Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Black Moon Rising - Harley Cokeliss - 1986

As time goes by, I find myself succumbing to nostalgic pangs for increasingly stereotypical joys of 80s/90s technology, you know the usual “remember when we all had to make cassette mixtapes rather than iTunes playlists, it was so much more individual etc”. This redundant longing for a more ‘innocent’ time came to mind again recently when thinking about how I had first seen Harley Cokeliss’ Black Moon Rising.

I’d finally got a TV for my very own room when I was 12, and oh the joys I had watching late night film showings on the four glorious channels we had back then. The amount of ‘discoveries’ I made just through pure chancing on short TV guide synopsis, stay up late, headphones in, glued to that cathode ray tube. BBC 1 playing the garish splatter end of Hammer films on a Friday night (think Twins of Evil (1971), Scars of Dracula (1970)), the mighty cult cinema bin that was Moviedrome on BBC 2, and the various mid budget 80’s & 90’s action and horror films ITV would fill the post 11pm void with, of which, for a while, this picture was a mainstay.

Some years later that I found out the story is actually credited to my first true film love John Carpenter, though further investigation showed that although he had written the script, it was as a hungry young filmmaker fighting for scraps in the early seventies. His influence therefore isn’t particularly noticeable in the finished product, only Lalo Schifrin’s synth ‘n’ drum pad laden score bears anything resembling his work.

The film’s plot follows Quint a professional thief doing a line in government espionage. If you’re expecting an Ethan Hunt type though you’ll be let down, Tommy Lee Jones’ blue collar burglar is more a post Lee Marvin cynical street tough, who would rather spend his time sinking a few in dive bars and pool halls.

His latest assignment has gone awry, and he finds himself hunted by rival Marvin (fans of Early 80’s US Hardcore will be excited to find that he’s played by Fear’s chief antagonist Lee Ving!) and in trouble with his government masters (represented by the late Bubba Smith A.K.A. Hightower!). Quint crosses paths with a trio of aspiring car producers, whose latest supercar project is subsequently stolen by a group of car thieves led by Nina (Linda Hamilton in the between Terminator’s doldrums) who in turn is in the service of corporate overlord Ed Ryland (Robert Vaughn, who mined a fine line in this sort of yuppie kingpin role during the 80’s).

The hiring of Quint to retrieve this supercar becomes the central focus of the plot, and oh what a piece of work the car is, it’s introduced to us screaming across desert flats at 300 mph in a complete knock off of the opening credits to Knight Rider. Alas this supposedly ultra desirable supercar is somewhat of a joke to look at, I think the makers were thinking Bertone (y’know like the Stratos Zero featured in the King of Pop’s ego fest Moonwalker (1988)), but alas it looks more like something I would have drawn as “a car from the year 2010!” as a 10 year old child.

The film follows a predictable but nonetheless entertaining enough path, Quint and Nina join forces and get it on to some smooth jazzy vibes, Quint receives a retribution beating for his earlier indiscretions and the set piece finale sees Quint and the supercar crew taking on Ryland in a low budget skyscraper infiltration that brings to mind certain Nakatomi Plaza adventures that would follow a few years later.

My love of films being set in night time Los Angeles has been well documented previously i’m sure, and as usual this is the primary reason the film still holds fond reminiscence for me. All I need are some slick city street driving scenes and frequent cutaway shots to blue sheen skyscrapers and i’m drooling. This films provides such ‘Mannian’ (is that a term yet? If not, i’m coining it) neo-noir delights aplenty. It’s one of those films you can get on bottom rung DVD company labels in £1 shops, pick it up, it’s a more than competent, fun, throwaway actioner with a tasty mid 80’s vibe and a comedy hot wheels car, go on.

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