Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Victorian science fiction film location

 New Haw Lock cottage this afternoon

I was on my way to Addlestone model shop today as I had, annoyingly, run out of white paint and the colour I use for shading skin.  Taking a back route I drove past New Haw lock on the Wey Canal.  I decided to stop and take a picture of the lock cottage as it featured in one of my favourite Victorian-set science fiction films: The First Men in the Moon (1964).

It played the part of Cherry Tree Cottage, home of the hero of the film, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), who travelled to the moon in 1899 aboard a Cavorite sphere  designed by Professor Cavor (Lionel Jeffries).   The film is based on a novel by HG Wells but adds a modern prologue wherein today's astronauts make the first Moon landing only to discover a Union flag on the moon and a note claiming it for Queen Victoria.  Released five years before the actual Moon landing the film had a multinational United Nations crew undertaking the present day landing.  Back on Earth the UN team track down surviving astronaut Bedford via the local registry office (played by Chertsey Town Hall a few miles from where I lived - the film was shot at Shepperton Studios, a mile from my old home).

Another addition to Wells' story was the presence, on the voyage to the Moon, of a young lady, Kate Callender, played by Martha Hyer (seen above outside the cottage).

Miss Hyer posed in some period underwear for publicity shots for the film but, sadly, this costume didn't actually appear in the film itself.   Here she is on the Moon set at Shepperton with the sphere in the background and holding one of the spacesuits used in the present day sequences.  

As worn by Bossk in The Empire Strikes Back  

This suit was actually an RAF Windak high altitude pressure suit and the same design also made several appearances in the original Star Wars trilogy.  Some of the A-Wing pilots wore them too in the hangar scene in the first Star Wars film which was, coincidentally, also shot at Shepperton.

Martha Hyer's career was already somewhat on the wane by the time she appeared in The First Men in the Moon.  She had been nominated for an Oscar in Some Came Running (1958), playing opposite Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  She appeared in a lot of TV series and foreign productions in the sixties and early seventies. 

She was, surprisingly, thirty nine years old when she appeared in First Men in the Moon (she was actually seven years older older than Edward Judd and two years older than Lionel Jeffries).  Her last screen appearance was in an episode of TV police series McCloud in 1974.  In 1966 she married legendary Hollywood producer Hal B Wallis who was 25 years her senior.  Wallis produced some of the great films of the classic Hollywood era including: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Casablanca (1942), Now Voyager (1942) and True Grit (1967).  Martha Hyer died last May at the age of eighty nine.

The film itself,  is very enjoyable with a strong cast, Ray Harryhausen effects and a creepily mysterious score by Laurie (The Avengers) Johnson.

Harryhausen's stop motion Selenites certainly gave me the creeps when I was little!

The design of the sphere is also very good with its railway buffer shock absorbers and the interior is classic steampunk.  Some time ago I bought a resin model of it which has been sitting on my desk for some years.  

Unfortunately the top and bottom don't fit together very well and it may be beyond my modelling abilities to get it looking good.  I might have one more go at it as it would fit into a game of In Her Majesty's Name quite well, especially as I have the West Wind Professor Cavor figure somewhere too.


  1. Have you some of the Ironclad Selenites?

  2. This is an excellent write up of one of my favorites. As to fixing the resign model you are using the wrong putty get the standard milliput its yellow it will fill those gaps seamlessly. If you need to know what to do contact me through FB I'll walk you through it.

    1. The problem is more one of misalignment but I might have another go!

  3. This is so cool! I really love that the spacesuit is used again in Star Wars on an Alien creature, Awesome!
    I think you can handle that sphere pretty nifty!

  4. Very interesting post! Amazing how things get reused without some people realising!

    1. It also appeared in an old episode of Dr Who!

  5. I was fortunate enough to view this movie on the big screen at our town Cinema back in 1964- The Movie had left a life long impression on me - I loved everything about it. Several years ago now I sculpted 1/32nd figures of Prof Cavor, Arnold Bedford and Catherine Calendar - as well as the Selinites ( I cast fourty of them ) - I also fabricated Cavor's Sphere - complete with railway Buffers - all in 1/32nd. Alas I sold the complete collection about 15 Years ago- would have liked to show it to you. I just love Cherry Cottage- Thanks for Publishing this article. Regards. KEV.

  6. Martha Hyer is gorgeous in this film. Although she never strips down to her period underwear, you can still see her bloomers when she's floating about in the sphere after it leaves the earth's atmosphere. It would have been fun to see her strip down to her corset and bloomers so that she could put on a space suit and go exploring the moon.