The moon’s face drifts closer and closer until finally—WHAM!—a space shuttle hits it right in the eye. It’s one of the most iconic shots in film history, an emblem of the cinema’s imaginative power.
However, while Georges Méliès’s pioneering Le voyage dans la lune (1902) gets a lot of love, few people realize that it inspired several other early filmmakers to create inventive stargazing movies. (And Méliès kept the trend going himself with other terrific cosmos-trekking films, like L’éclipse du soleil en pleine lune from 1906.)
Enjoy these 5 impressive, lesser-known flights of fancy from cinema’s formative years!
The ‘?’ Motorist – Walter R. Booth – 1906
To escape the cops, a reckless motorist defies gravity, driving up into the sky and careening along on a celestial joyride.
Voyage autour d’une étoile – Gaston Velle – 1906
A beautiful lady in the stars beckons to an astronomer, so he rides a bubble to the heavens… and discovers that they have jealous husbands up there, too!
Excursion dans la lune – Segundo de Chomon – 1908
A stunning remake of Méliès’s original expedition to the moon (with extra dancing girls).
Claire de lune espagnol – Émile Cohl – 1909
A lovelorn young man attempts suicide but falls onto a spacecraft that carries him into the sky. He hits, shoots, and axes the man in the moon, prompting a bevy of star maidens to take their revenge. Note the early animated touches by the innovative Cohl.
Matrimonio interplanetario – Enrico Novelli – 1910
An enthusiastic stargazer and a moon princess fall in love through their telescopes. So, he travels to the moon, gets consent from her father, and they celebrate the wedding. This one is worth watching just for the novel way it imagines a telegraph being sent across space!
BONUS: Rêve à la lune – Gaston Velle and Ferdinand Zecca – 1905
Since I couldn’t find a decent quality version of this film, I figured that I’d include it as an extra. A drunkard falls in love with the moon and climbs up a building to meet it. What could possibly go wrong?
Sweet dreams, friends!
A nice piece to make silent film timely!
Thanks! Any excuse to get people watching early films 🙂
Lovely post! A while back I did research into space-related films from this era, but one that I missed was Claire de lune espagnol (even though I am familiar with Emile Cohl’s other work) – thank you for bringing it to my attention. 🙂
Thanks for reading. I just looked up your post, and wow!—lots of wonderful research and GIFs, so I’m including the link here for anybody who wants to check it out: https://silentsplease.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/space-race/
I’m glad you enjoyed! 🙂