Theme Song: Lalo Schifrin (everything) composed a weird 80s synth-y score.
Sure, it sounds really dated, but so do most synth-based movie soundtracks from the 80s.
“Sleeping with the Enemy” by Chari Brandon plays during a bar scene, but there’s literally no information on this song to be found. It appears a soundtrack album for Black Moon Rising was never released.
Interesting Dated References: Police officers blocking off large area with police tape and barricades in order to investigate the theft of a rich person’s car; Going to a bar, saying, “Give me a draft,” and having the bartender immediately give you a glass of draft beer.
Best Line: Said by Bubba Smith to Tommy Lee Jones in a public restroom — “I’m gonna take all the heat that comes down on my head and I’m gonna transfer it to your body.”
Social Context: It’s safe to assume Black Moon Rising was born out of the “super-powered vehicle” craze that swept the mid-80s. Air Wolf and Knight Rider were the standard-bearers, but there were many lesser known creations that were part of the craze: Street Hawk, The Wraith, maybe even The Highwaymen. All teenage boys wanted to do in 1986 was sleep over at each other’s houses, watch futuristic vehicles do absurd things, and show their friend a bunch of used Maxi Pads in the basement bathroom garbage.
Summary: The plot device that gets things going in Black Moon Rising makes absolutely no sense: The FBI needs to hire a “freelance operative” to acquire tax records for Lucky Dollar Corp. from a specific “data tape.” They hire retired spy/thief Quint (Tommy Lee Jones) to break into said corporation.
He breaks in with a few gadgets and immediately locates the data tape. Then, as he makes his escape, a bunch of scientists in lab coats immediately start firing their Uzis at him. The ringleader of the scientists, Marvin (Lee Ving), recognizes Quint and vows revenge. We’re not even 15 minutes in and already: scientists + Uzis + Lee Ving + data tapes = 1986
The next morning, a team of guys are racing a fancy jet-car called Black Moon across the desert. After they are done, they put the car on a trailer headed to Los Angeles and stop to gas up their truck along the way. As luck would have it, Quint is sitting around at the gas station in his shot-up truck and asks them for a ride. The group leader, Earl (Richard Jaeckel), declines by explaining they have to get to a fancy restaurant called “The Betsy” in Los Angeles.
For whatever reason, Quint shoves the stolen data tape into a rear parachute pouch on the Black Moon before they pull back onto the road. Right after he does that, Ving and Co. show up with their Uzis and terrible lyrics, so Quint flees.
Later he meets with an intimidating Bubba Smith in a men’s bathroom that is covered in wood grain paneling. Bubba is the FBI agent demanding the data tape for some court case that will be happening in three days. Quint tells Bubba to meet him at The Betsy with money and a passport so he can get out of town and in exchange he’ll give Bubba the tape. Again, looking for plausibility and logic in this storyline is going to ruin your enjoyment.
The Betsy is a fancy restaurant that rich people drive their fanciest cars to and then ogle each other’s vehicles in the parking lot. People stand around as Earl tells them how Black Moon runs on water and, after his important business dinner meeting, it’s going to be the future of automobile transport. Once inside, all the rich people stop paying attention to their cars. Doesn’t this sound like a great place for car thieves to stake-out and thus steal cars?
Linda Hamilton and her shoulder pads were thinking the exact same thing, so she wastes time sitting around The Betsy’s bar, waiting for her cohorts. Unable to get his data tape out of the Black Moon’s pouch, Quint also bellies up to the bar.
Then the car thief gang steal all the cars. By the time anyone in the restaurant notices anything is going on, Hamilton is already speeding away in Black Moon. Quint jumps in his Dodge Daytona and is somehow able to keep up with the Black Moon, following it all the way to some secret garage under the billion dollar Ryland Towers.
During the chase sequence, Hamilton is repeatedly mesmerized by the fact that Black Moon has a rearview camera. Quick recap: scientists + Uzis + Lee Ving + data tapes + Linda Hamilton + jet-car with rearview camera = 1986
Did I mention Black Moon looks like it’s made out of a small aluminum fishing boat flipped over, spray-painted black, and placed on the chassis of a normal car? Back when I was a barely-functioning alcoholic who had to drive impossible distances to work for barely-functioning alcoholics, I would always pass an auto museum in Illinois. One time it was snowing, so I decided to kill time and stopped and went in. I shit you not, they had the Black Moon car right there. I know you don’t believe me, but I’m telling the truth. It looks like they may have since sold it for $14,000, though. On a related note, can you believe people spend so much time cataloging cars in movies?
So Jones snoops around this parking garage for a bit and gets picked up by security cameras. Billionaire businessman Ed Ryland (Robert Vaughn) is watching the security camera and grimaces a lot. He has apparently made his billion dollars stealing and selling the cars of rich people and is running some huge chop shop operation out of his towers. Quint goes back to The Betsy to tell Bubba Smith he needs a few more days to get the data tape.
Quint takes it upon himself to get Black Moon out of the Ryland Towers so he can get the data tape. He talks with his old friend Iron John who worked on the buildings. Meanwhile, Ryland yells at Linda Hamilton for stealing the Black Moon and says it’s “too high profile” of an automobile. Hamilton leaves all pissed off.
Quint (very obviously) tails her to her house, then to a bar. She takes him back home and they make 1980s soft-focus, sax-laden love. During post-coital bliss, they sit around and discuss Black Moon, thievery, and Quint’s desire to retire from his life of espionage.
Meanwhile, Earl, the owner of Black Moon, and his cohorts decide to go check out the Ryland Towers. After ridiculously implausible discussion about what type of photo lens they need for taking pictures, Earl sends his lackey Tyke (William Sanderson in a very small role) back to their car to get a telephoto lens. He is then immediately run over and killed by one of Ryland’s cronies. Realizing things are getting serious, Earl goes to solicit help from Quint. They go to get more blueprints from Iron John, but he is dead.
Ving and Co. are hiding at Iron John’s and beat Quint up for like twenty minutes. This includes a weird product placement when a Dunkin’ Donuts box falls from the sky, teeters on Jones’s head for a bit, then falls out of frame.
After a few more jumps in logic, Quint and company have a fully-formulated plan to get the Black Moon out of the Ryland Towers via the weaker, unfinished tower, where they will be using lasers, tranquilizer darts, video tape loops, and other things people cared about in the 80s.
Despite being injured, Quint is able to ascend the unfinished tower, repel to the other building, and crawl through air ducts. He’s also able to rescue a now-imprisoned Hamilton from a small closet that happens to have a huge air vent opening in the ceiling. Eventually they get into the Black Moon, only to get in the wrong freight elevator, which takes them straight to Ryland and his gun-toting henchmen.
Right as the big showdown is about to go down, Hamilton shoots Nick Cassavetes in the head so fast he doesn’t even react to the flesh-squib being pulled off. Quint slams on the gas and launches the Black Moon out of the building and crash lands into the other tower.
Despite having no way to judge the trajectory of the car, Ving and Co. are waiting in the other tower on the correct floor when Black Moon lands. Quint beats him up for writing all that terrible music, then gets the data tape and hands it to Bubba Smith, who randomly also shows up on the correct floor. The police show up, and Quint and Hamilton walk off with money and passports in hand.
Black Moon Rising was written by John Carpenter. The director, Harvey Cokliss, also directed Battletruck which has a kick-ass poster and appears to be another film that has a plot wrapped entirely around the existence of a modified vehicle.
Poster and Box Art: Very nice airbrushed poster by Steven Chorney. If it has one fault, it features the Black Moon bursting out from a building, which only serves to ruin the ending for everyone.
Hardly a complaint since the Germans made the car-launching a focus of their entire poster. Airbrushing was the best, look at that fucking poster. The world sucks now.