Earlier today, I was reading a now-deleted tweet from Congressional candidate Brianna Wu, in which she speculated that private companies would militarize the moon and use it as a place to launch rocks at the Earth. According to Wu, “Rocks dropped from there (the moon) have power of 100s of nuclear bombs.”
This, of course, immediately brought to mind Moon Zero Two, a “space western” that Hammer Films produced in the wake of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The year is 2021 and the moon is being colonized by private companies. The Americans and the Russians have made peace and now jointly run the Moon Hilton. Bill Kemp (James Olson) was one of the first men in the moon but, having grown disillusioned with working for heartless corporations, Kemp is now an independent operator, salvaging meteorites with his Russian partner, Korminski (Ori Levy). With his flight license about to be revoked by his enemies in the Corporation, Kemp has been grounded by his own girlfriend, Sheriff Elizabeth Murphy (Adrienne Corri).
Possible financial salvation comes when Kemp is hired by J. J. Hubbard (Warren Mitchell) to help him illegally salvage a sapphire asteroid that is orbiting the far side of the moon. At the same time, a young woman named Clementine (Catherine Schell, who later starred in another science fiction epic about the moon, Space: 1999) wants Kemp to help her search for her brother, who went missing while also working on the far side of the moon.
Moon Zero Two starts with some Schoolhouse Rock-style animation that shows how the U.S. and the Russians originally landed on the moon:
Though the animated opening seems more appropriate for an Ealing comedy, the rest of Moon Zero Two is a fairly straight western, with claim jumpers, shootouts, and a few moments of comedy coming from the story being set on the moon instead of Arizona. For instance, there’s a barroom brawl that takes place in zero gravity. Even while paying homage to old westerns, Moon Zero Two also tries to predict the future, which looks a lot like 1969. This means psychedelic costumes and a Vegas style dance revue at the Moon Hilton, one that is reminiscent of the USO show in Apocalypse Now. The mix of styles is enjoyably absurd and everyone seems to be having fun playing cowboy.
James Olson is the token American in the cast but, for fans of British comedy, the most interesting thing about Moon Zero Two will be seeing Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett in Til Death Do Us Part and inspired All In The Family‘s Archie Bunker, playing ruthless claim jumper, J. J. Hubbard. Hubbard’s main henchman is played by Bernard Bresslaw, who some viewers may recognize from the Carry On films. Also, Monty Python fans will want to keep an eye out for Carol Cleveland, who has a very small role as a stewardess.
Years after it was first released, Moon Zero Two was one of the first movies to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This was one of the earliest episodes, from before even TV’s Frank joined the show. I have not seen the MST 3K version but it is available both on YouTube and as a part of Shout Factory’s 25th Anniversary Box Set.
Here’s an artist’s rendering of Crow and Tom Servo having a Moon Zero Two-style shootout.
Tomorrow’s movie a day will be another space western, Peter Hyams’s Outland.