When astronauts land on the Moon in 1964 they are surprised to discover a British flag and evidence that the place was first visited in 1899.
On Earth, the last surviving member of the Victorian lunar expedition space crew, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), is located and he recalls the thrilling details of their lunar adventure, including being captured by an insectoid population (called ‘Selenites’) and an encounter with a ‘mooncalf’ (a giant moon caterpillar).
Lionel Jeffries is splendid as the eccentric Professor Joseph Cavor, who uses his anti-gravity paint invention (called “Cavorite”) to achieve lift-off, catapulting his spherical spacecraft through the greenhouse roof!
Kate Callender (American actress Martha Hyer) adds some spice to the mix as the inadvertent stowaway inside the riveted circular spacecraft, while her fiancé Arnold Bedford accompanies Cavor simply to escape his creditors.
This light-hearted science fiction adventure, based on the novel by HG Wells, featured outstanding special effects from stop-motion magician Ray Harryhausen which added further lustre to director Nathan Juran’s colourfully engaging tale.
A giant lunar landscape was constructed on the enormous H Stage at Shepperton Studios (the largest silent stage in Europe at the time) complete with mountainous terrain, giant craters and towering peaks.
Flanked by a massive cyclorama of stars, it is a far more dramatic interpretation of the moon’s surface than the flat featureless horizon that welcomed the Apollo II astronauts five years later.
Properties close to the studio provided the Earth-bound exteriors, including a picturesque riverside cottage that doubled for Bedford’s home, and an imposing country house near Reading in Berkshire, which stood in for Cavor’s house and laboratory.
Watch for a fleeting appearance by Peter Finch as a messenger. Finch happened to be watching the scene being filmed when the actor required for the part failed to show up.
Professor Joseph Cavor