Friday, June 02, 2006

Woman In The Moon

Fritz Lang was a cinematic genius. His movies are as modern today as when they were first released.* Alt-spacers will likely relate to the following two quotes from a movie Lang made about a trip to the moon:
"Laughter, gentlemen, is the argument of idiots against every new idea." Professor Georg Manfeldt.
"Never does not exist for the human mind, only not yet." Unattributed.
The movie, Woman in the Moon, has modern sensibilities. It tells the story of a visionary scientist, ostracized by his peers for crackpot ideas about gold on the Moon. His lifelong obsession is to fly to the Moon to prove his point. Opposing the scientist is a cabal of criminal industrialists who believe him but wish to thwart his mission or co-opt it because of the threat he poses to their interests. Eventually, the scientist gets the funding he needs from a wealthy friend and he flies a rocket to the moon with the friend, a beautiful woman and her fiancee, and a thug sent along by the evil industrialists.

The launch sequence is a majestic premonition of future Apollo launches. Set to stirring music, the large moon rocket rolls on a track from a giant hanger to the launch bay. Once in position to launch, a countdown ensues. Lang included the countdown for dramatic effect. Little could he know that the countdown would be standard for real space launches. But the movie's technical accuracy is no accident. Pioneering German rocket scientist Hermann Oberth was a technical advisor on the movie.

The film has a beautiful and haunting look to it. The cinematography is phenomenal. The sets are dramatic. The story is very much a modern conspiracy thriller. The movie's events in space will remind viewers of subsequent space movies about missions to the Moon and Mars.

Woman in the Moon is prime material for a modern remake: perhaps as a story about a scientist who seeks to free the world from dependence on fossil fuels by mining platinum group metals on asteroids or the Moon for a hydrogen economy or Helium-3 for fusion. Opposing him are an evil consortium of energy companies, who will either stop him or co-opt him. Joining the scientist are a wealthy philanthropist, a beautiful woman, and a corporate hit man. Sound plausible?

See the original though. You'll be glad you did. The film has been restored to its original length and released on DVD. At nearly three hours, it's still worth sitting through. It's available from Netflix. Or you can buy it. Make sure you get the correct version if you do.


*Among Lang's movies that stand up over time is the classic M, which reveals the hysteria released in a community over the attacks of a child predator and tells a timeless story about justice. His silent movie, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is another classic. Mabuse tells the story of a secretive criminal mastermind who heads an organization that seeks to destroy society through terrorism. Probably less well-known is the silent movie, Spiders, which was intended to be a series of movies about a rich adventurer who travels the world retrieving native artifacts and fights against a criminal gang, known as the Spiders. Hmmmmm, somewhat Indiana Jones-like, nicht wahr?

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Reposted once to correct typo.


Homer Hickam wrote this very scenario in novel form in Back to the Moon. It was optioned to be a film, but alas never got made.
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