In the air

Boom in the Moon

My very first zero-star review goes to a 1946 Mexican ”sci-fi comedy” starring a down and out Buster Keaton doing his best not to fall asleep on set. The script has three idiots landing a rocket in the middle of a Mexican city, thinking they are on the moon. That is the full plot. The best moments have Buster Keaton lifelessly repeating old gags from his silent era. The rest is a mess. Scifist rating: 0/10.

Non-Stop New York

Schizophrenic British comedy/crime drama set on a huge futuristic luxury airliner. Cringe-worthy comedy is mixed with a witness drama that manages to be both improbable and generic. Good acting and steady direction saves the film from bring a complete clunker. 3/10

Things to Come

H.G. Wells and  William Cameron Menzies take us on an epic journey through the future in this pompous 1936 social prophesy, the last big SF film before the 1950s. The most expensive film made in Britain at the time, Things to Come boasts incredible sets and effects, but the script is stiff, the acting wooden and the viewer bludgeoned to boredom with the message. 6/10

F.P.1. Doesn’t Answer

The earliest available feature film based on a modern sci-fi novel, this German 1932 melodrama concerns the then outlandish idea of a floating gas station for transatlantic flights. Filmed in three different languages with different casts, it’s not exactly a neglected masterpiece, but with talent like Curt Siodmak, Hans Albers, Charles Boyer, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt and Sybille Schmitz, it’s certainly a forgotten sci-fi gem. 6/10

Just Imagine

A very early sound film, this 1930 US sci-fi musical comedy tries to combine Metropolis, A Princess from Mars, The Ziegfield Follies and stand-up comedy. With predictable results. Despite being the brainchild of Hollywood’s hottest musical writers, the music is dull, the SF worse and the comedy painfully unfunny. The film looks good, though. 3/10

High Treason

This 1929 film was Britain’s attempt to create its own Metropolis. The stunning art deco visuals are counteracted by a clumsy and overtly naive script. Maurice Elvey’s direction is fluid and competent, but the actors are stuck with paper-thin characters who lack motivation. Modern viewers of this pacifist yarn set in 1940 will marvel at the accurate predictions of things like TV and Skype. (5/10)

Charleston Parade

In a nutshell: A bonkers short subject by master director Jean Renoir from 1927 shows an African explorer in a spacecraft discovering a white native woman in a post-apocalyptic Paris, and they dance the Charleston for ten minutes. (5/10)

The Conquest of the Pole

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Georges Méliès’ last science fiction film, released in 1912, was a magnificent swansong for an era of filmmaking. Perhaps his most accomplished film technically, but the polar adventure […]

The Pirates of 1920

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (7/10) Pirates of the air get more than they bargained for when they kidnap a resourceful damsel in this well-made British short feature film from 1911. And there’s an […]

A Little Jules Verne

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (4/10) Gaston Velle’s 1907 film is a fairly entertaining underwater fantasy short, made hastily to cash in on Georges Méliès epic Under the Seas. Velle directs the imitation professionally, […]

The ‘?’ Motorist

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Walter R. Booth’s short film is a subversive and funny trick film about a couple of mad motorists that speed through the British streets, toppling police officers, riding […]