BBC Arts has partnered with the BFI to release the newly restored version of Britain’s first full-length science fiction film, with a specially commissioned soundtrack from Matthew Herbert. It is the first time in a century that the film — made in 1913 — can be seen at its original length.

A Message from Mars (1913) is the first full-length science fiction feature in the history of British cinema. It stars the leading comedy actor of his day, Charles Hawtrey, as a selfish man who is taught a series of valuable lessons by a visiting Martian.

The stakes are high, for the Martian will only be permitted to return to his home planet if he is successful in his mission to instil a change of heart in his subject.

The film was based on a popular stage play which saw many revivals over 30 years in Britain. It features the first on-screen imaginings of Martians by a British film-maker, as futuristically clad members of the Martian court.

The film survived in the collection of the BFI National Archive as two shortened versions with significant imperfections in the third reel and a number of missing scenes.

Scans from these copies were combined with a tinted and toned print from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York to bring the film back to its original one-hour running time.

Restoration specialists at the BFI National Archive devoted six months of painstaking work on identifying the missing scenes from each copy and producing a new master with the best available image quality and reproducing the applied colours of the original prints.

 

To watch the film, and for more information, click here



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