FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON (director: Byron Haskin; screenwriters: from the novel by Jules Verne/Robert Blees; cinematographer: Edwin B. DuPar; editor: James Leicester; music: Louis Forbes; 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), Melville Cooper (Bancroft), Morris Ankrum (President Ulysses S. Grant); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benedict Bogeaus; Warner Brothers; 1958)
“Saddled with dull melodramatics, muddled intentions about weaponry uses, lame special effects (due to the low budget) and stiff acting.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Byron Haskin directs this 1865 Jules Verne novel about man’s first venture to the moon. It was filmed (shot on location in Mexico) in 1958 some 93 years after it was written and some 11 years before the actual first moon landing. Armed with rich ideas but saddled with dull melodramatics, muddled intentions about weaponry uses, lame special effects (due to the low budget) and stiff acting, From the Earth to the Moon bombed in the box-office despite a resurgence at the time in other Verne works such as the 1954 “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
It opens in post-Civil-War times, in the year 1868, at a meeting of the International Armaments Club. They are a group of wealthy war profiteers who are looking for a new way to make money selling their wartime wares during these peaceful times. Wealthy inventor Victor Barbicane (Joseph Cotten) addresses the cynical group and startles them with his announcement of his latest invention Power X, a source of “infinite energy” that is the most powerful explosive ever created. Victor seeks the financial backing of the other group members, as he plans to use it as a weapon system to deter war. He aims to fire a projectile to the Moon as a demonstration of its feasibility. Victor’s rival is wealthy Confederate armor manufacturer and scientist Stuyvesant Nicholl (George Sanders), who challenges Victor to have his Power X fired through a cannon and go through his new super-hard armor steel-plate. Victor’s explosive destroys it, but when word of this reaches the international scene there’s an outcry that America is preparing for war. President Grant calls Victor in for a secret meeting and mentions that 22 countries have said if he fires that weapon system they would consider it an act of war. Grant convinces Victor not to use the explosive when fired on the moon, and to keep their meeting a secret even if the investors will despise Victor for not keeping his promises. Soon Victor discovers that Nicholl’s metal, a fusion of steel and glass, can withstand the heat from Power X and can act as a coating for the projectile. Victor then convinces Nicholl to work with him and they can then go to the moon and return. Also going on the voyage is Victor’s top assistant Ben (Don Dubbins), who has fallen in love with Nicholl’s beautiful daughter Viriginia (Debra Paget). She stows away on the rocket, but after they take off it’s discovered that religious nut Nicholl sabotaged the ship believing man had no right to violate the laws of God. The third act has Nicholl trying to save his daughter by repairing the ship. Somehow the scientists work it out so the rocket splits off, with Ben and Virginia heading to earth but Victor and Nicholl being doomed but happy to land on the moon (which takes place offscreen for some misguided budgetary reason).
REVIEWED ON 6/16/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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