One of the first men to experiment with special effects was Georges Méliès, known as "the First Wizard of Cinema." An appropriate title.
A Trip to the Moon, with it's iconic image of the grotesque man-in-the-moon with a space shuttle sticking out of its eye (right) was, and still is Méliès best known work, even though he made over 550 films between 1896 and 1913.
Georges Méliès never made much money off of A Trip to the Moon; Thomas Edison had his cronies steal (as Edison did with most of his inventions) a copy of the film. Edison then reproduced the film and released it in America, to great acclaim.
A Trip to the Moon see a bunch of Parisians deciding to launch a rocket ship to the moon. This ship is blast off by a gigantic cannon. Landing in the eye of the man-in-the-moon, several of the Parisian who made the voyage explore the moon, only to find hostile moon-men and giant moon mushrooms. These "aliens" are easily defeated when they attack our intrepid crew; they vanish in a puff of smoke.
It is quickly apparent that our crew must hastily return to Earth. Dropping off a moon cliff, they fall quickly to earth, landing in an ocean, and returning to Paris to a jubilant public.
The stages and sets of A Trip to the Moon are, for 1902, pretty darn good. The special effects are top-notch, as these type of things had never, ever been seen before.
The film starts off very slowly, with a bunch of Parisians standing around and getting things thrown at them for the first couple of minutes. After this the pace picks up and we get a great little space adventure.
The print of the film that was reviewed was a black and white print; a hand-tinted, full color print was found in almost pristine condition a few years ago in a Paris barn. It would be a thrill to see this print!
At any rate, for the time period this film was released it is simply astounding to see a film of this quality when most other films were only a couple of minutes long and had much less detail or story.
For any fan of film history, this is a must watch.