Blog Archive

Monday, July 20, 2015

Moon Zero Two (1969) – Review

Moon Zero Two is Hammer Films only foray into futuristic storytelling and easily one of their weirdest.  Directed by Roy Ward Baker, who helmed such classics as A Night to Remember and The Quatermass and the Pit, tackles space exploration in the far flung future of the year 2021.  That this movie came out three months after Neil Armstrong walked on the actual moon puts this movie in a separate category of odd.

Moon Zero Two poster

This film was marketed as “Space Western” and it is chock full of saloon brawls, claim jumpers and shootouts, and that isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it’s just that the filmmakers here took the genre mash-up a little too literally.

A hitching-post outside a space station, seriously?

Astronaut Bill Kemp (James Olsen) and his co-pilot and engineer Korminski (Ori Levy) are soon to be out of a job because their spacecraft is ten years old and deemed unsafe by the authorities. Everyone advises Kemp to sign up with the Space Corporation and become a commercial passenger pilot but he refuses because he didn’t become an astronaut to just wet-nurse a bunch of rich people.

We’re not selling out to the man.

Even Kemp’s girlfriend Elizabeth Murphy (Adrienne Corri) wants him to give up his dangerous job of salvaging space junk, worse for him is that as head of Moon Security it will be her job to see him grounded. Enter notorious millionaire J. J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) who has a proposition for Kemp that could land him a brand new ship and solve all his problems.

It’s the monocle that makes him look so trustworthy.

It seems that Hubbard has discovered an asteroid that consists of six tons of sapphires and he wants Kemp to help land it on the moon. The problem with the plan is that the whole thing is completely illegal as the authorities kind of frown on civilians crashing asteroids into the moon, so Hubbard needs Kemp to keep the job on the down low.

In space no one can hear your plot holes.

Complication in Kemp’s life keep piling up but the most challenging being Clementine Taplin (Catherine Schell) who has come to the moon to meet her brother who is a miner on the Dark Side of the Moon. She’s quite worried when her brother fails to show up and hires Kemp to fly her over to her brother’s claim to see if he is all right. This didn’t seem western enough for the filmmakers so most of these conversations take place in Moon City’s western themed saloon.

Space Saloon
Its rootinest, tootinest saloon on the moon!

Kemp and Clem arrive on the Dark Side, rent a Moon Fargo space buggy, drive across the moon’s forbidding landscape, and discover the dead body of her brother. Minutes after finding the poor dead miner they are attacked by gun toting thugs that work for Hubbard. Kemp is not one to be so easily taken and he quickly dispatches the three assassins and in the process discovers that Clem’s brother was murdered. Someone had switched his spacesuits oxygen with cyanide.

Dead Brother 
It was murder, and someone is responsible!

This film is pure product of the sixties; from its ultra-mod production designs to the hip soundtrack by Don Ellis, and even goofier is the animated “Schoolhouse Rock!” style opening title sequence that has nothing to do with the movie. It shows an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut battling over planting their respective flags on the moon yet nothing in this movie has to do with the United States or Russia. I guess government corporations and evil privatization villains would have been harder to animate. Moon Zero Two Animated Credit Sequence

Moon Zero Two is not a terrible film but they really should have gone easier on the western motif; spacemen with six-shooters and barroom brawls in zero gravity does not a good science fiction film make. In the case of said bar room brawl their ideas of a fight where the gravity has been turned off is just to have everybody wander around in slow-motion. It’s embarrassingly bad.

Not the safest place to put that switch in a saloon.

James Olsen does a fairly good job as a man who won’t compromise his principles but will also bend the rules a bit for his own benefit. Catherine Schell has the least interesting character as the standard frontier damsel in distress, while on the other I hand loved Adrienne Corri as the baddass head of security, not to mention the fact that her entire security detail consists of women. That’s pretty awesome.
I particularly like her holsters strapped to her thigh-high boots.

It’s a shame that Hammer Films didn’t tackle any more futuristic topics because they really had a great team of artisans on their side as most of the effects stuff for this movie looked great. Maybe now that Hammer is back to making horror films one of them will take a shot at science fiction again.

I just loved Moon City.

No comments: