Friday, August 22, 2008

Moon Zero Two


NOTE: This movie is part of Warner Brothers "Sci-Fi Double Feature" DVD series, which are a Best Buy exclusives. Purchase price, before tax, was $16.99. Beware of listings on eBay and elsewhere that inflate the price.

Starring James Olson (The Andromeda Strain) and Catherine Schell (Space: 1999) Moon Zero Two is a Hammer Films sci-fi 'western' set on the moon. In fact the blurb on the cover proudly proclaims this "The first 'moon western'" - which is unfortunate because Moon Zero Two has more the feel of a espionage/crime drama than it does an action movie. It also endeavors to portray life on the moon realistically, or at least as realistically as future life on the moon was imagined to be like projected forward from the late sixties.

What makes this movie unique is it's one of the few purely science fiction movies Hammer, a studio whose name has become synonomous with cult horror, produced. When critics refer to a movie as being produced in the "Hammer Style" it's a high complement for Hammer was renowned for utilizing vibrant costumes, great sets, and top-notch talent. Hammer studios were responsible for such movies such as The Vampire Lovers, The Evil of Frankenstein, and Rasputin, the Mad Monk. Yet Moon Zero is not a horror movie. In fact it's unlike any other move they produced. And they produced camp classics like Creatures the World Forgot, The Viking Queen, and, the very movie paired with Moon Zero on this Warner Brothers double feature, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.

Moon Zero's plot concerns a gemstone rich asteroid, a corrupt greedy millionaire, larceny, and murder. There is also a space bar, a laughable zero-G bar brawl, product placement. .

Dancing girls. .

And there's even some nice miniatures work. .

But does Moon Zero Two qualify as a western?

Well the Moon is in the process of being colonized, thus it's 'frontier' territory, and there are miners with claims to jump. Alas there aren't any moon natives to fight over land with, thus no moon cavalry, nor any of the myriad other oft used western clich├ęs. The characters are archetypal- the greedy millionaire (land baron), mercenary salvage pilot (reluctant hero), gun-toting bodyguard (gun slinger for hire), the sheriff (female space cop), prospectors (miners)- but they're also generic, almost too generic. So, yeah, Moon Zero Two qualifies as a 'western' set (of course) on the moon.

And the story?

In brief Captain Kemp (first man to land on Mars) and his partner are currently living on the moon eking out a living using an old lunar lander to ferry passengers from place to place and collect space debris for salvage. In fact when we first meet Kemp he's taking a spacewalk to collect a malfunctioning satellite to bring it back for salvage. .

Alas, since there's not much on the Moon besides Moon City and miners working stake claims that doesn't exactly give our would-be hero much to do. That is until Clementine Taplin arrives looking for her brother..

Ms. Taplin's brother is missing. It gets better, he's a moon miner who sent her a message about striking the proverbial mother lode of, well, something. She's not sure what. It's all very vague and borderline mysterious.

So a man has gone missing on the Moon and his sister comes looking for him, a millionaire is conspiring to grab a gem rich asteroid, and in the middle of all this is Captain Kemp. The mystery about the missing brother stretches on and becomes little more than a hazy background sub-plot used to get our hero from point A to point B as a matter of convenience to move the lumbering plot forward. Which is part of the problem.

Moon Zero Two is a movie could have developed as a murder-mystery or even a espionage flick ala James Bond but, instead, it just sort of trudges along almost as if those involved with this production weren't quite sure what to do with it. At least the signature Hammer cinematography is in evidence, as are great looking sets and costumes, and the movie does manage to entertain despite itself. But if you're on the fence about science fiction or prefer fast paced action movies then this will likely disappoint.

Moon Zero Two is a movie most have probably never heard of, I certainly hadn't before buying the DVD, but it grows on you. Perhaps it was the "mod" space fashions, which also appeared in better-known TV series such as Space: 1999 and UFO, or the sets and costumes. .

Either way Moon Zero is a great introduction to the wild and wacky world of 70s era "mod" science fiction. I thus heartily recommend this movie for it's kitsch style.

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan


Robert Monell said...

I found it a lot of campy fun with brightly colored sets and costumes. I just like the "look" of it and it was a rush of 60's nostalgia for me. I think this will appeal to older viewers like myself rather than the younger brought-up-on-CGI FX generation who demands large budgets and that kind of crap.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Jim Danforth's stop-motion animation is superb in When Dinosaur's Ruled the Earth !! I remember the title sequence for Moon Zero Two being very funny !!