JULES VERNES ROCKET TO THE MOON
BLAST-OFF; THE JOURNEY THAT SHOOK THE WORLD; THOSE FANTASTIC FLYING FOOLS
Despite the title, Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon, there is no Jules Verne connection in the film. Certainly, the film does have some nominal similarities to Jules Vernes From the Earth to the Moon (1865), which was a serious work about a gun club that makes plans to build an enormous cannon to launch a projectile to The Moon using a powerful new explosive. For anybody coming on the Jules Verne connection or even expecting a science-fiction film, Rocket to the Moon is a cheat. Most of the various retitlings and the films advertising campaign lead one to expect a trip to the Moon or even that we see the rocket launched, which the film entirely fails to provide.
More than anything, Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon is a slapstick chase/caper film in the then box-office tradition of films like Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1962), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) and The Great Race (1965) something that is clearly evidenced by the casting of Gert Frobe and Terry-Thomas, regulars from this type of farce. As with most of these films, there is much slapstick running about a lot of people are blown up but nobody is ever killed, maimed or even harmed, and there is the inevitable silly vehicle chase sequence. Alas, Rocket to the Moon is on the decidedly slight side and everything is over before it all begins.
Most of the sizeable name cast play to the gallery in hammy over-the-top performances as became the fashion for these films, with Lionel Jeffries in particular being downright awful. Troy Donahue plays with a handsome stolidity and completely fails to get into the spirit of the madcap farce the others do. The only one who gives a decent performance is Gert Frobe.
The film nominally uses the real life character of showman and notorious self-promoter Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-91) as its hero. There is some occasional truth to the portrait in that P.T. Barnum did tour Europe and meet Queen Victoria in the mid-1840s, although the rest of the film about his attempting to build a rocket must be regarded as complete fiction.
Australian-born Don Sharp who later became a regular director within the British horror industry making the likes of Kiss of the Vampire (1962), Witchcraft (1964), Curse of the Fly (1965), the first two of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu series The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), Rasputin The Mad Monk (1966), the psycho-thriller Dark Places (1973), the undead biker film Psychomania (1973) and the lost world film Secrets of the Phantom Caverns/What Waits Below (1984).