This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902) / Mister Moon (1901)

Le Voyage Dans La Lune (or, A Trip To The Moon), directed by Georges Melies in 1902, is perhaps the most well-known of all early films, especially the image of the moon with a spaceship in its eye.

I’ve always quite liked the way that the conventions, limitations and constraints of early film-making led to a similarity in style and appearance to early computer games (especially adventure games), which were the result of a very different set of technical problems, but which utilised very similar solutions.

So here you get static single screen sets with lavishly painted backgrounds, through which the characters move one scene at a time (such as the two images immediately below).

Partly this would have been due to the limitations/difficulties of the filming process itself (movement juddering, smooth camera control, re-focusing, etc), partly for stylistic reasons (the recreation of a theatre-style viewpoint) and also because of the cost, size and other logistical problems in the making, building and staging of sets.

These are evoked, in a way, by the static pre-rendered screens of something like Dizzy or Monkey Island, which allowed for a much higher graphical detail at the expense of screen movement/scrolling, the number of moving characters/enemies, and so on.

The more obvious lineage, of course, is that of Le Voyage Dans La Lune’s imagery being referenced and replicated in the 120 years since in everything from subsequent HG Wells and Jules Verne adaptations, to Tintin and Flash Gordon (the crashed spaceship and the hopping Selenite are very similar to the initial landing scene and the strange green monster that gets incinerated a bit later in the 1980s version), right the way up to The Smashing Pumpkins (I’ve often wondered if that video was the creation-myth of steampunk).

When they return to Earth, the scene where they crash into the sea is very similar to the corresponding scene in The Automatic Motorist, even down to the newts swimming about.

(I’d noticed the more obvious homages to this in The “?” Motorist and The Automatic Motorist when I watched them, but had missed this one)

I also watched Mister Moon, a 1 minute promotional video for the musical hall star Percy Henri’s comedy act, filmed in 1901, and which also features a terrifying human-faced moon (and nothing else at all, in this case).

Unsurprisingly, I found this utterly terrifying.



1. I watched both of these on the BFI player again – Le Voyage Dans La Lune; Mister Moon.

2. The crashed spaceship image from A Trip To The Moon is one I’ve, erm, well, stolen repeatedly over the years, although I’ve not yet resorted to moons with faces, thankfully.

3. I didn’t realise the BFI player was region locked to the UK, so I’ll try to add alternate links to things I’ve watched from now on

4. If I can

5. Although you might well have been glad of the chance to not see the full horror of Mister Moon, to be honest.


Film Information

Title: Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Director: Georges Melies
Year: 1902
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: BFI; youtube

Title: Mister Moon
Director: Percy Honri
Year: 1901
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: BFI; youtube

This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The “?” Motorist (1906) / The Automatic Motorist (1911)

The “?” Motorist is a pretty wonderful 3-minute long comedy sketch made in 1906 by WR Booth, an early pioneer in so-called “trick” films, where camera tricks and special effects were used to create breathtaking, impossible, visuals.

The “?” Motorist is a delight. It’s quick, funny, perfectly paced, with a strangely beautiful space interlude and a great final joke. The only downside is that it has a frightening moon with a terrifying face, as was the style at the time.

Then, five years later, he decided to make it again, but this time with a robot driving the car.

The Automatic Motorist, despite the robot, is unfortunately worse in almost every way. In typical reboot style, there’s more stuff, and almost all of it worse, so this is longer, slower, with worse jokes, and any number of shots that go on too long.

There is a, though, really lovely scene where they drive along the bottom of a lake and look at all the delightful newts swimming around, which I found really beautiful.



1. I watched both of these on the BFI player – The “?” Motorist; The Automatic Motorist
2. Neither of those versions have music, but you can probably find versions with a score on youtube.
3. And many thanks to Vom Vorton for telling me to watch The “?” Motorist, as it was excellent.


Film Information

Title: The “?” Motorist
Director: WR Booth
Year: 1906
Runtime: 3 minutes

Title: The Automatic Motorist
Director: WR Booth
Year: 1911
Runtime: 6 minutes

This Film Is 100 Years Old

Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque (1919)

Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque is a strangely charmless comedic version of Hamlet, directed and written by the humourist and animator Anson Dyer.

I think pretty much every joke falls flat here, not helped by the stilted pace of the animation. As with all things like this, maybe it’s just because I’m too far removed from the time to actually get any of them. But then again, when you watch some of his other cartoons, such as the cutting political satire shown off in Peter’s Picture Poems (1917), maybe Anson Dyer was just a tediously unfunny hack.

There is an excellent bit where a crow graphically eats a snail, though, and I did like this caption, too, so it’s not all awful.

The dog’s pretty cute too.



1. I watched this on the free section of the BFI’s website, here: Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque
2. There are quite a few other things of his there as well.
3. Including another Shakespeare one, which I’ll presumably watch next year some time. And then immediately regret.
4. Also this has a moon with a face on it. I’m quite scared of moons with faces on them, and always will be.


Film Information

Title: Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque
Director: Anson Dyer
Year: 1919
Runtime: 10 minutes

Title: Peter’s Picture Poems
Director: Anson Dyer
Year: 1917
Runtime: 3m minutes