Insert the dvd copy of “Outerworld” and go directly to the special features. There you will find the original cut of the film released direct-to-video back in the glorious 1980s: “Beyond the Rising Moon”. The new twenty-first century cut, of course, has all the insipid CGI and tedious “SyFy Channel” soundtrack loops one can stomach, if you go in for that sort of thing. It’s also missing a number of important scenes from the original film, which was hammered out from equal parts George R.R. Martin, Arthur Clarke, Bruce Sterling, and Bob Vila. This is a workingman’s science fiction film made with models, miniatures, Casio, epoxy fumes, and (if you come equipped with an imagination) what was once known as an engaging story.
Faster-than-light travel, terraforming, genetic engineering and deep-space navigation are all made possible by the discovery in 2054 of an alien derelict, long since mysteriously abandoned by a species known only as the Tesseran. Rival corporations ruthlessly compete in proxy war for the myriad technological developments stemming from this original claim. When a second craft is accidentally found on faraway, barren Elysium, Kuriyama Enterprises operative Pentan intercepts this information on assignment. However, she goes rogue in an attempt to stake the claim on the second Tesseran derelict and economically dismantle her former employers. Of course, Pentan needs a ship and that old standby, the rakish pilot with the heart of gold, in order to reach Elysium before Kuriyama Enterprises sink their yuppie claws into the find and get all the loot for themselves.
What appears on the surface to be the same old story - corporate assassin meets boy, boy and corporate assassin fly off to the stars together with the bad guys in pursuit – is told with intimate and breathtaking detail on a shoestring budget. All of the characters involved, even the prototypical goon squad guys in big helmets, you get to know very well in under eighty minutes. Death is so cold out there in the new frontier; forget about good guys and bad guys altogether. And the Tesseract find is less about getting paid in the proverbial Escalade and more about the future development of humankind, especially for Pentan, who isn’t legally considered human.
Drink in the establishing shots and effects sequences like that last bottle of a rare imported beer you’ll ever get your hands on, because they’ll never be made like this again. In fact, “Beyond the Rising Moon” was one of the last of its kind, to say nothing of its status as an independent production. While the naysayer will inevitably scoff at the “cheap” special effects, subpar production values and perhaps even the sophomoric acting employed at times, the story and the script rise above these mere technicalities.
This was a project put together by a group of friends enthusiastic to make a good science fiction movie, and in doing so they succeeded brilliantly. Admittedly, the author never found this one in his stacks twenty years ago, and is very thankful that creator/director Phillip Cook included an original print tucked in with the blasé “SyFy” re-cut. Now I have twenty years to look forward enjoying “Beyond the Rising Moon” along with its obvious inspirations and contemporaries: “UFO”, “Dark Star”, “Silent Running”, “Firefox” and “Nightflyers”. They are in good company with Phillip Cook and friends’ little film with big implications. Pour and enjoy.