Interplanetary travel

Rocketship X-M

Poverty Row studio Lippert Pictures rushed Rockethip X-M into theatres in 1950, ahead of the much-hyped big-budget production Destination Moon, claiming the title of the first American space exploration movie. Despite its cash-grab nature, in some ways it actually surpasses its heavy-going “original”. 6/10

Captain Video and His Video Rangers

The first science fiction TV show aired as a live broadcast in the US every weekday for almost six years beginning in 1949, totalling in over 1,500 episodes. Aimed at a kiddie audience, the show was cheap and shoddy, even compared to its film serial inspirations, but involved writing talent such as Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke and James Blish.  3/10

Flash Gordon

The 1936 film serial Flash Gordon was the first American space opera brought to the screen. It’s high camp, silly and loads of fun, and boasts high production values for a serial, as well as an unusually imaginative and original script, straight from the pages of the comic strip. That the spaceships are held by visible strings and the dragons look like men in cardboard suits just adds to the fun. 7/10

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

Our Heavenly Bodies

A forgotten German educational film with strong SF elements, Wunder der Schöpfung takes us on a ride in a spaceship to visit the planets and the stars. Director Hanns Walter Kornblum worked with nine animators and six cinematographers to create astounding special effects that hold up to any other masterpiece made in the twenties. (8/10)

Aelita, Queen of Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) Ostensibly Russia’s/USSR’s first sci-fi film, this political 1924 space fantasy lays down a surprisingly intelligent criticism of the communist revolution, once you look past the clunky, propagandistic symbolism […]

A Trip to Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (7/10) Himmelskibet, released in 1918, is he first serious movie to deal with a trip to a distant planet. Poetically filmed and featuring lavish Martian designs, this Danish space […]

A Trip to Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (5/10) A scientist floats to Mars and is captured by Martians in this early American short film. Not a masterpiece, but a well made and intriguing little film. A […]

A Trip to Jupiter

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (9/10) While derivative of Georges Méliès’ space voyages, Segundo de Chomon’s silent short from 1909 is a tour de force of innovative camera use, seamless special effects and stunning […]

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 […]

The Impossible Voyage

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (7/10) Pioneering film maker Georges Méliès’ 1904 follow-up to the groundbreaking A Trip to the Moon is perhaps his most beautiful film, but the master is starting to repeat himself. The […]