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For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon,
May 13-17, 2015
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if you like science fiction...
if you support the cause of film preservation...
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essay 2 of 5 blog entries
Part One: Insectoids Everywhere!
“The moon is, indeed, a sort of vast ant-hill…”
The First Men in the Moon
By H. G. Wells
In his 1901 science fiction novel The First Men in the Moon, H. G. Wells repeatedly describes the moon’s Selenite inhabitants as insect-like:
“He (the Selenite) presented himself, therefore, as a compact, bristling creature, having much the quality of a complicated insect…”
For his 1964 movie of First Men in the Moon, visual effects master Ray Harryhausen designed remarkable models of insect-like Selenites to bring to life through his inimitable stop motion animation. While departing from Wells in some particulars, they retain the weird half-human/half-arthropod weirdness in Wells’ descriptions:
“The neck on which the head was poised was jointed in three places, almost like the short joints in the leg of a crab.”
|A Selenite Gallery: Profile, rear (with termite wings), and full frontal.|
|Inspecting the insectoid|
alien remains from
Quatermass and the Pit.
Near the end of his career, Harryhausen cribbed from his Selenite design to create a trio of insectoid ghouls, complete with little horns reminiscent of the demon insects of Quatermass and the Pit. Designed for Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), the ghouls are skeletal rather than segmented, but the faces possess a familiar creepy insect-like impassivity, like animated mantises.
|The insectoid ghouls from Harryhausen's|
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
Intelligent alien insects remain a popular subject in science fiction, turning up everywhere from Star Trek to Starship Troopers. H. G. Wells basically invented the trope, as he also appears to have been the first to play with an alien hive concept, where intelligence is centralized in a highly ordered society. This probably relates in some way to the socialism that Wells later advocated, but as of 1901, it’s easier to see the lunar society as a satire of political ideas rather than either a utopia or a dystopia. The scientist Cavor is content to live in the moon’s great ant-hill but the prospect appears to have much less appeal to the other two humans along for the trip.
|Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) surrounded by Selenites in First Men in the Moon.|
Part Two: The Resurrected Skeleton
Here’s Martha Hyer as Kate Callender receiving a full body scan from Lunar Homeland Security.
|Martha Hyer gets x-rayed in First Men in the Moon.|
Whoever would have guessed that Martha Hyer had the frame of a Greek warrior?
And… retroactively applying logic… wouldn’t this suggest that we can see Hyer—that ever-dependable chameleon of an actress—among the skeleton defenders of the Golden Fleece?
Why, I’d recognize that skeleton anywhere!
|I think that's Hyer's skeletal frame second from left.|
|Hyer gracefully parries a sword thrust.|
|She's a little more graceful than the other skeletons, don't you think?|
Personally, I'm rooting for Hyer.
|This is how Greek tragedy inevitably ends.|
It just goes to show that we’re all the same under the skin.
Enjoy the video!
Enjoy the video!
Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale by Andy Murray
... and a special thank you to the hosts of For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon: Ferdy on Films, This Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark.
Ray Harryhausen: Master of the Majicks by Mike Hankin
Film Fantasy Scrapbook by Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells
© 2015 Lee Price