Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I, Claudius (1976) -- Herbert Wise

Depravity and debauchery in imperial Rome is wonderfully entertaining in the 1976 TV mini-series, I, Claudius. The critically and popularly acclaimed BBC production has it all: incest; adultery; orgies and sexual manipulation; political intrigue; insanity; murder--lots and lots of murder; and suicide as common as a morning cup of coffee. Poison is the method of choice but there are plenty of daggers at play too, and off-screen, hungry lions in the arena. Perhaps the most outlandish scene involves a sex competition in the palace between the emperor's wife and the city's leading prostitute to see who can bed the most men. 

The thirteen-hour saga tells the tale of the five Caesars, starting with Augustus in about 34 BC, through his first three successors: step-son Tiberius, great-grandson Caligula, and grand-nephew Claudius. It ends with the latter's' death in 54 AD as the infamous Nero waits in the wings. Whether it's blind lust for power or inbreeding that propels the drama is hard to say, but it's immediately apparent that being related to the extended Julian/Claudian families puts one at great risk. This is a blood-thirsty bunch. Anyone in the line of succession needs to watch their back.

Part of the title sequences for the series.

Based on Robert Graves' 1934 novel of the same name, the production features a remarkably witty script (by Jack Pulman) and terrific performances by all. While Derek Jacobi is the headliner--his Claudius relates the story in flashback and appears in every episode--it is Sian Phillips as Livia, Augustas' wife, who is most memorable. Her performance is brilliant, convincingly menacing and quietly evil. Devious, extraordinarily patient and determined, she'll stop at nothing to ensure that her son, Tiberius, becomes her husband's heir. Over the course of the first seven episodes, her victims include her own husband, a brother-in-law, and two grandsons. She removes Augustus with poisoned fruit, telling Tiberius, "By the way, don't touch the figs."

At one point or another, all the characters become targets of Livia's cold demeanor. Claudius is one of her great-grandsons. With club foot and a stammer, he is thought to be a fool. But his physical nature hides a rare intelligence, at least until the last episodes when he becomes blind to his scheming young wife, Messalina. Of Claudius, Livia says, "That child should have been exposed at birth," meaning he should have been abandoned on a hillside.

Though truly evil, she claims her behavior is noble. She sincerely fears a republic and the inevitable civil wars she believes it would spurn, hence her dogged drive to maintain the monarchial form of government. Germanicus, Claudius' brother, holds a more objective view of the old woman's ambition, pegging her correctly when he says, "Between reading so many letters and arranging so many rapes, when does she ever sleep?"

Sian Phillips as the dangerous and lethal Livia.

The script is filled with humor. Livia gives a pep talk to gladiators, ready to fight in the arena. She insults and threatens them, and tells them she wants no "kiss in the ring stuff," and no "tricks of the trade to stay alive." Here's the clip:

And it's not just the script that's funny, but the way the actors deliver the lines. A few other great ones:

  • Caligula giggles with silly amusement when he instructs the guards what that evening's password will be: "Bottoms Up," "Give Us a Kiss," and "Touch me, Titus!"
  • About a sick Augustus, someone says to Livia: "It seems that it doesn't matter to you whether he lives or dies!," to which she replies: "Oh no! It matters a great deal to me whether he lives or dies."
  • Caligula to Claudius: "Do you think I'm mad?"
    Claudius to Caligula: "You set the standard for sanity for the whole world."
  • After Livia murders Marcellus:
    Livia: We know what he died of.
    Doctor: Do we?
    Livia: FOOD POISONING! You said so yourself.
    Doctor: Yes, but I couldn't swear to it.
    Livia (to self): No, but I could.
Each episode has at least one terrific scene, which allows all the featured players the opportunity to shine. Among the best are Augustus (Brian Blessed) dressing down fifteen or so senators who have been with his promiscuous daughter, Julia. He incredulously asks each man in turn if the report is true, getting more appalled as he goes down the line, finally exploding, "Is there anyone in Rome who hasn't slept with my daughter?!?" He banishes the girl to a small island where she starves.

Derek Jacobi as a young Claudius.

