit variants for 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Here we have that color-coding concept again.

Here is David’s red-orange suit close-up.

And the yellow version of the suit.

And 1960s camp participated in the Space Race as well, as seen in 1968’s Barbarella.

But it didn’t stay on long.

In the same year, Charlton Heston & Co. soar off in space gear to a very familar planet in The Planet of the Apes.

Tons of Doctor Who shows featured often bizarre space travel outfits.  One Doctor Who special had its own take on the space suit, here in the 1968 film Doctor Who and the Wheel in Space.  (Watch out for those Cybermen!)

In 1971, Earthlings saw Heston’s character leave in a rocket and apes return in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

Strange goings-on for Sean Connery’s James Bond in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever.

As a big John Carpenter fan, I was surprised his early film Dark Star was so hard to watch. And he used very odd space suits.

In 1975, Space: 1999 had Martin Landau and even women astronauts in these great, orange suits, similar to the Star Wars X-Wing pilot suits filmed around the same time.

I’ve heard that NASA loaned real space suits to The Six Million Dollar Man series for at least one episode. I wouldn’t be surprised, as they look perfect.

Here Jenny Agutter is shown guest starring on an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man in a great suit.

In 1977 Capricorn One showed us what conspiracy theorists thought all along, that even the real astronauts were wearing costumes. Waterston, Brolin, and Simpson.

Strangely enough there are not a lot of space suits used in the Star Wars series since, like Star Trek, they didn’t have pressurization or other environmental concerns with their vehicles. One standout is an astronaut hanging at the Mos Eisley spaceport cantina. This photo is actually from the Superbowl ad from this year, creatures created by Tom Spina Design.

The original cantina guy in space suit.

Between 1978 and 1982, Mork & Mindy catapulted Robin Williams career. He arrived in a space suit complete with strange helmet. The series had access to the Star Trek archives and was able to use original series costumes and props.

In this episode of Mork & Mindy, Mindy’s dad wears a space suit consisting of the Star Trek original series Tholian Web space helmet mismatched with The Naked Time protective suit!

Come back tomorrow and we will continue with part 2–42 more uses of space suits in TV and movies, from 1979 to today.

By C.J. Bunce

It’s not every day, or even any year, that you get to witness the video premiere of a film from 1902 in its original color version.   Or that you get to listen to the world premiere sound recording of a complete score to that film.  Especially if that movie never had a musical score and the musical score is actually composed and released 110 years after the film’s premiere.  And if that film is considered to be the first science fiction film of all time, then you’re really in for something unique.  Confused?  Read on.

The classic science fiction film is, of course, the French classic Le Voyage dans la lune, or A Trip the the Moon, created by science fiction special effects and animation pioneer George Méliès, who current film audiences may know as one of the heroes of Martin Scorcese’s Academy Award-nominated film Hugo.  The famous scene in A Trip to the Moon where the rocketship blasts into the Man in the Moon’s eye is a classic bit of film nostalgia.  The 14-minute film was based on two classic works: Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, and H.G. Wells’s The First Men in the Moon.  You can’t have a better science fiction pedigree than A Trip to the Moon.

The Victorian era meets the future in this seen from the 1902 color film A Trip to the Moon

Film enthusiasts for literally a century were aware that A Trip to the Moon was originally released in theaters not in the typical black and white that monopolized film into the 1960s, but in color.  But how could that be?  The story was a secret treasure of sorts, that stayed hidden until 1993, when a film collector revealed the sole remaining color copy of the 1902 film in Barcelona.  But the 13,375 frames of decomposed material was practically worthless, until film preservationist Serge Bromberg found a way to catch the very few minutes when the film was able to be photographed when deposited with a special chemical vapor.  Every day for two years his staff worked bit by bit through each frame, and in 2010 digital technology had come so far as to allow the preservationists to re-build the film at Technicolor’s laboratories in Los Angeles, following a $500,000 grant from French film foundations.  The result was revealed to dazzled audiences at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Film pioneer Georges Méliès mixed stunning color animation and special effects in this view of the future of travel in A Trip to the Moon

But before the film was revealed, a matter of sound arose.  The original film was created before the concept of the talkie, or even the playing of music to accompany the film.  No score had ever been created for A Trip to the Moon.  The same foundations that had financed the restoration selected the French band Air to compose a 16-minute soundtrack for the film.   Because the home-grown film was considered by the French to be revered even more than the rest of the world, musicians Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel were themselves elevated to a celebrity status like never before.  After completion of the soundtrack, Air began composing a full musical score expanding on the themes they created for the film.  Their sound is both futuristic and modern, and has been compared to their influences: Pink Floyd, spaghetti Western composer Ennio Morricone, and the bands Vangelis and Tangerine Dream.

A sea of tranquility featured in the 1902 film

National Public Radio will be revealing the full album stream this coming Friday, February 3, 2012, at www.npr.org/music .  A limited edition CD/DVD set will be released at Amazon.com on February 7, 2011, including the re-mastered original color version of the film.

Film distributor Flicker Alley will be releasing the premiere Blu-Ray release of the color version of A Trip to the Moon on March 27, 2012 in a deluxe edition, including the 78-minute documentary, The Extraordinary Voyage by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange of Lobster Films in Paris, about the life of Georges Méliès and his film A Trip to the Moon.

We featured A Trip to the Moon here at borg.com a few weeks ago as one of our most iconic images of the history of sci-fi in film.  If you haven’t voted for your favorite sci-fi image yet, check it out and vote for your favorite here.

On a final note, George Méliès was another creative master in the realm of masters like Wolfgang Mozart who suffered financially.  Students of copyright law and theory should check out his story, as he may be the first victim of film piracy, as his film was secretly duplicated by film technicians and sold without any profits given to Méliès, eventually resulting in his own bankruptcy.  Long in the public domain, the new color transfer with soundtrack by Air will give modern preservationists of film history and the modern composers some profits that the creator himself never saw.  This is well deserved, as in doing so, modern audiences get a new, immediate film experience and a look at something not seen since the original moviegoers watched the film for the first time.

You can pre-order the Air CD release, including the color version of the DVD via Amazon.com today here.