Apr 27, 2020
Moon Zero Two (1969): a recap (part 4 of 10)
Our last entry ended with our titular hero being led away by “Hundred Percent” Hubbard’s stylish minion to meet his boss. And what is said boss currently doing?
Counting money while sitting on a throne in front of a beach, while wearing a tinted monocle. It’s like they were throwing darts at a board full of ideas to figure out what he was doing, where he was doing it, what he was doing it on, and what he was wearing while he was doing it. The guy couldn’t be more Scrooge McDuck if he dived into a vault full of gold coins.
Hubbard stops counting money long enough to turn to one of his female companions and ask her snarkily if she’s going to throw. Throw what and why?
You know, puns are the lowest form of comedy. I should know; I keep trying to put them in my articles and my editor keeps taking them out. I’m looking at this board and I’m wondering if we’re seeing an inadvertent landmark. Short of chess (and maybe its inbred cousin checkers), Monopoly is probably the best known (and most hated) board game in the history of mankind. My family owned a Monopoly board, and I think my dad bought it as a science experiment to see which of his four sons could be driven into a homicidal rage the quickest (answer? Me). For the record, his game of choice was Parcheesi, and every time he’d send one of your pieces home, he’d take it and whip it across the room. I loved my dad. I just didn’t want to play board games with him.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Monopoly. This might be the first instance ever of a variation of the traditional Monopoly game (and for a list of said variations, you can click here. You’re welcome). And no, the game that appeared in 1959’s The Mouse That Roared was Diplomacy, a parody of Monopoly. So there. The woman pulls a Community Chest card and I’m looking at her outfit; someone should tell her that the monochromatic look is atrocious.
Then again, maybe that’s the point. She goes to jail, though I should note that’s because of the card and not for her crimes of fashion. We learn Hubbard is as cutthroat a Monopoly player as my dad was at Parcheesi when he forecloses on her and puts her $90,000 in the hole, which translates to 17 cents in real money. Wait, the woman is Hubbard’s employee? Judging by her cleavage, I’m guessing she wasn’t hired for her typing skills. I’d make a joke about dictation, but I’m way too classy for that. If she is on the payroll, then I hope she’s being paid to wear that outfit.
Bill and Harry, the mod minion, show up, and Bill shows that he probably could have taken that gun off the guy any damn time he wanted to when he shuts the elevator doors on him.
After briefly holding the room at gunpoint, he spots the most important thing in the room: the scotch. He handily tosses the pistol back to Harry to grab a decanter of what I estimate based on the bartender’s comment earlier to be $10,000 worth of booze. He tells Hubbard next time he sends a man up to leave his gun behind, and that Harry could have shot a window and killed everybody.
Harry: So that’s why you didn’t try to take it off me up there!
Bill: Well, there had to be a reason, didn’t there?
Bill: Well, there had to be a reason, didn’t there?
It only took thirty minutes, but Bill finally did something that made me like him.
Hubbard is amused and impressed, because he expected no less from the “first man who stepped foot on Mars”. Ah, so now we know why the space captain from part one “couldn’t teach this man anything about anything”.
One of Hubbard’s women puts something in Bill’s glass of scotch that could be a disk shaped ice cube, a massive Alka-Seltzer, or a giant tab of LSD. It took me a half-dozen viewings, but I finally heard the woman say “soda”. Damn, I was hoping for the LSD; it would have been awesome seeing Bill tripping balls for the rest of the movie.
Hubbard points out that Bill’s gone from celebrity to garbage truck driver, and Bill replies, “It’s a living,” which is about all you can say about going from hero to zero. And… holy shit, take a look at Bill’s glass. Before the soda tab:
Either no one was paying attention to how much scotch was supposed to be in actor James Olson’s hand (I can imagine Jim constantly sipping the prop to get through the day, and the key grip topping him off), or director Ward Baker is an insane stickler for detail. Hubbard’s other fashion-unconscious employee is messing around with his video controller…
…and Christ, I thought the man was wearing a Russian shirt or something, but it’s a robe. In that chair, he’s like Emperor Palpatine envisioned by Yves Saint Laurent. He tells the woman to stop messing around with the viewer, and she says she’s never been to Switzerland before, so I guess that cow is Swiss. Hubbard says the only thing worth looking at in Switzerland are the banks. I’d also add Ursula Andress, but maybe that’s why he’s a billionaire and I’m just an internet reviewer with a copy of She on his shelf.
Hubbard gets up and sits opposite Bill, pointing out that with Otto’s death, Bill’s got the only ship on the Moon that’s available for charter. Turns out Otto was about to do a job for Hubbard before his crash, and “Hundred Percent” goes into one of those weird bits of expository dialogue for the benefit of the audience, because the guy he’s talking to already knows all of this. Hubbard talks about asteroids, and yes, the moment he said the word “asteroids”, this sprang to mind:
If it did for you too, then we may have just become best friends.