Reflecting the age of myth, soothsayers, and multiple deities, Tiberius (George Baker) relies on an astrologer to predict the future. His best scene takes place on the island of Rhodes. Convinced that Augustus hates him, and sick of the machinations back in Rome, he has voluntarily retired. Though he still harbors aspirations to the throne--in large part driven by the dominating Livia--he has given way to Augustus' favorite, Marcellus. When he learns that Lucius has died (poisoned by Livia), he can't contain his laughter at the sudden turn of events. The character is one of the most fascinating of the series. He starts as a decent enough sort, unlikable surely, but an effective military leader who can't seem to get out from under his mother's thumb. By the end he has assumed most of her unsavory traits, and has added a fetid layer of sordidness to boot, reveling in pornography and unseen acts of depravity. The change in his makeup over episodes is wonderful. Beginning as a rugged, swarthy, young man, he finishes with bluish veins visible just beneath his skin and open red sores on the top of his balding head. He eventually gets smothered under a pillow.

By the time the story gets to Caligula (John Hurt), royal behavior delves into insanity. Caligula sleeps with and impregnates his sister. He hears voices. His best scene takes place with Claudius. Summoned to the emperor's room for what he suspects is his execution, Claudius instead learns that Caligula has undergone a metamorphosis. He now believes he is a living god and commences to act increasingly outlandish. He later guts his own sister to remove the unborn foetus. When a senate faction assassinates Caligula, Claudius inexplicably is tapped by the guards to be the next emperor. He'll eventually meets a similar fate.

Caligula (John Hurt) dances.

Near the end of the last episode, as Claudius makes his last speech to the Senate--he knows that his wife and Nero are plotting his death--his eyes glass over and he appears to go into a trance. You wonder if he hasn't had a stroke, but it's a nice device by director Wise to re-introduce some of the best characters from the series. Long dead cast members Livia, Augustus, Caligula, Tiberius and Claudius' mother, Antonia (Margaret Tysack), come to him in his imagination to offer comment. It's a touching moment, reminding the viewer how much you miss these great actors, and leaving you lamenting that the series is over, a feeling that is all too rare in film and books, but one that marks a special experience.

Phillips and Jacobi won BAFTAs for their work, and art director, Tim Harvey, an Emmy. That none of the actors were nominated for an Emmy is surely one of the most egregious omissions in the history of the award. The production was shown in the United States in 1977 on PBS' Masterpiece Theater.

The entire production takes place in the studio, though Harvey does a wonderful job depicting the gladiatorial arena, showing just the imperial box; the Senate chamber; and certain outdoor scenes, such as the palace gardens and Tiberius' retreat. Dick Bailey did the intriguing graphic design for the memorable opening, a large venomous black and purple snake, crawling across the title card, depicted on colorful ceramic tile.

As to how closely the novel and screen adaptation mirror history is up for debate. No doubt some events are suspect, but the consensus of modern historians is that it's a fairly reasonably accurate portrayal, though surely embellished. In any case, it captures the spirit of the day and continues to be one of the best productions ever made for television.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Great Television

I grew up with TV like most Americans born after World War II, and when I think of the hours and hours spent sitting in front of a tube in my life ..., well it's natural to regret the amount of time wasted. At its worse, television is pathetic and unproductive, particularly all the silly stuff you likely  watched as a kid. Take me for example. Gomer Pyle, Gilligan's IslandLaverne and ShirleyMy Three Sons, Sanford and Son, The Partridge Family...  you get the picture. Not exactly mind-expanding stuff. Of course, at the time I thought they were terrifically funny, and for kids, maybe they were. At least it kept me out of trouble. But today, you'd have to strap me in a chair a la Alex in A Clockwork Orange to watch those shows.

I can't say that my television diet as an adult has been all that much better. Dallas, Cheers, St. Elsewhere, etc., did little more than pass the time when you think about it. Certainly not as life-enhancing as visiting a museum or historical site. I suppose I watch less than I did, but it's still too much.

Still, I'm not knocking the invention. Downtime is important. And every once in a while, television reveals itself as a medium that indeed can contribute something wonderful to your life. There were moments when it was and is terrific and there are a handful of programs over the last fifty years that seem eminently worthwhile. Watched even today, they still have to power to move me, to entertain me, and cause me to reflect. Here's a list of ten favorites, in no particular order. 1977 was a great year.

