Friday Night – is made for old movies (when I stay in) – and I have found an old gem
I run hot and cold on the “going out on the weekend” jaunts. When I was younger, I felt like I had to go “out” on Friday and Saturday night. Either I was looking for a girl, or I was looking for a good time.
Inevitably, I would find the girl and the good time, but after a few weeks we would settle into a “Let’s watch TV mode” that blights all couples. Or you get married and blighted, too.
Point being, I am in a “I don’t wanna go out” on the weekend mood and I have fallen back to the comfort of my 12-13 year old Shelby years, when I would stay at home and watch television.
During those days, mostly, I would go for the science fiction shows that were on what we called Atlanta’s “SuperStation 17,” when it went by the call letters WTCG or WTBS. Shows like “The Outer Limits,” “UFO” or “Space 1999” and even the occasional original episode of “Star Trek” would enthrall me. The Brit TV outings like “The Avengers” and “The Saint” were on the CBS Friday Night Late Movie, although I really just didn’t pay much attention to any scene Diana Rigg wasn’t in. (Can you blame me?)
Dianna Rigg, above, in her Avenger’s Color 1967 garb
In the past couple of weeks, I have discovered one that slipped the net of Shelby’s prepubescent consumption: Moon Zero Two.
I have nothing bad to say about this movie. Other than the fact it is an on demand DVD, meaning it has NO special features (even though the two principals, James Olson and Catherine Schell are still alive to provide an interview and commentary track, and any number of film historians would take about $50 and a shot of scotch to review it).
And Catherine Schell looks good in, or not in, all her clothes in the “Moon Zero Two” photo above (Jim Olson is on the right … did I mention how absolutely stunning and Venus like Catherine Schell is? Well, she is):
The “Moon Zero Two” plot concerns Olson’s Capt. William H. Kemp, an aging astronaut-hero who runs a space salvage operation on the moon where he scratches out every buck for survival. He gets involved with (the stunningly lovely) Schell’s Clementine Taplin, who is trying to find a lost miner brother on the far side of the moon. Throw in a no nonsense, do anything for a Lunar Dollar businessman and an asteroid made of sapphire and there is the standard action conflict.
This movie has been described as a Space Western, and I see the tropes, what would be called homage today – six shooter, bad guy vs. good guy, aging hero, and show downs. But the same plot devices are used in Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, Ben Hur, Hornblower etc., and were long before Akira Kurosawa provided a Samurai/Cowboy shorthand for lazy film critics. This film is closer to “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” than “Seven Samurai.”
And it gets the science and technology of the moon down right, and explains it in a way that even Kubrick could have learned from on 2001 – make it simple and don’t drag it out.
The science is pretty bang on. There are real concerns about gravity and the propulsion physics of space. In a few words during one scene, Olson describes to Schell why lunar life can be deadly, and what he says moves the plot forward and answers a lot of questions about life on the moon in 2021 without dragging the plot down.
That is the problem with a lot of 60s productions about space, they were slightly a notch above the bug eyed monster craze of the 50s in terms of believable science, which make them laughable today. But audiences were savy by 1969/1970 having been exposed to coverage of the real NASA lunar program and other space exploration efforts.
And Catherine Schell is in it just after she was one of the many Bond girls in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
I would say this movie owes a pat on the back from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun” and the then in production television show “UFO,” in terms of realism and look. Anderson’s productions always were grounded in mostly believable science. And those Anderson shows had a stylistic look, with props that make sense, and good looking 60s women in future clothes. So does “Moon Zero Two.”
(More than one person has noted that. Seems the spacesuit costumes were reused as well, just like the Anderson’s “UFO” props and costumes, too. And the wig look was borrowed as seen below with the left side of the image being a “Moon Zero Two” image and the right a “UFO” moonbase operative.)
All just television shows and movies, but, for me, It all makes one long for the future we were promised but never realized in the late 60s.
Now, where is my food in a pill and hover car?