Mash potatoes have never been so….bad.


Directed by: Robert Dyke

Written by: Tex Ragsdale

Featuring: Walter Koenig, Bruce Campbell, Leigh Lombardi, Tom Case, Reavis Graham

1989 – space mission commander Colonel Jason Grant is sent up to space with his ‘bro’ colleague Ray Tanner to investigate an apparently abandoned spaceship. On leaving their space shuttle to investigate Grant finds a rugby-ball-like ‘pod’ and worse still a desiccated human-looking body. When the men get back to Earth is it discovered the body is 14000 years old but worse still the ‘pod’ hatches when unattended and creates a robotic creature from the corpse and laboratory equipment. NASA’s security with the help of Grant and Tanner finally destroys the abomination. Now as an emergency measure, using an old but still functioning Apollo rocket Grant and Tanner return to the moon to discover that all is not as it seems.

That brief synopsis does not fully describe the unlikely nuttiness of the story and action therein. For me it was hard to believe that this film was made in 1988, if you had said early seventies on a low budget maybe, but when I think I was nearly 30 years old when this was made and it came after some amazing science-fiction blockbusters? Such is the world of moviemaking.

I would hazard a guess that a majority of the budget went on Koenig, Campbell and Lombardi’s salaries because there is not a lot else on the screen that justifies any money being spent. Some have made a big thing of the practical effects but much like Dr. Who in the said seventies creating a great big ‘it is really there’ robot-monster on a minuscule budget means that it always, and when I say always, I mean always, stands still in an area whilst the actors prance around it to give the impression of kinetic energy. The Smash Mash Potato robot’s head moves jerkily as it supposedly ‘tracks’ the defenders, the arms moved up and down like a wind-up toy and the actors deliberately run into the superimposed lasers. Some effects are a little better but being cheap there is no feeling of life in them, nothing solid, real or scary. They are slow, Meccano-like and you feel if you skipped around behind one of them fast, pushed it hard it would collapse into a pile of nuts and bolts and bent metal pieces.

The protagonists are mainly the three bigger names with Koenig of Star Trek who at 52 was playing a rather unconvincing younger man, and Bruce Campbell, ‘Bruce Campbelling’ his way through until about halfway when he probably got a better offer and left the project. Leigh Lombardi is the best of a poor three despite the paucity of material she was given and rather ludicrously becomes the love interest to the creaking Koenig.

Why ludicrous? Not because she was 20 years younger than Koenig, not because there clearly was no chemistry of that nature between the actors, or because she was an alien cryogenically frozen for thousands of years but mainly because in the middle of an invasion by a species that wanted to you use them and everyone on the nearest planet as a spare-parts bin getting it on with the first man you meet, even if it is Chekov from Star Trek, would be the last thing on your mind.

And herein lies the rub, everything is on this scale of silliness, you certainly can find it entertaining and I did laugh aloud at several moments but in the end you have the feeling that the makers’ imagination and ambition far outweighed their budget and rather cruelly perhaps their ability.

Even with a much bigger budget Moontrap needed about three rewrites and some judicial editing to give it some semblance of any exciting, scary and action-packed sci-fi that it so desperately was trying to be.

As I said earlier, I watched it and laughed but afterward it did make me feel a little sad.


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