Lisa Stansfield has, to date, only ever recorded one good song. Unsurprisingly, this is a Cole Porter tune that can be found on the Red Hot & Blue album. The song is called Down in the Depths, an adequate description of where prospective audiences can find the rest of her production. Down in the depths is also where we, unfortunately, find a large number of science fiction films. None, however, could possibly rank lower than my personal favourite. When released in 1989, this film must have dropped like a small asteroid through a wet paper bag. It plummeted down into uncharted depths, foolishly going where no film had dared, or even had the misfortune of, going before. The name of this remarkable work within science fiction cinematography, is Moontrap. After the initial viewing, during which I and a good friend courageously resisted all attempts at throwing ourselves at the STOP button on the video, it was quickly renamed. Its new name is much more in line with the film itself, a guide to its contents, an enlightenment to the potential viewer of what he or she may expect. We called it Mooncrap.
What this 92 minute embarrassment did to the career of director Robert Dyke I dare not for a fleeting moment contemplate, but I have yet to find a reference to him in any cinematic literature or film guides, including the exceptionally up-to-date and comprehensive Directors List on InterNet. On said InterNet, with its hundreds of thousands of users, a growing number of kind souls maintain and administrate various lists, among which is the aforementioned Directors List. Another is the Movie Ratings List, in which all people with access to InterNet are encouraged to vote on films, ranking them from 1 to 10. It is interesting to note that on this list, Mooncrap managed to get a rating of 2.8, the same as that of such box office hits like Jaws 3-D and Porky's Revenge, with a grand total of 9 people voting for it. What is even more remarkable, and should serve as a strong guide to the quality of this film, is that Plan 9 from Outer Space, which has been awarded the prestigious title of Worst Film of All Time, managed to get a rating of 2.9 on the same list ...
The story in Mooncrap is fairly straight forward. Aging space shuttle pilot Walter Koenig is teamed up with Bruce ''Evil Dead'' Campbell. They come across some alien artifact machinery and cannot, of course, resist the temptation to salvage said treasure. Unfortunately, it turns out that the machinery has a purpose in life: To eradicate mankind from the Universe. The fight for the survival of the human race starts and naturally there is only a handful of people upon whom the fate of the planet Earth rests, and equally predictably, they are expedited with ever increasing swiftness.
Members of the audience who have managed to make it thus far are now expected to believe not only the incredulous event that a 10,000 year old woman is revived from cryogenic sleep, not looking a day over 25, but how aforementioned woman, presumably because she has nothing else to do during ten minutes, falls in love and accompanies hero One in to an inflatable tent on the surface of the Moon. While I can agree that many other films have lapses in logic, the final nail in the coffin of Mooncrap is the inflatable tent. If nothing else has forced you into a state of catatonic laughter, gasping for air and sanity, the four square meter, white, inflatable pyramid tent will.
Mooncrap isn't all bad. Considering the complete lack of budget the production team had, it must be said that they made rather imaginative use of the small funds they did possess where special effects were concerned. However, since most viewers have their eyes filled with tears, having fallen into one of two categories, either rolling on the floor laughing at the supernova sized holes in the plot, or squirming in pain at the acting performances, or rather lack thereof, few people actually get a chance to see them. This said, Mooncrap does have one redeeming feature. Unlike that epic film within the field of Computer Science -- Sorting Out Sorting -- Mooncrap doesn't repeat the entire film at five times the speed at the end.
Let's face it. The year 1989 was not a good year for the science fiction film industry. Even the Sense Of Wonder experience of the year, The Abyss treated the audience to one and a half hours of stunning film, only to, during the last 50 minutes, slowly sink down into the watery void in which it had been set, finishing off as a lavish accolade to all set carpenters that have ever worked in Hollywood. Nothing short of abysmal. It was also the year of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. If the starship Enterprise has ever boldly gone where no one has gone before, it was during this mindnumbing voyage. As though Walter Koenig hadn't embarrassed himself sufficiently during this dark year of film: Not only does he appear in Mooncrap, he also displays complete defiance of all public reaction and finishes off with a quick change of clothes to the Star Trek crew's uniform of the year.
