Primeval Prints
The new is always made up of the old
- Marshall McLuhan


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A Trip to the Moon
D: George Méliés (1902) 21m


This legendary film stunned audiences with its lengthy running time... a full 21 minutes! The plot-line, liberally borrowed from both Wells and Verne, involved a ship fired from a giant cannon visiting a personified moon. The amazing sets and special effects - particularly the use of double exposure - were the real stars however. Copies of Méliés' hand-coloured print still exist.





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Aelita
D: Yakov Protazanov (1924) 113m


A silent masterpiece of sweeping influence. This Russian film based on the Alexei Tolstoy novel tells the story of a politically-frustrated engineer who builds a spaceship and goes to Mars. With the love and support of the queen Aelita he leads a proletariat uprising. Notable for its stunning constructivist sets, the film was suppressed for a time after it fell out of favour with the Soviet government.





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Metropolis
D: Fritz Lang (1927) 87m & 120m


Re-issued in 1984 with a modern rock soundtrack, this expressionistic masterpiece remains a cult favourite. In a futuristic city, factory slaves are duped into rioting when non-violence advocate Maria is perceived as a threat to the authority of the privileged class and replaced by a robot double. A restoation project in 2008 (released 2010) saw 95% of Lang's original cut restored.





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Frankenstein
D: James Whale (1931) 71m


Then-unknown actor Boris Karloff got the gig as Frankenstein's monster when Bela Lugosi knocked it back, launching a legendary career in horror films. Based on Mary Shelley's classic novel, the now-familiar tale of a misguided scientist who creates a living being from body parts was a prototype for a host of films that came after it. The film has been preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry.





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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
D: Rouben Mamoulian (1931) 97m


Along with 'Frankenstein', this movie kicked off a wave of top-notch 1930s horror films containing sci-fi elements. Easily the truest cinematic version the Robert Louis Stevenson story, Frederic March is superb as the split-personality doctor, winning his first Academy Award in the process. Censorship regulations toned down the mistress/sex-slave angle in the almost-as-good 1941 MGM re-make.





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The Invisible Man
D: James Whale (1933) 71m


The movie that made Claude Rains an international star, even though we only actually saw him for a few seconds. The film is notable for staying true to H.G. Wells by setting the action in England. Fully-bandaged transparency-afflicted doctor shows up at a country inn. He goes nuts and turns to murderous crime. The film has been preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry.





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The Bride of Frankenstein
D: James Whale (1935) 75m


Many critics consider this sequel superior to the 1931 original and hail it as director James Whale's masterpiece. Frankenstein is persuaded by a colleague to create a mate for his earlier stitch-job. The female of the species, however, doesn't look too bad and rejects her intended, causing him to go on a rampage. Homage is paid to Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and Boris Karloff is superb.





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Things to Come
D: William C. Menzies (1936) 92m


Another H.G. Wells vision of the future, starting with the decades long World War II, to the rise of warlords, and finally to a somewhat sterile high-tech society in the year 2036. The sheer scale of production opened up countless possibilities for future sci-fi film-makers. Some stunning sci-fi vistas, although a bit plodding at times. The very real WWII was just around the corner.


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