A Trip to the Moon (Flicker Alley, 2018): Review

Note: This review originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 Issue of Silent Film Quarterly.

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A Trip to the Moon, in its original hand-tinted glory.

I was introduced to A Trip to the Moon in a somewhat unconventional manner. In 1996, the Smashing Pumpkins released a music video for their song “Tonight, Tonight” clearly inspired by the work of Méliès. The first time I saw the video, I was captivated—the period costumes, the vaguely Victorian instruments the band plays, and the phantasmagorical story of a couple transported to the moon on a zeppelin. I was not surprised to learn that lead singer Billy Corgan, a pop-culture enthusiast who constantly incorporates references into his work, was emulating the style of a pioneer filmmaker (an earlier concept for the music video featured a Busby Berkeley-style production). In fact, it was after listening to the first Smashing Pumpkins album—titled Gish—that I became aware of the work of Lillian (who Corgan recalled was a favorite actress of his grandmother). It was clear to me that Billy Corgan had a fondness for silent cinema, and as a fan of his I felt compelled to explore the works of Georges Méliès.

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The music video for “Tonight, Tonight” featured a ship called the “S.S. Méliès.”

Flicker Alley’s Georges Méliès: The First Wizard of Cinema was my first-ever silent film purchase, so it seems somewhat poignant to be reviewing the current reissue of A Trip to the Moon. I immediately began devouring all five discs. In a somewhat unusual progression, it was only after watching the films of Méliès that I discovered Chaplin, Keaton, Pickford, and Fairbanks.

As brilliant as many of Méliès’ films are—I challenge anyone to not be enraptured by The Impossible Voyage, The Kingdom of Fairies, or my personal favorite, The Conquest of the Pole—there is still something that sets A Trip to the Moon apart from its contemporaries. Maybe it is the Victorian cultural obsession with lunar expeditions that makes A Trip to the Moon so fascinating today (the film fits neatly alongside the works of Verne and Wells). Or perhaps it’s the otherworldly Selenite costumes, the steampunk aesthetic, or the now-famous shot of the rocket crashing into the moon’s face. Whatever the reason, A Trip to the Moon has become one of the few silent movies still recognizable to modern audiences.

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The capsule prepares to depart Earth.

The 2018 Flicker Alley reissue of A Trip to the Moon is in many ways similar to its 2012 predecessor. A score by the French band Air has been replaced by two new scores by Jeff Mills and Dorian Pimpernel, and the packaging has been overhauled (a 23-page booklet with photographs and an essay about the making of the film is a wonderful inclusion). The news scores are, to be honest, not for everyone—purists of the silent era will find the most enjoyment in Serge Bromberg’s piano score (with Méliès’ narration), but those who enjoy the likes of the Alloy Orchestra will appreciate what both composers bring to the table.

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Moments before meeting the Selenites.

There is something inherently strange about such a lavish release for a film that runs a mere 15 minutes. It would be tempting to assume that such a release is redundant or nonessential, especially since A Trip to the Moon is available numerous places online for free. I would urge people who feel this way to reconsider. The quality of the print, the brilliance of the original tinted colors, the variety of scores and narration, and the bonus features included more than justify the re-release of this collection.

A Trip to the Moon is not just a milestone in the career of Méliès. When it was released it sparked entirely new genres of film, and it is still captivating to viewers 116 years after its original release. The version Flicker Alley presents here will be the definitive version for many years to come. If you own the 2012 version, an upgrade is probably not necessary; if not, please do yourself a favor and revisit Méliès’ masterpiece.

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A Trip to the Moon is available from Flicker Alley and Amazon. Flicker Alley was kind enough to provide a copy to Silent Film Quarterly for this review.

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SFQ Website Relaunch

After several years of inactivity here at SilentFilmQuarterly.com, I’m excited to announce that our website will once again be updated on a regular basis, both with updates on future issues and excerpts from the magazine. Issue 9 is currently at the printer, while Issue 10 is about 90% complete (and Issue 11 is already coming together nicely!). These next couple of issues will feature some of my favorite content yet: interviews with the wonderful author Sherri Snyder (her Barbara La Marr book is available here), Roger Miller of the Alloy Orchestra, and much more.

If you are interested in purchasing the first eight issues of the magazine, they are now available from our Etsy Store. We are also looking into producing hardcover omnibus editions of the first two years; stay tuned for more information!

There are more announcements coming soon–thank you to everyone who has supported the magazine through its first two and a half years, and I can guarantee there are some exciting things on the horizon!

-Charles Epting, editor

End of the Year Message

Silent Film Quarterly is barely six months old. I know the exact date that the idea came to me from a text message to my girlfriend. “Remind me to tell you about my new idea I’m working on,” it read. I couldn’t have conveyed it in my message, but something about the concept I had come up with—a print magazine dedicated exclusively to silent film—really struck a chord with me.

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The text that started it all.

From there, things progressed rapidly. I designed the cover of the first issue during those first couple of days, in addition to mapping out the format of the magazine. I also reached out to some of my close friends and associates in the community to make sure I’d have support and—most importantly—content. The response was immediately overwhelming.

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Silent Film Quarterly Issue 1.

There are several people I have to thank personally for being amongst the first to contribute to the embryonic magazine. The first completed piece I received came from Cory Gross, whose history and analysis of 1925’s The Lost World still ranks amongst my favorite articles to have appeared in the magazine. I also asked Annette D’Agostino Lloyd, a dear friend of mine, for permission to republish one of her Harold Lloyd articles; she informed me that rather than having her old work republished, she’d rather contribute an original piece. As someone who holds the Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia in the highest regard, this was nothing short of an honor.

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Annette Lloyd’s invaluable contribution to Issue 1.

Even before the first issue was released, Silent Film Quarterly seemed to spread like wildfire. Social media helped to spread the word of the magazine, and subscriptions began pouring in from around the world. I am proud to say that there are currently subscribers in more than 40 states and 25 countries—numbers that I believe are strong evidence for the continued appreciation of silent films around the globe. I have a backlog of material into the middle of next year, all of which I am genuinely excited to share with everyone.

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Shipping the first issue.

These first few months of Silent Film Quarterly have been nothing short of spectacular. From visiting the Niles-Essanay Silent Film Museum (where they sell the magazine in their gift shop) to speaking with famed silent film composer Carl Davis, the first half-year of Silent Film Quarterly has been truly unforgettable.

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My visit to Niles.

Next year will, I hope, elevate the magazine to even greater heights. Already a Kickstarter campaign to reproduce 1916 silent film playing cards is sitting at 250% funded, without two-and-a-half weeks still to go. Additionally, in the next few weeks I will be making an announcement about Silent Film Quarterly Press, a new arm of the brand that will be focused on reproducing important, out-of-print texts from the silent era.

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The latest Silent Film Quarterly endeavor.

As 2015 comes to a close, I want to thank everyone who has supported Silent Film Quarterly in any way. Whether you’ve subscribed, written an article, or simply visited the website or Facebook page, you’ve contributed to this magazine’s sudden success. I never anticipated such a fervent response in the first few months; it is my hope that 2016 will see the magazine grow and evolve even more than it already has.

Here’s to the next four issues…

-Charles Epting
Editor in chief

Issue 1 Available Again!

Issue 1 is once again available for purchase, this time through Amazon.com. It is being printed on an on-demand basis and being distributed through Lulu. The format is slight different than the first edition; rather than a magazine, it is now being printed as a paperback book (although all of the content remains completely unchanged). Additionally, all future issues will be sold via Amazon once the initial print run is sold out.
You can order Issue 1 here!
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