You won't realize how many of your favorite movies
contemplate the heavens until you watch The Sun, the Moon and the Stars, a
documentary scheduled this month on American Movie Classics.
It's a real bit of eye candy that plays out as an
hour-long rumination by some film student. The basic premise: Our need to understand our
place in the cosmos is the drive that separates us from lesser,
non-opposable-thumb-sporting critters. As proof, the producers edit together scenes from
some of cinema's most grand and most mundane films -- from the glorious sunrises in Lawrence
of Arabia to cheesy moonscapes from Forbidden Planet.
The documentary is long on prose and short on substance.
Its best use is as a trivia game: "Name that Sci-Fi." The documentary credits
movies with forcing, or at least inspiring, the space race in the 1950s and 1960s.
Further, the section on space exploration on film posits, "We couldn't have
gotten to the moon without our imagination leading the way." In the immortal words of
Homer Simpson, "Doh!"
But one can enjoy the eclectic mix of clips. What other
program serves up the rapturous shots from space from Apollo 13 and Rocket Ship
X-M? One moment, you're watching the British inhabitants of First Men in the
Moon taking a proper tea with kippers aboard an intergalactic vehicle. The next
moment, Groucho Marx is cooing to Margaret Dumont, "Up in the sky, I see you,
sneaking around the moon. You wear a necktie so I'll recognize you." But the
science-fiction clips of wise-cracking space jockeys are not so preposterous when compared
with the archival footage of the Apollo 16 crew frolicking on the moon's surface.
Snippets of 36 films are included, dating back to
1902's A Trip to the Moon. And they're not all science-fiction -- there
are glimpses of Forrest Gump and Last of theMohicans. And, given the
title of the piece, Moonstruck is a natural.
In the summer-rerun doldrums, the show is a benign
amusement while waiting for the next elements in AMC's "Real to Reel"
series. The documentary debuts July 21, followed by Five Million Years to Earth,
then Angry Red Planet.