Hubbard talks about how asteroids vary in size from pebbles to small moons, and that they are the “orphans of the Solar System,” and Bill figures out the billionaire wants to mine one. The problem is that the cost of ferrying equipment to an asteroid and shipping the ore back wouldn’t pay off. It’s then that Hubbard’s other, smarter minion says they don’t want to mine an asteroid; they want to land it on the Moon. Bill points out crashing an asteroid into the Moon is majorly illegal, but Hubbard says they’ve got two years’ research and the most experienced pilot on the rock.
Bill’s not immune to flattery, and asks what’s so special about this particular asteroid. Whitsun, Hubbard’s other, smarter minion, gives a little presentation explaining how their 6,000-ton target was spotted by Mr. Hubbard’s astronomical division.
His own astronomical division? If there aren’t any more space exploration flights, then the only reason I can see for that existing is if astronomy is his billion-dollar hobby. Hey, the guy plays “Moonopoly” with girls he could instead be having sex with, so I can accept anything.
Hubbard asks Bill if he can read spectrograms, and Bill says “the easier ones”. I have no problem with this; Bill’s a former explorer in his mid to late 30s and should have a host of skills: knowing how to fight, how to fly, how to, um, science. That comes with age and experience. It’s when you try to tell me a 20 year old trapped on a single planet since she was eight can do all that including wielding Force powers without being taught that I call bullshit.
Trust me; in five years after the nostalgic sheen has worn off that turd, you’ll all be saying it was every bit as bad as Episode I. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, I’m just ahead of the curve.
Where was I? Oh, right: spectrograms. Bill reads the one he’s shown as being like aluminum. Hubbard says he’s close: its aluminum squeezed and roasted into… sapphire! 6,000 tons of the stuff! Bill stays cool and says it sounds like a profitable idea, but crashing it is still illegal. He wonders why they need him, and “Hundred Percent” explains that when a billionaire like him starts outfitting an expedition, everybody finds out, but if Bill does it, he can just claim he’s off on a scavenger flight, and no one would connect him with an uncharted asteroid crashing into the Moon a few days later.
And so, Bill’s in; it’ll just cost Hubbard a new spaceship. When Dan finds out about the caper, he’s naturally a little skeptical.
And, I presume, hung over. He wonders if Bill got his drunk on last night. Oh, he did, Dan: on scotch. And he didn’t call you, or make a bottle of the stuff for you part of the deal, the dick.
Bill says he called Hubbard that morning just to be sure the whole thing hadn’t been a pampas punch-fueled hallucination, and his new employer confirmed that the caper is on. He then explains Otto’s plan to Dan, which was to strap three Mars explorer rockets onto the asteroid, and it turns out they’re from Bill’s old Mars ship. All this really makes me wonder why Hubbard didn’t just come to Bill first, and not Otto. Was Otto more unscrupulous? More desperate? It can’t be because he was cheaper, could it? Then again, Hubbard is hitting his employee up for 17 cents, so I guess I can believe that. Bill says the rockets look good, except for number three; sometimes, it needs a good kick to get going. Gee, I wonder if that’ll be relevant later. They load the rockets onto Moon Zero Two…
…and Liz spots this. She goes to confront Bill…
…and it’s like she raided General Kala’s wardrobe.
Okay, the headgear I can understand; you don’t want long hair getting in the way, and she might have to slip into a spacesuit at the last minute. But thigh-highs? A puffy purple blouse? Looks like the future of law enforcement is simply faaaaabulous! And judging by the last scene and this one, someone in the costume department was seriously in love with that color. Still, I can’t help but dig the holstered pistols on the thigh-highs.
Liz casually interrogates Bill for info, and he hands her a line about “experimental propulsion units” while he sips a “hot drink”.
I’m looking at this bank of generic dispensers, and I’m stunned that not a single executive thought it would be a great idea to get Nestlé to pony up a few bucks to slap their logo on these things. I dunno, is it only that obvious in retrospect? Was there some sort of artistic integrity thing going on, or some law I never heard of? That mass of blank beige space is screaming for a futuristic Pepsi logo. The generic nature of the drink dispensers is giving me Repo Man vibes.
I’m half-expecting Emilio Estevez to show up to repossess Bill’s ride.
By the way, should Bill be drinking before heading into space? I don’t think that suit has a catheter, and his ship didn’t look big enough to have a toilet. Guess it’d better be a short trip.
Danko pops up and quotes some regulation that amounts to “Liz, mind your own business”, and Liz smiles and backs off, which means either Dan was quoting an actual rule, or Liz wasn’t sure and didn’t have the guts to call his bluff. She saunters off, saying there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and kudos to the screenwriter for his restraint in not adding “moon” or “space” onto that old line. Dan tells Bill he should marry that girl before she throws him in jail. So you’re saying its one form of incarceration or another, eh, Dan? (Cue snare drum.) As Bill finishes off his ill-considered “hot drink”, Dan makes a call for clearance.
Next time: Will Bill and Dan be able to pull it off? What complications will arise? What other horrific future fashions will we be subjected to? This recap of Moon Zero Two will be going on hiatus for a short while, but don’t fret: it will return this summer.