Written by: Ron Cotton on March 26th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1989
Director: Robert Dyke
Writer: Tex Ragsdale
Cast: Walter Koenig, Bruce Campbell, Leigh Lombardi, Robert Kurcz, John J. Saunders, Reavis Graham, Tom Case
DVD released: February 23rd, 2015
Approximate running time: 86 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: 88 Films
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £10.91
Synopsis: During a NASA space mission, Astronauts Jason Grant (Walter Koenig) and Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) come across an ancient spacecraft in earth’s orbit. As Jason spacewalks a Manned Maneuvering Unit about the hull of the spaceship, he’s astounded by its sheer size. Engraved Hieroglyphs marks the edge of the ship, it’s text is reminiscent to the ancient Egyptians. When a breach is found in the hull, Jason discovers a metallic egg-like structure and a rotted human corpse.
Upon returning, Dr. Barnes carbon dates the human corpse to be a fourteen-thousand year old astronaut. Computer analysis further determines that the spaceship has landed on the moon before. Jason and Ray use this information to convince state officials to make another space landing on the moon (even though such a mission hasn’t taken place in over twenty years). In return, new technologies and perhaps even weapons might be found in this new space voyage to fortify American interests. While debating, the metallic egg opens up to show it’s true nature.
Made of both man and machine, this cybernetic horror wraps it’s tendrils around biomass (both living and dead) and man-made electronics integrating what it lacks to become a new deadly monstrosity. Alarms wail throughout the facility and security scrambles to a lit hallway with the beast silhouetted from behind. Doctor Barnes attempts to make first contact with the cyborg, but once his arm becomes dismembered, he has a change of heart. Whipping his head around to the security lineup armed to the teeth, he yells “Get the son-of-a-bitch!” The monster seems undaunted by the barrage of shotgun blasts and cuts down all who oppose it’s might. Jason, with the aid of Ray, climbs into the duct work and Jason blasts the brains of the beast. Instantaneously, the cyborg falls apart at the seams.
In the aftermath, the two astronauts go back to their everyday lives on earth. Jason receives a drunken call from Ray from Joey’s strip joint and naturally feels that it’s his duty to save his friend before he “shoots his mouth off about the classified stuff.” When he meets up with Ray, Ray exclaims “They’re getting ready to light that last big candle and it’s top priority!” Jason is flabbergasted that the moon landing is happening, and they’ve been chosen for the mission.
After watching this movie, I pondered if Moontrap’s abandoned spaceship came from photos of the Black Knight during the STS-88 space mission. According to legend, it’s a thirteen thousand year old earth satellite that appears to be a dark menacing spacecraft. Many historic myths and legends surround Black Knight. In the same illuminated camp, some believe that NASA has blurred it’s surface pictures of the moon where structures were. Suffice it to say that this becomes good fodder to write a screenplay from.
The initial release of Moontrap initially emphasized the lead role of Walter Koenig as Star Trek’s Chekov. With this new release, Moontrap highlights the comical sidekick Bruce Campbell whose cult following cannot be dismissed. While Walter Koenig leaves his horrible accent out of this film, his performance is out shined by the cameo parts that Bruce Campbell portrays especially at Joey’s strip joint. One side note, Walter Koenig was chosen by Roddenberry for Star Trek because he had the spitting image of Davy Jones from The Monkeys.
The alien appears to be an amalgamation of popular late-80s culture with classic science fiction. The unstoppable aliens, when they come out of the shell are akin to the Manta Ray War Machines with Death Rays in Byron Hackin’s War of the Worlds. Once the alien unites with other body parts, it appears to be something out of a popular science fiction gaming like Metroid (1986) and R-Type (1987). Even in death, beasts that Jason and Ray contend with crumples and dies in an unreal fashion.
The dialog tends to be headstrong with tons of male machismo, snide remarks and sarcasm, even when communicating to NASA. The drama is laid on thick at times, and breaks in dialog gives the audience time to laugh and comment at the absurdities in this film. Many of the shots made in the film tend to fill a scene rather than focusing on tight closeups. The ending of the film screams to the viewer of an upcoming sequel.
This review is for 88 Films DVD release for Moontrap and to date the only Blu-Ray for this film is a USA release from Olive Films. Before, official releases of this film were available on laserdisc and VHS. During the screening of the film, I found minor print damage in the transfer. During the first battle with the cyborg, a cut running vertically can be seen. Also, jitter can be seen during the beginning black-on-white text showing a date, most likely caused from sprocket damage. Besides these nit picking details, the scenes and the movie felt like a natural 80s film and most likely the best transfer this film would ever see, but this is somewhat hard to discern on a DVD source rather than a Blu Ray source.
Moontrap’s synthesized soundtrack is moody and at times is akin to early works of John Carpenter. This which fits perfectly in the science fiction genre and also with boosting the humorous dramatism. Audio in this film has a very natural mix, for dialog, special effects and music with no apparent audio artifacts.
The DVD includes the Moontrap trailer (2:08) and a compilation of trailers from 88 Films (21:01).
For those who love the world of Moontrap, fear not, there’s more to be had and more to come. Caliber Comics released in 1989 the Moontrap comic which included the movie’s production notes. The film sequel Moontrap: Target Earth takes place 25 years after Moontrap, co-written by the original author Tex Ragsdale and director Robert Dyke. Currently in post-production and is set to be released this year. Screenwriter Tex Ragsdale also wrote two Young Adult books “Spidertown” and “Return to Spidertown.”