Black Moon Rising arrived at the height of the oddball action film, the mid ’80s. It’s based on an old writer-for-hire script from none other than John Carpenter. However, by the time it was put into production, he gave them his blessing and was an executive producer, but had nothing more to do with it.
The script went through many drafts, the most notable being one by Steve De Jarnatt (Miracle Mile, Cherry 2000) who in some versions of the finished film gets shared screenwriting credit. That said, he did not actually write the film you’ll see on-screen, and has never gotten residuals from the film. According to Steve, the finished film is mostly the work of Desmond Nakano, but Nakano is only one of the three writers (including Carpenter) credited on the most common version of the film. Carpenter claims that he never saw the finished article, having written it around the time of Escape From New York.
The film itself is a very routine action thriller that is pumped up by a lead performance from Tommy Lee Jones with a jet-black hair dye job. He was already going grey by the time of his earliest roles, as in Rolling Thunder or another John Carpenter scripted film, Eyes of Laura Mars. His character here is Sam Quint (what a ’80s action name!), a master thief who works for the FBI but clearly has a disdain for the Feds. He ends up being pursued by Lee Ving’s Marvin Ringer, another super thief who has one of the most ridiculous haircuts ever seen on-screen. Linda Hamilton plays a love interest: she was very hot at the time, having just starred in The Terminator, but has very little to do here. There is also a cool futuristic car, which is the “Black Moon” of the title and the thing that connects everybody in the story. Esteemed character actor Robert Vaughn plays the head of a crime syndicate.
It’s a total mess, but the cast certainly elevates the proceedings. The car jump from one skyscraper to another is very impressive, and has been copied countless times since. It’s nothing too amazing, but it’s a relatively breezy 100 minutes with a fairly convoluted plot: basically, you could do much worse. There was clearly a much better film possible during the scriptwriting stages, but it became a classic example of a film where too many writers were involved, diluting what made it promising in the first place.
Like most of the mid to late-’80s New World Pictures catalogue, Black Moon Rising has flipped from one distributor to another. Now Arrow Video has given it a nice new paint job. The extras include interviews with crew members, including director Harley Cokeliss. Troy Howarth supplies a visual essay about John Carpenter’s script-writing work. Lee Gambin, who wrote a book on Carpenter’s Christine, supplies a new audio commentary track. The disc is rounded off with an archival making-of featurette, alternative scenes from the Hong Kong version, the theatrical trailer and radio spots. The first pressing includes a booklet by Keiran Fisher.