It won't come as a surprise to those who have read some of my other reviews that I have never read H.G. Wells' "The First Men in the Moon" but then you don't need to have read it to enjoy the 1964 big screen adaptation "First Men in the Moon". And the reason it is enjoyable is actually partly down to an additional element included in this version as the movie starts with a 1960's space mission to the moon where man is going to take his first steps only to discover that back in 1899 man had already reached the moon. It is a fun and imaginative opening to the story which then basically takes us back to 1899 and this remarkable early journey to the moon.
So as already pointed out "First Men in the Moon" is not a 100% authentic adaptation of H.G. Wells novel as we have the amusingly clever opening as the first official men on the moon discover they were beaten to it 60 years earlier. There are also numerous other changes from the inclusion of the character Kate as well as a variation about what happens on the moon, from the use of diving suits to the creatures they meet. As such maybe those who are H.G. Wells purists will be disappointed with the various changes but for those who enjoy the fantasy adventure movies of the 60s these changes work a treat.
As to the actual story well as already mentioned there is the amusing opening where the first men to walk on the moon discover they were beaten when they discover a flag and a note claiming it for Queen Victoria in 1899. This leads them to tracking down Mr. Bedford the only survivor of this never heard of trip to the moon who recounts his adventure. This adventure whilst introducing us to a young Mr. Bedford and his lady Kate also introduces us to the eccentric inventor Mr. Cavor and his Cavorite paste which blocks gravity, as well as giving us his plans to go to the moon. All of which is good fun mainly because of the late great Lionel Jeffries who is brilliant as the eccentric Cavor.
Anyway this through a slight incident leads to all three of them heading to the moon where they discover that the moon is inhabited by another race which they name Selenites. Now in all honesty this is where "First Men in the Moon" becomes a little bit routine because we have the trio exploring this alien world beneath the surface of the moon with Mr. Cavor being fascinated by it all whilst Bedford and Kate just want to get back. I say routine because we get oversized objects which are supposed to be future technologies and some stop animation monsters thanks to Ray Harryhausen, although these are by no means Harryhausen's greatest works. There is some trouble and whilst Bedford and Kate want to return Cavor's inquiring mind makes him want to stay. It is all entertaining but watching it now it does feel all a little familiar as story elements feel similar to other adaptations of Wells' stories.
Now to be honest Lionel Jeffries is that star of "First Men in the Moon", it is his eccentricity and comedy which keeps you amused more than anything. That does mean that both Edward Judd and Martha Hyer whilst solid in their roles are really quite forgettable, delivering the same sort of hero and love interest you could see in any other of these fabulous adventure movies.
What this all boils down to is that "First Men in the Moon" is entertaining and a solid fabulous adventure movie from the 60s. But the irony is that it is an addition to H.G. Wells' original story which makes it that little bit more entertaining as the first men on the moon discover they had been beaten decades earlier.