Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon


Adventure / Comedy

IMDb Rating 5.3


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95 min
P/S 85 / 253
95 min
P/S 44 / 138

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by k_t_t2001 7

JULES VERNE&#39;S ROCKET TO THE MOON is immediately misleading on two out of three points. Firstly, as the opening credits swiftly admit, while the plot is inspired by the general writings of Verne, it is not in fact based on any particular story that he actually wrote, which makes the attribution somewhat spurious. Secondly, while there is a rocket in the film, it becomes increasingly apparent as the movie progresses that it is in no actual danger of going anywhere near the moon.<br/><br/>Having cleared up the situation with the misleading title, one can sit back and enjoy an amusing romp that, despite its Victorian setting, is unique to the films produced in the swinging sixties. The typically contrived plot concerns a suddenly bankrupt Phineas T. Barnum (Burl Ives) making an escape from his creditors to England, where he becomes the prime mover in a plan to launch a rocket to the moon. On the side of the angels are a German explosives expert (Gert Fr?be), an idealistic young American (Troy Donahue) with a revolutionary rocket design and the well intentioned Duke of Barset (Dennis Price). Up to no good are an unscrupulous financier (Terry Thomas), an egotistical engineer (Lionel Jeffries) and a Russian spy (Joachim Teege). In characteristic fashion, it is around the central framework of the plot that all the amusing vignettes of the film are built. Terry Thomas&#39; &quot;economical&quot; motor car, and Gert Fr?be&#39;s explosive experiments to find the right amount of lift to get the rocket into space are two humorous recurring bits.<br/><br/>The film boasts another trademark of films of this era: a large cast filled with familiar faces. Gert Fr?be is great fun in his role as the fireproof Professor Von Bulow. Burl Ives, Terry Thomas and Lionel Jeffries also deliver the goods with their performances, though to be fair, their roles really require them to do little more than play upon already well established screen personas. The gorgeous Daliah Lavi is, well, gorgeous, as the female lead, which is pretty much all her part really calls for. Hermione Gingold, who amazingly is billed fourth in the credits, barely has time to deliver a performance in her five minutes on screen.<br/><br/>Dennis Price is fine in a part that has a fair amount of screen time, but really doesn&#39;t require him to do much. Seeing Price in such undemanding roles is always a little sad when one remembers his brilliant turn in KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS. However Price&#39;s performance in ROCKET TO THE MOON is positively dynamic when compared to that of his American co-star, and supposedly the film&#39;s leading man, Troy Donahue. Donahue is one of the many handsome Hollywood hunks of the era, who looked great, but couldn&#39;t act their way out of a paper bag and he brings exactly that level of skill to his performance here. When surrounded by such a colourful cast it becomes painfully apparent just how out of his depth Donahue is.<br/><br/>JULES VERNE&#39;S ROCKET TO THE MOON is occasionally laugh out loud funny, but mainly delivers grins, smirks and guffaws. Unlike such similar and overlong fare as THE GREAT RACE, THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES or AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, it keeps itself brief, does not wear out its welcome and makes for an ideal film to watch on a Sunday afternoon.<br/><br/>Unfortunately, ROCKET TO THE MOON has been released in America on home video in only in pan and scan in a long out of print VHS release (under the ridiculous title THOSE FANTASTIC FLYING FOOLS). It is available in the UK in a quite acceptable 2.35:1 widescreen DVD release.

