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Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon

Entry updated 18 February 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (1967; vt Those Fantastic Flying Fools US; vt Rocket to the Moon). Jules Verne Films, Ltd/Warner-Pathé UK/American International Pictures US. Produced by Harry Alan Towers. Directed by Don Sharp. Written by Dave Freeman from an original story by Towers (credited as Peter Welbeck), very loosely based on De la terre a lune (1865) and Autour de la lune (1870) by Jules Verne. Cast includes Jimmy Clitheroe, Gert Frobe, Burl Ives, Lionel Jeffries and Terry-Thomas. 114 minutes, cut to 95 minutes for US release. Colour.

Once the copyrights expired on Jules Verne's works in the mid-1950s, filmmakers rushed to adapt his various novels for both Cinema and Television. This is one of the lesser such efforts, a comedy in the vein of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), which had also featured Terry-Thomas. Here, infamous nineteenth-century showman Phineas T Barnum (Ives) has lost most of his fortune due to a massive fire which destroyed the majority of his Circus. In an effort to recoup his looses, he joins forces with Captain Sir Harry Washington-Smythe (Terry-Thomas) and explosives expert Sir Charles Dillworth (Jeffries) in England, to launch a Rocket to the Moon carrying "General" Tom Thumb (Clitheroe). Building a giant cannon in a mountainside in Wales, Barnum is unaware of a scheme by Washington-Smythe and Dillworth to sabotage the flight, and steal the funds raised for the project. After numerous problems involving espionage attempts and other situations intended as slapstick humour, the rocket is fired. Unfortunately, it barely makes it into space before crashing back to Earth in Imperial Russia.

The film does not work particularly well either as comedy or as sf, and was unsuccessful at the box office. The novelization is Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon (1967) by Jim Fagan. [GSt]


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