A Message from Mars: Britain's first ever sci-fi feature film
12 December 2014
BBC Arts has partnered with the BFI to release a newly restored version of Britain’s first full-length science fiction film, A Message from Mars, with a specially commissioned soundtrack from Matthew Herbert.
Available to watch below, it is the first time in a century that the film - made in 1913 - can be seen at its original length.
Plus, ahead of the release, BBC Arts made a special behind-the-scenes film following the work of the BFI technical experts who spent six months painstakingly restoring the silent picture for the digital age.
About the film
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.