Critics didn’t care for Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi warm up to Universal Soldier (1992), Stargate (1994), and Independence Day, but I’ve always enjoyed this galactic cocktail that pours one part Escape from New York (a disgruntled ex-soldier/anti-hero Felix “Don’t call me Snake” Stone) and two equal parts of Outland and Alien into a Roger Corman New World Pictures commemorative tumbler that’s shaken and poured over Blade Runner.
Toto? We’re not on LV 426 anymore. I think this is “the dark side” of Moon 44!
In the year 2038, in the wake of all of Earth’s natural resources being depleted, multinational corporations—as in Creature (1985)—have taken control of the galaxy and battle each other for mining rights. The two leading companies, Pyrite Defense and Galactic Mining, are in a current battle over a grouping of moons—46, 47, and 51—in a remote region of space known as the Outer Zone. Pyrite has already taken control of the moons and stole two of Galactic Mining’s mineral shuttles—and they’re on their way to take Moon 44.
So Galactic Mining hires Stone (Michael Pare of Eddie and the Cruisers and Streets of Fire) who, to get out of his contract, must take an undercover mission—as a prisoner, along with other prisoners that’ll be granted full pardons for flying a fleet of Airwolf meets Blue Thunder hybrid battle-choppers to protect the mining operation. While there, Stone mixes it up with fellow prisoner O’Neal (Brian Thompson, who made his debut in Sly Stallone’s Cobra) and the crooked mining operation defense officers played by Malcolm McDowell (Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot, American Satan, FOX News mogul Rupert Murdoch in 2019’s Bombshell) and Leon Rippy (General West in Stargate, HBO’s Deadwood).
So, is Moon 44 galactic flotsam and jetsam for the Death Star’s trash compactors? Eh, for a $15 million budgeted B-Movie shot in West Germany, Moon 44 certainly looks great, thanks to cinematographer Karl Walter Linderlaub (who shot Universal Soldier, Stargate, and Independence Day), and the up-against-the-budget production designs by Oliver Scholl and Sven Hass. (While Hass faded from the business, Scholl pressed onward, working on Edge of Tomorrow, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Suicide Squad.)
Moon 44 served as the final mainstream film of actor Stephen Geoffreys, who portrayed Cookie, a drug-dealing military flight navigator. After starting out with memorable roles in the ‘80s hits Heaven Help Us, Fraternity Vacation, Fright Night (as Evil Ed), and 976-Evil, he left Hollywood to work in gay porn—under the names Larry Bent and Sam Ritter. And it was also the last acting gig for Dean “I’m not John Cryer” Devlin, who rose through the ranks of Hollywood as a writer and producer, most recently with Geostorm (2017).
Originally intended for an American theatrical release, the producers eventually realized the film’s shortcoming as a weak competitor to the films from where it pinched all of its ideas, so it became a popular direct-to-video rental (marketed as “The Most Thrilling Adventure Since Star Wars,” and “The Most Suspenseful Journey Since Aliens”) and was part of a “Moon” TV syndication package that aired on American UHF-TV alongside Dark Side of the Moon (1990) and Moontrap (1989).
And while we’re on the subject of cool, little sci-fi films such as Moon 44, The Dark Side of the Moon, and Creature, be sure to check out our reviews for two clever, ultra-low budgeted sci-fi films filled with more heart and soul than most big-budget studio romps: Space Trucker Bruce and Ares 11. You’ll be glad that you did.