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Reviewed by sskuse 7

This comedy features a delightful array of well-known British character actors of the 1960&#39;s, including the lovely Terry-Thomas (well to the fore in this picture), the eccentric Lionel Jeffries, and the diminutive comic Jimmy Clitheroe.<br/><br/>Terry-Thomas is best remembered for his villainous roles in the films &#39;Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines&#39; and &#39;Monte Carlo or Bust&#39;, two of the finest comedies of the period, in which his comic villain stole both pictures.<br/><br/>&#39;Rocket to the Moon&#39; is a film in a very similar vein. Terry-Thomas is once again playing a dastardly villain, who is frightfully English, don&#39;t-you-know? The plot is likewise a madcap costume romp, set decades earlier. And, like the other two pictures, it trades on the period charm of its historical setting - at one point the villainous Sir Harry (played by Terry-Thomas), refuels his gas-driven jalopy by stealing the gas from a Victorian street lamp.<br/><br/>The plan to send a rocket to the moon, in the name of Queen Victoria, manned by diminutive comic Jimmy Clitheroe, is entirely in keeping with the equally mad idea of flying an aeroplane from London to Paris in the earlier film, in which Terry-Thomas also played a dastardly, scheming and titled bounder.<br/><br/>&#39;Rocket to the Moon&#39; takes a step forward, as this time an American comedian is included in the cast, in the person of Burl Ives, as a scheming Yankee showman who wants only to make a fast buck out of the whole enterprise. This gives him rather an advantage over Tony Curtis, who had to play the role that he was given in &#39;Monte Carlo or Bust&#39;, as the sole American star, mostly straight, as romantic lead and chief fall-guy.<br/><br/>The first snag in the plan is that Lionel Jeffries&#39; design for the moon rocket is an obvious damp squib. So Dennis Price kicks him off the project, and he teams up with the dastardly Sir Harry, in order to sabotage it. Sabotage is Terry-Thomas&#39;s main activity in both the other pictures, so he&#39;s well in character here.<br/><br/>As in both the other pictures, too, Gert Frobe appears in character, as the mad Prussian. This time he&#39;s invented a new explosive, one which he reckons will be capable of hurling the rocket up to the moon. But he and his assistants may perish in the attempt to test-fire it.<br/><br/>This is gentle comedy, with a whimsical edge. It&#39;s great fun, but it depends on an appreciation of the links between this picture and the other two - and on a liking for whimsical Sixties comedy.<br/><br/>A picture with the main aim of recruiting a tiny astronaut, because all that can be built is a tiny rocketship, is guaranteed to be fairly whimsical. Variety star Jimmy Clitheroe, best remembered today from his radio series &#39;The Clitheroe Kid&#39;, gives a splendidly comic performance as General Tom Thumb, an innocent who Burl Ives intends to &quot;con&quot; into the job of the astronaut.<br/><br/>This is a great film, drawing laughs equally from the slightly mad but lovable characters, the running gags with the two related pictures, and the snags that bedevil the moonship scheme itself. A picture featuring a character as eccentric as Jimmy Clitheroe the Kid Himself - how can it fail. Don&#39;t some mothers &#39;ave &#39;em?<br/><br/>Stephen Poppitt &amp; Sandra Skuse

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Reviewed by The_Secretive_Bus 6

