Moontrap (1989) DVD Review

moontrapdvdMoontrap (1989) DVD review

Director – Robert Dyke
Starring – Walter Koenig, Bruce Campbell, Leigh Lombardi

Run time – 91 minutes
DVD Label – 88 Films

In this alien invasion oddity, astronaut and investigator Campbell leads the charge against an inexplicable extraterrestrial evil. Joining him on his jolting journey into outer space, and a sustained interplanetary showdown, is STAR TREK icon Walter Koenig – returning to boldly go where few men would ever dare! – 88 Films.

Moontrap is a movie that had promise, due to reasons that will be detailed shortly, but frustratingly it is stifled out by poor scripting, shoddy sound and an unexciting plot.

What may attract interest to the feature is the two actors that star in it. Walter Koenig, Chekov of Star Trek fame, is the lead role of Jason – a colonel of a space craft. Koenig is joined by Bruce Campbell who is known to some for his roles in the original Evil Dead franchise (and other B movie trash). The casting of these two men may have been a tactic to attract the attention of the respective fan bases of both. Unfortunately once having seen the film their fans may have been disappointed back upon Moontrap’s release in 1989. The same could be said of the movie now.

The feature is obviously a sci-fi genre entry and that again creates promise that it will be entertaining. The opening scenes further this when the viewer sees footage of the original moon landings of the sixties before the narrative jumps forward in time to show space travel in the context of Moontrap’s time frame. It is a technique to illustrate this is some time into the future and a lot has changed.

moon1But the film doesn’t quite go the distance. There are several plot holes as well as key information being left out. The script doesn’t go into great detail about what is happening, just the bare minimum is offered. Characters often make guesses as to what is going on that is conveniently correct despite it not being credible that they could come to such a conclusion. Their detective skills would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. It is a lazy way to sidestep actual storytelling.

It is the script again that causes some of the sheen to come off Moontrap, this time what it requires the actors to say. Much of what is said, especially Koenig’s lines, is average at best and close to cliché at worst. “Oh Christ!” and “Oh god!” are uttered quite often. Even Campbell’s knowing hammy acting cannot rescue these moments.

Throughout Moontrap the soundtrack and audio are woeful. Sound effects and even the speech of the actors are muffled or nearly mute in places, becoming more difficult to hear when the score blasts away over them. This could be that the soundtrack was made in stereo but Moontrap have used it on their feature in mono. The score is over the top in places and feels as if it would be better suited on a melodramatic US soap opera, not a sci-fi flick. It all adds up to equal an irritant and another downside of the movie.

It must be said that the location/set used for scenes when the characters are ‘on the moons surface’ are impressive, the bleak and desolate feeling that director Dyke goes for managing to create some atmosphere.

moon2A long rumoured and delayed sequel will be out this spring, currently subtitled Target Earth.

Special features consist of the trailer for the main feature plus the standard collection of 88 Film’s trailers. The inclusion of the Two Moon Junction (which is worth a watch, by the way) trailer stands out a mile as it is slotted in there with ones for the likes of Puppet Master and Tourist Trap.

Numerous weaknesses bog down Moontrap, leaving it underwhelming and bland for the most.

3 out of 10.

James Simpson (@JSimpsonWriter)

Amazon order page –

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) UK Cinema Release

caligariposterDas Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (cinema release, 1920)

Director – Robert Wiene

Starring – Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover, Hans Heinrich v Twardowski

Run Time – 77 minutes

Language – silent with English subtitles

Release Date – Friday 29th August

Label – Masters of Cinema

Across six acts, Francis (Feher) tells the tale of his friend Alan (Twardowski) and him competing for the love of Jane (Dagover). While this is happening they visit a carnival in a nearby village. At the carnival they see a show put on by Dr Caligari (Krauss) in which he shows off a somnambulist, a sleepwalker, named Cesare (Veidt). The doctor keeps Cesare asleep for much of the time, this apparently helps him see the future. People seeing the show can ask questions about their own futures and Cesare answers them. Alan is told he does not have long to live.

When the show is over, however, Dr. Caligari awakens Cesare to take part in some evil deeds. The next day the village is shocked to discover that Alan has been murdered.

A classic of cinema, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a timeless film that gains new fans with each passing year. The lack of colour and speech does not hinder this masterpiece in anyway, Wiene’s work conveys so much with the technology available at the time.

caligari1Masters of Cinema, a Eureka! sub-label, have been busy this summer with Blu-ray/DVD reissues of some timeless feature length films like Faust, Madame DuBarry and Frau Im Mond but the amount of effort into this title has been outstanding. No wonder it is getting a limited theatrical run – seeing it on the big screen will be a sight to behold.

The restoration is truly something beautiful but the story of how it came to be is just as impressive. For a film that is nearly 100 years old to look this good then it must have taken a lot of effort. Which it has, this restoration being the best yet. Previously remastered on three occasions (1980, ’84 and ’95) this presentation came about thanks to the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Stiftung – a foundation that exists to preserve the work of FW Murnau and other notable German films made between 1900 – 1960. Using the film’s camera negative, with help of the German Federal Film Archive, they also used all known prints of the movie from all over the world. Two prints issued for Latin American use have come in very handy.

The 4k restoration, by L’Immagine Ritrovata – Film Conservation & Restoration, is stunning. Any imperfections are barely noticeable as scratches and lines have been drastically reduced. The enhanced picture quality also allows for the actor’s expressions to be seen better. Veidt’s facials become even more enthralling. Great effort has also been taken in getting the film’s colour correct. Most scenes are either orange and black or blue and black, with certain hues used for non-black colour. Compared to previous releases the tones of colour used is markedly different. Great attention has also been paid to making sure the picture has the right contrast. For those that have seen this classic many times before all of this will add up to a must-see release.

caligari2Of course this is a movie that has had a lasting impact on the industry and culture. From Viede’s appearance to the awkward sets to the backdrops these all build to a vision that was revolutionary. Expressionism was about to take hold of repressed German cinema and Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari is one of the best known films of this influential genre.

A highly impressive restoration of a movie that is an integral part of cinematic history, Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari is expressionist film at it’s finest.

9 out of 10.



Screening Dates and Venues –

From 29 Aug 14

London – BFI Southbank (14 days)

London – Curzon Victoria (7 days)

Dublin – Irish Film Institute (7 days)

Edinburgh – Filmhouse (4 days)

Glasgow – GFT (3 days)

Cardiff – Chapter (2 days)

Bristol – Watershed (7 days)

Nottingham – Broadway (7 days)

Chichester – Chichester Cinema at New Park (1 day)

From 30 Aug 14

London – The Barbican (2 days)

From 31 Aug 14 Cork – Triskel Arts Centre (4 days)

7 Sept 14

London – Everyman Hampstead

London – Everyman Screen on the Green

10 Sept 14 Brighton – The Emporium (Bijou Electric Empire Forever)

14 Sept 14 Clevedon – Curzon Community Cinema

19 Sept 14 Aberystwyth – Arts Centre

19 Sept 14 Nottingham – Broadway (Kino Klubb)

20 Sept 14 Bo’ness – Hippodrome

21 Sept 14 Lancaster – The Dukes

21 Sept 14 London – Rio Cinema

27 Sept 14 Eastbourne – Redoubt Fortress (Filmspot)

15 Oct 14 London – Prince Charles Cinema

24 Oct 14 Belfast – QFT

26 Oct 14 Vintage Sunday Screenings across The Picturehouse Chain

28 Oct 14 Maidenhead – Norden Farm Centre for the Arts

02 Nov 14 Ilkley – The Ilkley Film Festival