It all began in the mid-’80s when independent Virginia filmmaker Philip Cook produced his first feature film — for a reported $8,000. Known as Pentan, after the film’s title character, his low-budgeted effort saw a limited, regional theatrical distribution as Beyond the Rising Moon in 1987. By the mid-’90s, before the Sci-Fi Channel added the double-Ys, the film played under the cable title — with a little CGI revamping — as Star Quest: Beyond the Rising Moon in 1995. Then, with the advent of the DVD age and digital streaming, Cook, who was never satisfied with the end product, re-edited the film — with a second batch of then, more-current CGI effects — and reissued the film as Outerworld in 2007 for Amazon Prime and Netflix streaming. The subsequent DVD-release includes the 1995 cut of Star Quest: Beyond the Rising Moon, along with a 15-minute “making of” featurette, a 10-minute deleted scenes reel, and art galleries tracing the film’s production.
If you read our recent reviews for Ares 11, Space Trucker Bruce, and Monty Light’s recent offering, Space, you know we love our inventive, up-against-the-budget “in space” flicks. And, as with those films, considering Cook completed the first version on a limited budget, the models and miniatures he designed, and the costumes and the “worlds” he created are a lot of fun to watch. The acting, while everyone is certainly giving the best to their abilities (they’re “underplaying” too much), is not a lot of fun to watch. It’s not awful, but we’re not exactly getting Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford with our leads.
In a world where Aliens meets Star Wars — with pinches of Blade Runner (and foretells Roland Emmerich’s later Moon 44), we meet Pentan (Tracy Davis, in her acting debut; vanished from the biz shortly after), an Earth-made, genetically-engineered female cyborg used by a Weyland-styled corporation to clean up their galactic messes. Designed without emotions, she finally comes to develop a conscious and wants out. The “out” comes in form of her newest assignment: track down the location of a crashed alien ship. Since the technology is worth millions, Pentan decides to double cross her employer and sell the technology on the open market. So, in order for our faux-Replicant Ripley to pull off this space caper, she needs a “Han Solo” as a partner: he comes in the form of Brickman (Hans Bachmann, in his acting debut, vanished from the biz shortly after), a desperate space rogue with a price on his head and a ship-for-hire.
In the end: The practical effects, matte paintings, blue screens and plate shots (there were no large sets; actors were “processed” into miniatures), and spaceship miniatures produced in 1987 as Beyond the Rising Moon, is the best version of the film. While more money was spent — just over $120,000 — on the subsequent 1995 and 2007 reissues, the CGI didn’t make the galactic proceedings any better. And while the CGI is weak, it doesn’t mesh well with the practical effects and makes those ’80s-era effects look ever more dated than they are. This was the same problem many of us has with George Lucas’s constant re-tweaking of his initial Star Wars trilogy, in his attempt to have his first trilogy meshed with the new trilogy. The once acceptable, late ’80s miniatures from the Gerry Anderson Space: 1999-verse of Cook’s vision simply do not mesh with 21st century CGI. So, in our opinion, it’s ’87 theatrical over the ’95 Sci-Fi Channel version — and both of those version over the 2007 streaming version.
If you’ve exposed yourself to a lot of ’80s VHS-era sci-fi movies (such as moi), the production levels of Beyond the Rising Moon may evoke memories of New World Pictures’ better-known, 1986 direct-to-video feature, Star Crystal*. While that weak Alien-cum-E.T hybrid may have had the touch-of-Corman to its credit (but a still-strained cast of first-time-and-soon-gone actors), it makes Philip Cook’s efforts even more impressive. A little bit more money and more-established actors at his disposal, Cook’s debut could have risen to the level of William Malone’s Creature, which goes down as one of the best Alien-clones.
Yeah, I dig this movie. As an actor myself, I’d would have enjoyed working on this film.
While you can watch the later versions on streaming platforms, stick with this superior 1987 version — and be impressed by its creativity and ingenuity — that we found on You Tube. You can learn more about the film’s production and check out stills on Philip Cook’s official website for Eagle Films. While there, you can learn more about his other sci-fi films, Invader (1992) and Despiser (2003).
* We’ve never gotten around to giving Star Crystal a full review proper, but we do discuss it in passing as part of our “A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-Offs” and “Ten Movies that Ripped-Off Alien” featurettes.
Update: Never say never . . . when a film gets stuck in your head, argh! We finally gave Star Crystal a review proper, it’s coming up at 6 PM this evening.