1. I Claudius

This 13-part series from the BBC first appeared on US television as part of Masterpiece Theater in 1977. Steeped in Roman history it's narrated by an elderly Claudius, and covers a good chunk of Augustus' rule up to the deformed Claudius' rise to power and death, about 80 years. Augustus' wife, Livia, is evil personified as she manipulates her husband and knocks off his heirs one-by-one to elevate her own son, Tiberius, for emperor. Double dealing, incest, murder, and brutal politics have never been as fun.

2. Eleanor and Franklin 

The story of the Roosevelt's as told through Eleanor's eyes appeared in two ABC mini-series in 1976 and 1977. Edmund Herrmann played the president, and Jane Alexander, his wife, Eleanor. Nominated for 17 Emmys, it won eleven and was also awarded a Golden Globe for best TV Motion Picture. The timing could not have been better, as the nation's bi-Centennial brought interest in American history to the forefront. The story follows their courtship, his paralysis, through his presidency and death. Terrifically acted with wonderful production values. Maybe not always historically accurate, and perhaps too slanted toward the wife, it is still one of the best programs the Big Three networks ever presented. Five-time Oscar winner John Barry wrote one of TV's best musical scores.  

3. Mad Men

Now in its fifth season, this drama debuted in 2007 and details the lives of Madison Avenue ad executives during the amazing and turbulent 1960s. Featuring terrific and amusing scripts, and superb acting, it's biggest appeal for those who lived through it may be the frequent cultural references to the decade and the spot-on set decorations and clothing. None of its principal characters are one-dimensional, but rather are complicated souls who struggle with the changing times as they wrestle with what they really want out of life. Three more seasons are planned. As currently set in 1966, Vietnam is about to ramp up, promising a crazy backdrop for the series.  

4. Lonesome Dove
 Robert Duvall as Gus McCrae

Easily the best Western ever shown on television. A great adaptation of Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. First shown in 1989, the epic story of two Texas Rangers on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana soars on Robert Duvall's wonderful performance as Gus McCrae and McMurtry's magnificent screenplay.

Woodrow Call: You ever get tired o' loafin' I reckon you can get a job waitin' on tables.
Gus McCrae: Oh, I had a job waitin' tables once. S' on a riverboat. I wasn't no older than Newt, there, but I hadda give it up.
Newt: How come?
Gus McCrae: Well I was, too young and pretty and the whores wouldn't let me alone.

 5. The Civil War

Ken Burns magnificent documentary first aired in 1990 in nine episodes on PBS. Featuring period music, photography, the writings and speeches of historic figures, and commentary by contemporary historians like Shelby Foote, the epic story of America's greatest crisis unfolds in the best history lesson ever shown on television.

6. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

Hard to believe it's been two decades since Carson left late-night in 1992. He was an institution--the most comfortable personality on television. A welcome respite from your day. The topical monologue; Carnac the Magnificent with the sealed jar on Funk and Wagnal's porch; Art Fern and his buxom assistant; Floyd Turbo and his hunter's hat; Aunt Blabby; San Diego Zoo animals; and Ed McMahon's ridiculous laugh. He helped launch the careers of many comics, including Jerry Seinfeld and his eventually successor, Jay Leno; and brought movie stars and Hollywood royalty into our homes and made them real and human.

7.  The Olympics    
The thrill of victory -- 1980.
 "Do you believe in miracles?"
The Olympics consistently provide unparalleled sports excitement; and over one's lifetime, produce the most memorable snapshots of athletic competition, often amidst political and cultural backdrops that enhance the experience. The national fervor, grand opening ceremonies, Munich, Johnson vs Lewis, Usain Bolt, American over Russia, the Black Power Salute, Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10s. Scintillating moments all. The first I recall viewing was the Winter 1968 Games, with American skater Peggy Fleming and French skier Jean Claude Kiley becoming international stars. Better before professionalism infiltrated the competition, it's still some of the most inspirational and magnificent television you're likely to see.    

8. CBS coverage of the Space Program

The greatest adventure. Walter Cronkite's infectious enthusiasm over the space program during the 1960s made the station's nightly news must-see viewing, as thrilling as real life could get on television. He covered Mercury, Gemini, and most famously, the Apollo launches, culminating magnificently with the Moon landing in June, 1969. "Go, baby, go" he shouted as that ship rocketed off Cape Kennedy. Cronkite would stay live on the air for 27 of the next 30 hours. At Neil Armstrong's first footstep, Cronkite acted like a kid; breathing a sigh of relief, he rubbed his hands together in awe and said simply, "Boy!" Other memorable moments of coverage included Ed White's historic 1965 space walk and the 1967 tragedy of Apollo 1, when three astronauts were lost in a fire.  

