Thursday, October 7, 2010

From the Earth to the Moon

TCM is showing a bunch of "lost in space" themed movies tonight, concluding with From the Earth to the Moon at 4:15 AM ET.

Based on a novel by Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon is set in the US not long after the end of the Civil War. Joseph Cotten plays Victor Barbicane, a maker of armaments for the Union who had to keep developing newer and more powerful explosives to deal with the armor developed by Confederate Stuyvesant Nicholl (George Sanders). What to do with these arms now that the war is over? Well, that's a matter of some debate, but Victor and his wealthy friends come up with an idea to send a projectile of some sort to the moon, as it will demonstrate Victor's latest explosive! (They didn't know about rockets back in Jules Verne's day, of course.)

Nicholl doesn't believe in the power of this "Factor X", but a demonstration shows it might just work -- at least, it works against Nicholl's armors -- and Nicholl joins the moon shot. Well, not quite; he's secretly bent on sabotaging it. Along the way, there's a silly love story involving Nicholl's daughter (Debra Paget), who ends up as a stowaway on the space capsule that Daddy and Mr. Barbicane are on.

From the Earth to the Moon suffers from a whole host of problems. The story wasn't well adapted from the Verne novel, instead reading like a mishmash of old Hollywood tropes. Two rivals forced to work together? Pretty daughter? One of the rivals turning on the other? A forced happy ending? We've seen all of these before. Visually, the movie looks terrible, due to the fact that it was being made just as the decision was made at RKO to shut down production. This was one of the very last films produced at RKO, and it shows. That in and of itself makes it worth seeing at least once.

Despite the two well-known actors in the leads, From the Earth to the Moon hasn't received a DVD release.

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