Film Review: Moon Zero Two (1969)

Also known as: Alerte Satellite 02 (France), Gangsters na Lua (Brazil)
Release Date: October 20th, 1969 (Denmark)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Michael Carreras, Martin Davison, Frank Hardman, Gavin Lyall
Music by: Don Ellis
Cast: James Olson, Catherine Schell, Warren Mitchell, Adrienne Corri, Michael Ripper

Hammer Films, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, 100 Minutes

Review:

“If we’re gonna play, we’re gonna play by my rules!
[flips the artificial gravity switch, so the bar fight is now happening in slow motion]” – Kemp

Moon Zero Two was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 but it isn’t as bad as such an honor would suggest. Sure, it is fairly terrible and bizarre and also, incredibly dated. However, it is a wee bit better than other schlocky ’60s space movies.

First of all, it was made by Hammer Films in the UK. The studio famous for their re-imagining of classic Universal Monsters characters. They gave us Christopher Lee’s Dracula and Mummy, Peter Cushing’s Dr. Frankenstein and Van Helsing and a slew of other offshoots, sequels and stylish gothic horror remakes. They also dabbled in straight up sci-fi too with the respected Quartermass films.

This film is also directed by Roy Ward Baker, who was hired by Hammer to helm several films. One of those being one of the Quartermass movies. Baker wasn’t as great as Terence Fisher but he was still pretty accomplished and had a lot of good experience under his belt.

I guess the real problem with Moon Zero Two and why MST3K had to take shots at it, is the overall style of the film. It is low budget, boasts shoddy effects, silly costumes, silly hair and looks like a retro-futuristic 1960s relic. But at the same time, those are also the things that make this movie kind of cool.

The film also stars one of Hammer’s scream queens, Adrienne Corri, who was fantastic in Vampire Circus and probably most famous as the home invasion rape victim in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Catherine Schell is also in this and she would go on to be in the similar styled television series Space: 1999. In fact, I think this movie had some influence on the style of that iconic British show.

Moon Zero Two came out at the height of the space race when everyone was lunar crazy. But it takes that and gives an interesting twist to a film that is really just about a real estate scam. This was also marketed as “The first western on the Moon”. I don’t really get the western vibe from it and IMDb doesn’t categorize it as such but I guess the Moon’s surface can look like the wilderness of the Old West if you squint and ignore the lunar rovers.

I like this hokey, groovy motion picture. I can’t realistically give it a good rating but it certainly isn’t going to be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer either. It exists in this weird limbo between good and bad but with a peculiar stylistic panache that keeps its head above the muck.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Space: 1999, the Hammer Quartermass films, When Dinosaurs Ruled the EarthOne Million Years B.C. and At the Earth’s Core.

Film Review: Cosmic Princess (1982)

Release Date: December, 1982
Directed by: Charles Crichton, Peter Medak
Written by: Johnny Byrne, Fred Freiberger
Music by: Barry Gray, Derek Wadsworth
Cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell, Brian Blessed

Group 3, ITC Entertainment Group, RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, 91 Minutes

cosmic-princessReview:

Cosmic Princess is a television movie that was made for American audiences using two episodes of the British television show Space: 1999. It was the fifth and final feature length film created from that show. It is comprised of a pair of season two episodes, The Metamorph and Space Warp. The episodes are spliced together with some alterations and edits, making them one tale where they were originally two separate stories.

This film also appeared on the original first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when the show was still only on public access in Minnesota.

I’ve been an avid science fiction fan my entire life. While I have seen Space: 1999, I wasn’t as fond of it as a lot of the other stuff on television back then. It kind of plays like a more serious version of the original Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. The uber seriousness is probably why I didn’t adore it like those other shows.

As a feature film, Space: 1999 doesn’t translate well. The editing is a mess and no matter how hard they tried to make Cosmic Princess into a coherent story, it still feels like two unrelated tales amateurishly welded together.

The first half of the film was the better half. It wasn’t good but it had Brian Blessed as an evil space warlord. Once that plot is resolved, we get a sort of “monster of the week” episode. The first half is more exciting and the stakes feel higher. The second half is pretty boring and doesn’t feel all that important unless you were invested into certain characters. If you had lots of episodes to invest your emotion into, it would probably work. As a final act of a film, it is empty and pointless.

The source material probably isn’t half bad but seeing it like this, isn’t doing anyone any favors.

Additionally, the film features some good shots and decent effects but by 1982, they already look incredibly dated when compared to Battlestar and Buck Rogers. Plus, Star Wars had already been out for five years when this hit the airwaves. Granted, it looks better than the Doctor Who special effects of that era but it certainly couldn’t match the charm.

Cosmic Princess is really a nonsensical mess. But I don’t blame Space: 1999 for that, it just shouldn’t have been edited into a series of TV movies.