9. Roots

In 1977 ABC aired a twelve-part series that became a cultural phenomenon. Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte, a slave captured in Africa and brought to America prior to the Revolution, and follows his descendants until they are liberated after the Civil War. Based on Alex Haley's best-seller, it featured a big cast of television stars of the day. The show pulled no punches when it came to displaying the horrors of slavery, and for its day didn't just push the envelope, it ripped it wide open. Production values sometimes are lacking but this was an important moment in American television that helped broaden the national conversation about race relations. It won nine Emmys and was nominated for another 28.      

10. The West Wing

The best TV has ever done in showing the inner workings of Washington politics, the way power gets wielded and compromises made. It debuted in 1999 and ran for seven seasons. The first four were easily the best, when it won the Emmy for Best Drama series. Martin Sheen was terrific as president Jed Bartlett, but the entire cast was excellent. It often mirrored the events of the day, such as North Korean shenanigans and political scandals. If it had too much of a liberal slant for some viewers, it at least portrayed good people on both sides of the political aisle, as well as plenty of dirty rotten scoundrels.    

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Alfie (1966) -- Gilbert Lewis

The life of a 1960's playboy in London is on full display in Alfie. Michael Caine is the title character who thinks he has a good thing going, stringing along several women at the same time, making sure to break it off at the first sign a girl is beginning to get serious. A devout hedonist, Alfie's cares are simple: have a good time and avoid responsibility. Were it not for Caine's terrific cajoling performance and his character's brilliant use of breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, we wouldn't like Alfie much. In fact, he's about as callous as it gets when it comes to the feelings of his companions, and rather despicable when you think about it. But somehow we can't quite hate the man. Despite his self-centered nature, we suspect that deep down there's some good that will eventually reveal itself. The film shows him take the first steps to self-awareness, though by the end we aren't really sure how far along that road he has come.  

Michael Caine as Alfie. "What's it all about?"

Director Gilbert Lewis wastes no time cuing us in on Alfie. The film opens with a shot of dogs prowling the night streets, a subtle commentary on Alfie's character. A terrific jazz score featuring tenor sax by Sonny Rollins connotes Alfie's devil-may-care attitude. The camera pans to a parked car. We hear a couple inside, obviously going at it. The tryst is interrupted and Alfie emerges. He spots the camera and begins to talk, making a joke. The well-designed sequence lets you know the story will be told from Alfie's perspective, and you are in on his take.

Women are merely objects. He calls them "birds," even using a dehumanizing "it," when referring to them. This first conquest is Siddie, a married woman who he soon drops because as he explains, she's getting too hot. He tells Siddie to treat her husband well; there's no reason to make anyone unhappy if you can avoid it.

Alfie's next stop is to see Gilda, who he tells us will never be a number 1. She's a sweet girl, but when he learns she's pregnant, he never thinks of marrying her. She gives birth, and perhaps a little surprisingly, Alfie doesn't abandoned the child but begins to display real affection for the first time. It's clear he likes being a dad--at least on the weekend. He walks the baby in the park, brings presents to comfort him when he cries, and later plays with him on the beach. If it could end with this, he'd be happy. However, it's not enough for Gilda. Desperate to give the child a proper, every-day father, she eventually turns to Humphrey, a boring bus conductor. Humphrey loves her and is willing to act serve as the child's father. They will eventually have their own baby, and in the most poignant moment of the film, Alfie watches its baptism in secret, wondering if that is the picture of true happiness. 

Throughout, the script is quite funny, especially for American viewers not used to Cockney slang. Of Gilda, Alfie says she's "lookin' mumsie."

A health scare sends Alfie for some rest at a sanitarium. But even here he can't change his behavior, connecting with a nurse while his roommate, another patient named Harry, and Harry's wife, Lily (Vivien Merchant), sit embarrassed in the next bed. Harry scolds him, "You beast." Later, Alfie shows how rotten he is by seducing Lily. Looking innocently at the camera he says, "Well, what harm can it do? Old Harry will never know. And even if he did, he shouldn't begrudge me - or her, come to that. And it'll round off the tea nicely."

