Moon Zero Two (1969)

There are dozens of episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 that I have not yet seen, but the only one that I have deliberately avoided – thus far – is their take on 1969’s Moon Zero Two. That’s because I’ll be damned if my first experience of a sixties Hammer directed by Roy Ward Baker with a cast this solid would be those wonderful chuckleheads riffing it. Now that I’ve seen it, and mostly enjoyed it, mock away. I’ll probably track it down soon and enjoy the jokes, assuming Joel and his robot friends don’t fall asleep during the interminable ride in the moon buggy to the missing man’s claim, because I almost did.

To be sure, it’s dated and slow and I just wish that more women dressed like this in the far-flung future of, er, 2021, but I thought that, scientific quibbles aside, this was a very good script, I loved the design and the really great music, and I enjoyed almost all of the performances. Unfortunately, American actor James Olson was cast as the lead, and he’s the weak link. We’ve seen Olson a few times before, and he was absolutely a reliable character actor in guest roles, but he does not seem or feel enthusiastic about this part. Unsmiling, monotone, and frankly radiating boredom, he’s certainly among the weakest performances by an American in any Hammer film that I’ve seen. Bizarrely, I didn’t know that Olson was in this, and was just thinking about him yesterday because I was watching a 1972 episode of Banacek set in Las Vegas, with the standard seventies Howard Hughes analogue, and remembered Olson from “Fembots in Las Vegas”, a Bionic Woman installment where he played the Hughes stand-in.

But joining Olson in this are Adrienne Corri and Catherine Schell, who are wonderful. Warren Mitchell leads a team of villains including Bernard Bresslaw, Joby Blanshard, and Dudley Foster, and, and as you might expect from a sixties Hammer, Roy Evans and Michael Ripper show up briefly. You put this many good actors in a movie, and I’m not going to complain much, especially if it looks this good. I’d love a cleaned-up Blu-ray. The only in-print option in the US is the DVD-R from the Warner Archive. I scored a cheap copy of the out-of-print properly-pressed version which pairs it with the uncut When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Apparently nobody realized how much nudity there is in the full Dinosaurs and it was quickly removed from shelves, because they told retailers it was the Rated G version.

The kid, on the other hand, was mostly unimpressed. I did caution him up front that this was made during a period where some science fiction was being made for adult audiences, and was made without stuff like aliens and death rays, but instead just setting tales of human greed and failure in the near future. I think there was a little eye candy for him, and some nice visuals, and a skeleton in a spacesuit moment that Steven Moffat probably remembered from his childhood and incorporated into Doctor Who‘s “Silence in the Library”. But overall, he was a little restless and we agreed afterward that this was too slow a movie for a kid who likes spaceships that jump to lightspeed.

The best little moment came when I pointed out Bernard Bresslaw and said that he’d seen him before. I let him chew on that a moment and then let him know that he had been Varga, the very first Ice Warrior in Who. The kid tolerates my astonishment that he has trouble with faces, because he knows it doesn’t actually bother me, but this was too far. “Was I seriously supposed to recognize him?” he protested. “Good grief, no,” I said, “just wanted to point out that when you cast an Ice Warrior, you cast a big guy.”

“That dude is a big guy,” he agreed.

Worzel Gummidge 2.1 – Worzel & the Saucy Nancy

And now back to 1980, and a lovely day by the seesaw. Worzel Gummidge started his second series by stowing away in the back of a bus carrying two dozen old folks taking a day trip to the Devon coastline and eating all twenty-four of their picnic lunches. I’m always fascinated by the little cultural differences between our countries. The trip included a portion of tobacco for all the gentlemen. Worzel says that it tastes terrible, but his new ladyfriend explains that she smokes it in her pipe.

Barbara Windsor plays Saucy Nancy, the masthead of a replica ship which you can tour for 10p. A sign beside it explains that it’s the same ship that had been used for filming in ITC’s action series The Buccaneers. It’s the Golden Hind, docked as a living history museum in Brixham, and the price has gone up to £7.00 today. Windsor is freaking hilarious as Saucy Nancy. We saw her briefly in the Christmas Special, which aired later in 1980, but didn’t really get the chance to understand who she is. Saucy Nancy was also created by the Crowman and has wheels rather than legs, and when her inevitable war with Aunt Sally reaches its peak, Aunt Sally gives her a shove downhill and I think the kiddo fell into several pieces laughing.

Incidentally, the direction and editing of this mayhem is much, much better and faster than what we saw in the first series. At one point, Worzel, Sally, and Nancy are being chased around Brixham by the crowd of old folks, the fairground crew, and a guy from a food truck played by Roy Evans, and they found a great location for the multiple mobs to converge. Nancy’s rollercoaster ride to the ocean is also cut really fast – and Windsor looks terrified as she rockets downhill in that big wooden dress – and it ends with a predictable but wonderful splash. It was gloriously ridiculous, we laughed like hyenas, and I’m glad we’re spending the next couple o’ weeks in the comp’ny of our old pal Worzel.