Phineas T Barnum and friends finance the first flight to the moon but find the task a little above them. They attempt to blast their rocket into orbit from a massive gun barrel built into ... See full summary »
Phineas T Barnum and friends finance the first flight to the moon but find the task a little above them. They attempt to blast their rocket into orbit from a massive gun barrel built into the side of a Welsh mountain, but money troubles, spies and saboteurs ensure that the plan is doomed before it starts. Written by
The Verne Gun Cannon Again and some welcome comedy
In the 1960s there was a new phenomenon in movie comedies: the comedy that included every known comic in the business, usually in some mad plot. America gave us IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD,THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!,and THE GREAT RACE. Britain gave us THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES and MONTE CARLO OR BUST. Both of those films dealt with speed contests (the 1910 London to Paris air contest, and the first Monte Carlo rally). Both had several comic actors in them (Terry-Thomas, Gert Frobe, Tony Hancock, Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke, Tony Curtis, Alberto Sordi). Then, in 1967, came THOSE FANTASTIC, FEARLESS, FLYING FOOLS (also known as ROCKET TO THE MOON). Like the other two films from England, it was a period piece, set in the 1870s. But the story is basically a transposed version of Jules Verne's FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON. The original novel was set in Florida (oddly enough near modern day Cape Kennedy)after the American Civil War. In ROCKET TO THE MOON P.T. Barnum plans to build a "Columbiad" cannon inside a mountain in Wales, and have the moon capsule piloted by General Tom Thumb. Instead it becomes a British national issue, and a committee is formed headed by Dennis Price (the Duke of Barset - another literary borrowing, only from Anthony Trollope). Unfortunately Terry-Thomas and his business partner Lionel Jeffries are also involved in the committee, and they both see a chance to make money on this. Jeffries is the original capsule builder, but Barnum points out that Jeffries design only enables the capsule to go to the moon period. "Hold it laddy," intones Jeffries, "I was told to design a capsule to get a traveller to the moon...nobody said a word about getting him back." Jeffries is replaced. Subsequently Price discovers that Terry-Thomas has been gambling away the committee's money, and he is fired. Facing financial ruin, both men decide to sabotage the project.
Gert Frobe, the inventor of the new explosive to use to send the vehicle to the moon, is a totally mad German scientist. His best moment in the film is a whimsical one. He has designed vocal semaphore devices that you speak through. This enables the two people who are communicating not to be heard and understood by anyone else, for the machines break down the words to syllables that are hard to understand. The other person, using the other semaphore (but winding it backwards)is supposed to reattach the syllables into an understandable set of words. Unfortunately, as Frobe discovers, the device does not quite work. "I can't understand a word he's saying.", a doubtful Frobe says.
Actually Burl Ives and Terry Thomas have choice moments too. Ives accidentally stumbles on the site where some of Frobe's explosive is being tested, and desperately tries to break the fuse with a rock and his cane. Terry Thomas has designed an early automobile that runs on "gas" - meaning "neon" from street-lamps. Jeffries says that the whole nature of the vehicle is immoral - it runs on stolen gas! "That's not the point!", says Terry-Thomas, "It's very economical!"
It is not a bad film, and can be a little enjoyable in its whimsy.
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