Lily will become pregnant and Alfie pays for an illegal abortion. It's a life-altering event, though Alfie doesn't immediately realize it. In a harrowing sequence Merchant does a great job conveying the pain and humiliation of it all. Alfie justifies his actions: "My understanding of women only goes as far as the pleasure. When it comes to the pain I'm like any other bloke - I don't want to know." But he finally conveys some honest human emotion, crying when he sees the unborn foetus and later lamenting his part in it, confessing to a friend he committed murder.

Alfie in action at the sanitarium.
Chastened, Alfie goes to Ruby, another woman with whom he is carrying on. He tells us she "is in lovely condition." Played wonderfully by Shelley Winters, she knows how to play the game as well as her confident paramour. In the film's best scene, she gives Alfie a taste of his own medicine. Shocked to find another man in her bed, Alfie asks what the man has that he doesn't. "He's younger," she explains simply. A cold slap in the face.  

Caine and Winters.

The film ends where it began, at night along the river. Alfie runs into Siddie, whom he hasn't seen in ages. She rejects his advances, and he gives another soliloquy before walking off with the same dog that appeared at the beginning. Maybe he's learned something after all.

You know what? When I look back on my little life and the birds I've known, and think of all the things they've done for me and the little I've done for them, you'd think I've had the best of it along the line. But what have I got out of it? I've got a bob or two, some decent clothes, a car, I've got me health back and I ain't attached. But I ain't got me peace of mind - and if you ain't got that, you ain't got nothing. I dunno. It seems to me if they ain't got you one way they've got you another. So what's the answer? That's what I keep asking myself - what's it all about? Know what I mean? 

This is a unique film and Caine gives the best performance of his career, snagging an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. It's a shame, but his timing stunk. He had no chance given that year's competition, including Paul Scofield, who won for A Man for All Seasons, and Richard Burton for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Overall the film earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (Merchant), Best Music, and Best Writing. Merchant's other memorable film role came in Hitchcock's Frenzy (1973), where she played a police detective's wife, dispensing unsolicited advice while serving godawful dinners.

The familiar title song is by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In the American release Cher sang, and in the original English release, it was just instrumental. Dionne Warwick scored the big pop hit version. (In the inferior 2004 remake, Mick Jagger performs a terrific closing song, Old Habits Die Hard).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Invisible Man (1933) -- James Whale

In the 1930s Universal Studios hit upon a terrifically popular genre of film which featured distinctive monsters and spooky creatures that thrilled and excited movie audiences with suspense and danger. Because the genre was so commercially successful, the studio often developed horror series that showcased the characters and their offspring over the next ten to twenty years. The characters helped defined the legacy of the featured actors, and the films remain some of the most enjoyable classics, in large part for the obvious creativity of the directors and technicians employed to bring the stories to the screen.

The studio started it all with Dracula (Bela Lugosi) in 1931, and quickly followed with Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) later that same year. Today, most movie-lovers would consider these first two, Dracula and Frankenstein, as the dual kings of the creature features. But other scary characters came quickly on their heels, including The Mummy (Karloff again) in 1932; The Invisible Man (Claude Rains) in 1933; and The Wolf Man ( Lon Chaney Jr.) in 1941.

While you wouldn't want to meet any of these fellows on a dark night, if asked to choose, you might feel safest with The Invisible Man. However, in that you would be mistaken. The gauze-wrapped one was the most dangerous, racking up a staggering body count of at least 122.

One of author H.G. Wells best creations, the Invisible Man was published as a science fiction novella in 1897.  The story concerns a scientist who learns too late that there are some things that man must not meddle in. Director James Whale's cinematic take on the novella retains the basic elements, though the script adds a love interest, deletes a key character who briefly is coerced into helping The Invisible Man, makes the relationship between the Invisible Man and a former colleague much more familiar and recent, and alters the capture sequence.

Whale introduces the main character in a wonderfully atmospheric scene. A heavily garbed figure trudges through the swirling snow to the Lion's Head inn in search of a private room. His face is obscured behind dark glasses, a low-brimmed hat, and gauze wrapped tightly about the head.

