The Conquest of the Pole

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(4/10) In a nutshell: 10 years after the big splash with A Trip to the Moon, director Georges Méliès rehashes all his old tricks in 1912 film that is technically ambitious, but narratively old hat and a bit misogynous. 

The Conquest of the Pole (À la conquête du pôle). 1912, France. Silent short. Written, filmed and directed by Georges Méliès. Inspired by Jules Verne’s novels The Adventures of Captain Hatteras and The Sphinx of the Ice Fields. Starring: Georges Méliès, Fernande Albany. Produced by Georges Méliès and Charles Pathé for Star-Films. IMDb score: 6.9

The ice giant eating the explorers.

The ice giant eating the explorers.

By 1912 the pioneering French filmmaker and father of the sci-fi film, Georges Méliès, was merely repeating himself. Despite impressive production values and an gigantic puppetteered ice giant, The Conquest of the Pole really brings nothing new to the table. Although the theatrical and stagey setup was made by choice, and a trademark of Méliès’, it does seem archaic in a time when D.W. Griffith was producing films like Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. Continue reading

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A Trip to Jupiter

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(5/10) In a nutshell: One of a a large host of films imitating Georges Méliès’ pioneering 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, this short film from 1909 by Spanish director Segundo de Chomón has some clever camera effects, beautiful hand colouring and a good dose of fun. 

A Trip to Jupiter. 1909, France. Directed by Segundo de Chomón. Produced for Pathé.  IMDb score: 6.1

The king climbing to Jupiter.

The king climbing to Jupiter.

After French pioneer special effects film maker Georges Méliès became an international star with his sci-fi comedy A Trip to the Moon (reviewin 1902 he was widely imitated, often by people with less skill, sometimes with bigger budgets. One of these imitators was Spanish Segundo de Chomón, based in Paris after working for the first few years of his career in Barcelona.

Some critics have asked why de Chomón has never been as acclaimed a film pioneer as for example Méliès, the Lumière Brothers, Thomas Edison or Robert W. Paul. One answer is that he simply wasn’t. Edison and his employee William Dickson made their first test films as early as 1891, the Lumière Brothers unveiled their revolutionary cinematograph in 1895 and by 1896 Méliès was already making narrative special effects films. When Méliès made the ambitious, nearly 14 minutes long A Trip to the Moon in 1902, de Chomón had barely started making documentary shorts. It wasn’t until 1907 he rose to fame with lavish special effects fantasies such as The Red Spectre and Kiri-Kis. Continue reading

The Impossible Voyage

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(10/10) In a nutshell: Pioneering film maker Georges Méliès’ 1904 follow-up to the groundbreaking A Trip to the Moon dazzles the audience with sets and effects, but lacks in heart and imagination.

The Impossible Voyage, 1904, France. Directed, produced by Georges Méliès. Written by Méliès and Victor de Cottens. Starring: Georges Méliès. IMDb Score: 7.7

Lifted off to the sun in The Impossible Voyage.

Lifted off to the sun in The Impossible Voyage.

Following his international success in 1902 with the film A Trip to the Moon (review), French writer/producer/director/actor/special effects supervisor/art director Georges Méliès made at least one highly ambitious film a year up until he partially withdrew from the film business in 1912. In 1903 his smash hit was Kingdom of the Fairies, a féerie/fairy tale/fantasy film made with a large budget. Even more lavish was the 1904 film The Impossbile Voyage (Le Voyage à travers l’Impossible). It cost 37 000 francs to make – almost four times as much as A Trip to the Moon, which was at the time of its making considered an incredibly expensive movie. Continue reading

A Trip to the Moon

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(10/10) In a nutshell: This 1902 film about a trip to the moon and an encounter with aliens is in many senses the first of its kind, notable for its large budget, entertaining and fantastical story, state of the art special effects and lavish, moving sets. A true benchmark not only for sci-fi films, but for the medium of film as a whole. 

A Trip to the Moon (1902) Director: Georges Méliès. Starring: Georges Méliès, Bleuette Bernon. Producer: Georges Méliès. France. Tomatometer: 100%. IMDb score: 8.2. 

The legendary image of the rocket hitting the face in the moon (actually Georges Méliès' face).

The legendary image of the rocket hitting the face in the moon (actually Georges Méliès’ face).

In many ways French stage magician-turned-film maker George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) marks the beginning of sci-fi as a film genre. It was the first film of a considerable length (14 minutes) dealing with sci-fi elements – it was in fact one of the longest fictional films to have been released at the time of its making in 1902. It was also a beautiful blend of all the special effects wizardry Méliès had developed during his 6 years of film making. It sports one of the most legendary images of science fiction film making to date – that of a moon rocket hitting the (human) face of the moon square in the eye. Continue reading