Star Trek is at its best when the cast are enjoying themselves. During these moments, they don't take their roles too seriously, there is an air of humour, little puns are exchanged, and the characters play off each other in a way that keep audiences keen and amused. A good example of this is in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, not least in the scene in which Captain James T. Kirk and Mr Spock, while given a ride back to the location of their starship, are extended an offer to visit an Italian restaurant and settle the matter of whether they eat Italian food or not. During the The Final Frontier, the entire cast must have suffered terrible indigestion, for there is little in the way of humour in this film, with the exception of the plot. This is the story of the crew of a ship that have been everywhere, seen everything, met everybody, save their creator. I shan't disclose more of the plot, suffice to say that they now probably possess the most coveted autograph in the Universe (and I don't mean that of Zaphod Beeblebrox written with his third arm).
Having survived 1989 and with careful anticipation of better films during the following year, it was with a mixture of fascination and horror that I saw Hardware. Right from the start it was clear that its audience was divided into two halves. On the one side, people who hated it. On the other, me, and a handful of other, strong, courageous people who stood up for their views, determined not to give into group mentality, who with their exceptional insight into the world of cinematography saw this film for what it really was: Absolutely terrible, but with a number of very interesting features.
Let it be known from the start. Hardware is, as a film, nothing short of appalling. The most intriguing characteristic about it is not that it has a bad plot, it simply doesn't have a plot at all. If pushed, one might be able to discern that there is an idea to a story, but this is so heavily concealed in dark, dismal music, stark, cold lighting and heavy, damp atmosphere, that it is simply easier to write off the entire film as a number of scenes strung together in a almost, though not entirely, random order.
Hardware is more of a psychedelic trip without the adverse effects of drugs. It is the future; massive environmental damage; excruciating heat; nonexistent ozone layer; the few who have, the millions that haven't; the survival of the dirtiest, meanest, strongest. It is a world where exponential population growth has caused problems that extend far beyond the trivial matter of distribution of wealth, welfare and food. It is a world where terrifying solutions are sought to insurmountable problems. Set in this cosy environment, snugly wrapped in electronic security systems, high in the polluted sky, is Jill. It's Christmas and Jill's restless boyfriend, Mo, has just come home from the Zones, looking forward to a few days away from the rat race of the outside world. But what Jill, Mo, Shades and the others don't know, is that the government have employed a new Santa Claus this year, and he is not only looking for good children. Anyone will do.
The best word for this film is beautiful. It may seem a little strange at first, but the way in which this story is visually told, the manner in which the picture of the world is painted is just that. Beautiful. The film may suffer from a terrible plot, but the existing plot is conveyed with very effective techniques. It is a film for people who like to see films actively. You can't just sit there and hope to get everything served to you, for you will surely miss a lot of the fine qualities of the film. It is a film for people who like to notice the little details; the brand name of the cigarette that Jill drags on, gazing off into the sunset as devastating measures are being announced over the radio, barely audible in the background; the polaroid pictures on Jill's neighbour's wall; the name of the woman credited as Footsteps Editor at the end ...
I highly recommend this film. The integration of the lone slide guitar, the red sky, the dark, dirty streets, the hopelessness, the mutant, disturbed characters and the violent terror that rests over it all is superb. One drawback is that the film is very violent, far more than is necessary, but yet it still doesn't feel entirely out of place. Considering the world it takes place in, anything less would probably just seem pathetic in comparison.
The year now is 1992. It is the year of follow-ups. Directors who can't find the imagination, budget, or energy to make a sequel, simply re-edit an existing film and release it as a ''director's cut'', thus implying that in some manner their creative process was hampered by ignorant people in their vicinity during the first editing of the film. Such is the fate of Blade Runner. It is with a certain feeling of impeding doom that I await the re-release of this film, in its new ''directors cut'' clothes, in Sweden. Personally, I thought that the voice-over in the original version was a bold move that worked rather well. I liked the idea that it was hinted that Deckard might be a replicant himself, but never actually disclosed, and whereas the end churned my belly as much as anyone else's, it is still with a measure of wariness that I shall see the new version. I don't believe in going back and correcting mistakes in films. I believe that directors, editors, actors, writers, composers and everyone else in the film industry should learn from their mistakes and make the next film a better one. Not the same one slightly differently.
So, run off to your local video store and rent Hardware, if you didn't see it at the pictures or recently on the film channels on cable. In fact, even if you did, nip on down, rent it and see it again. Notice all the little details that actually exist in there, but which you missed last time when you were too busy picking out the flaws in the story. As for Mooncrap, who could put it better than Mo Baxter: ''It's dead, baby!''