The Invisible Man makes an ominous entrance.
The reaction of the inn's patrons to this strange apparition is fun to see. You can't blame them for wondering what type of man dresses so. The inn is run by horror film staple Una O'Conner, who will soon unleash her signature screaming, and is occupied by fellows who look like they spend a good amount of time in saloons. Familiar faces pop up throughout the film, including Henry Travers (Clarence the angel in It's a Wonderful Life); Walter Brennen; and Dwight Fry (Renfield in Dracula and Fritz in Frankenstein).

The strange boarder just wants to be left alone to conduct his mysterious experiments. He soon fills his room with test tubes, percolating beakers of liquid, and other scientific equipment. When O'Conner makes too much of a nuisance of herself, The Invisible Man loses his temper and knocks the woman's hen-pecked husband down a flight of stairs, prompting a call to the police. The Invisible Man disrobes and soon, police and patrons are wrestling with an unseen figure. This incident seems to push the man over the edge psychologically. He goes from being a desperate scientist to a mad fiend intent on world domination.

Whale infuses the film with several moments of intended humor: an unseen force knocks off a man's hat and throws out a quip; an empty shirt appears to dance in the air; and most outrageously, pants with nobody inside them cavort down the street as The Invisible Man sings "Here we go gathering nuts in May." The character occasionally unleashes a maniacal laugh. None of these are particularly funny today, but may have been to audiences eighty years ago.

Una O'Conner.
The special effects, however, are still remarkable, an aspect of the film that makes it memorable. Audiences of the 1930s must have been amazed, and it's easy to imagine youngsters leaving the theater and playing "invisible man" for weeks afterwards. My favorite are the footprints that magically appear in the snow near the end, as police smoke the trapped villain out of a barn. You'd think Whales would have been more careful--the prints show a man in shoes rather than bare-feet. Another is a spectacular train wreck caused by the Invisible Man. We later learn that this accident resulted in the death of 100 passengers. 

Jack Fulton did the special effects. He'd win two Oscars during his career, one for The Ten Commandments. Nominations for best effects came with three of the The Invisible Man sequels. Fulton wasn't the only crew member that helped director Whales produce a top-notch thriller. Pioneering cameraman Arthur Edeson gave the film a sharp look with technically ground-breaking shots, including two overhead crane shots used to show police closing in on the murderer. Edeson was one of the best in the business. He'd worked with Whale on Frankenstein. Among his other credits are the spectacular All Quiet on the Western Front, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Maltese Falcon.

An Example of the special effects -- The Invisible Man in a chair.

Having escaped the melee at the inn, and later mortally wounding a skeptical police officer with a bench to his head--his first murder--The Invisible Man makes his way to Dr. Kemp, a colleague he hopes to convince to partner with in a Reign of Terror. We learn that The Invisible Man's name is Jack Griffin. In an explanatory sequence, we are presented with the back story: Griffin has been fixated on secret research into optics. The novella goes into more detail than the film, but in essence it involves how objects absorb and reflect light. Griffin has learned to make himself invisible, but can't figure how to reverse the procedure.

Kemp, who'd like to get Griffin out of the way so he can pursue Griffin's fiance, Flora (Gloria Stuart of Titanic), calls in the police. Enraged, Griffin vows revenge, a promise he manages to achieve in what must be one of film's first "car over the cliff " sequences. Bound in the back seat, Kemp can only watch in terror as Griffin sends the car over the edge to a satisfying fiery explosion at the bottom.

The police eventually track the prey thanks to snow on the ground and Claude Rains finally gets revealed as The Invisible Man. Classic film-lovers, of course, recognize the distinctive voice from the first scene, but in 1931, American audiences got their first look at a man who would become one of our favourite character actors, securimg four Oscar nominations during the 1940s in the process.

Author H.G. Wells.

Author H.G. Wells was a prolific writer of science fiction and other genres. The Invisible Man was not the first film based on his work. French director George Melies found inspiration for his A Trip to the Moon (1902), featured in the recent film Hugo, from the works of Wells and Jules Verne. And Island of Lost Souls (1932) was based on the Wells novel, The Island of  Dr. Moreau. Wells continues to be a source for film-makers, one of the most famous being the 1960 feature, The Time Machine. Wells died in 1946.