&quot;Rocket to the Moon&quot; is a film that boasts some great actors and a fantastically whimsical central concept - yes, it&#39;s another of those &quot;Victorians try to reach the Moon&quot; stories, though this one&#39;s based on something by Jules Verne anyway, so hurrah for that. I&#39;ve never read the original, so I haven&#39;t a clue which bits of the film are faithful to the book, though I&#39;m sure comedy pratfalling wasn&#39;t high on Verne&#39;s list of priorities for narrative-inclusion. I&#39;ve always loved Victoriana, and films set in the period always look sumptuous. The entire concept of the Victorian scientists trying to expand the horizons of humanity has always fascinated me. The 60&#39;s version of &quot;The Time Machine&quot; remains my favourite film after what must be over fifteen viewings, and even the dismal Ray Harryhausen venture &quot;First Men in the Moon&quot; dregs up some respectability for its early Victorian scenes with a rather excitable Lionel Jeffries (who&#39;s in this film too).<br/><br/>&quot;Rocket to the Moon&quot; sometimes contains the same levels of charm and enjoyment of similar &quot;epics&quot;, but to use a whoary old clichéd reviewer&#39;s line, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The whole inventors bit is still terribly entertaining, and an early scene where a bridge is held together only by the initiation ceremony ribbon, which then gets cut by Queen Victoria, is good for a giggle. However, though every so often there are such delights as debating how a rocket could be propelled to the Moon (&quot;You would need a big cannon!&quot;), and what to do should they meet any alien life (&quot;Chloroform!&quot;), in between there are some long stretches of not very much happening at all, and there are one too many misfired gags. The plot goes for a complete Burton during the last twenty five minutes or so, which descends into a drawn out and utterly pointless chase scene between a vintage car and a penny-farthing. The inclusion of what is suggested to be some kind of brothel to which Deliah Lavi&#39;s character is forcibly sent also seems terribly out of place with the playful innocence of the action surrounding it (&quot;Why are there bars on the windows?&quot; &quot;Oh, that&#39;s not to keep you girls in. It&#39;s to keep the gentlemen out.&quot;) There is some top-notch comedy talent on display to keep the viewer periodically entertained. Terry-Thomas, as always, gives it his best shot, playing one of his most caddish characters - in fact, at times he actually does seem quite dangerous, which can make for one or two rather disturbing scenes. Lionel Jeffries is always good value for money, and even Graham Stark succeeds at being amusing here. For me, however, a quiet and understated performance from Dennis Price steals the picture, even if he doesn&#39;t actually have any jokes per se. The scene in which he slowly discovers that Terry-Thomas has a rigged pool table is probably the best of the film, and there&#39;s a rather electric bit soon after where he attacks T-T at a club, complete with shouting and copious stick waving.<br/><br/>However, the young leading man, Troy Donahue, is utterly wooden, and kills quite a few potentially funny lines. Comedy German eccentric Gert Frobe veers alarmingly between being hilarious (&quot;What do we do now?&quot; &quot;I don&#39;t know, we&#39;ve never got this far before,&quot;) and being tremendously irritating. And the less said about Deliah Lavi, the better. No, in fact, let&#39;s talk about her anyway. Maybe it&#39;s just the character she&#39;s forced to play, a bimbo who leaps into the arms of whatever young man may be nearest to her at the time. But Deliah doesn&#39;t try to give her much of a personality, and so just resembles a walking personality vacuum. The writer doesn&#39;t even seem to have bothered in giving her character any logical sense, as she appears to teleport from place to place for no reason at all except plot expediency (why the hell is she in the rocket at night for any reason other than to be discovered by T-T and Lionel Jeffries?) In the chase scene at the end she seems to acquire a penny-farthing from nowhere, and frankly just looks ridiculous - and it&#39;s painfully obvious when a double has been used in the long shots.<br/><br/>The plot groans with the attempts to include a bit of jeopardy, and so T-T, starting off as a harmless cad, embezzling the project money, suddenly turns into a bit of a leering psycho, determined to make sure the rocket never leaves the Earth, even if to do so means killing off Troy Donahue (then again, maybe that&#39;s not such a bad idea). There&#39;s also a running gag about a Russian spy that doesn&#39;t appear to really lead anywhere, and after the first use of it (which is actually funny) should really have been dropped.<br/><br/>I really wanted to like this film more than I did, and, indeed, on first viewing I found it a great, if a touch gentle, little feature. However, on subsequent viewings, the meandering nature of the story becomes more and more obvious, as do the number of jokes that just plain don&#39;t work. Fantastic actors appear wasted in roles that require them to change their character&#39;s personality practically every other scene - Lionel Jeffries&#39; Sir Charles Dillworthy seems to harbour a loathing of T-T&#39;s Washington-Smythe at the beginning, then appears terrified of him, then angry, and then just willingly teams up with him by the end anyway.<br/><br/>Overall, though the concept of the film still remains a huge attraction, and actors like Dennis Price and Terry-Thomas still make it well worth watching on a Sunday afternoon, I can&#39;t help but feel a bit disappointed with &quot;Rocket to the Moon&quot;, which would have been better having it&#39;s plot tightened up and getting rid of a few of the longer set pieces (Gert Frobe&#39;s cannon experiments, for example). Or maybe it just needed to be a bit funnier.<br/><br/>6/10

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