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Friday, August 30, 2013


For some reason, Moonchild shows up on lists of sci-fi movies. IMHO, there is no reason for this. There have certainly been many films that were many hybrid films that were predominately horror or crime drama and just a little sci-fi, but Moonchild has no sci-fi at all. However, in the spirit of complete-lists, a review is given here anyhow. Moonchild is the work of Alan Gadney. He wrote and directed it. The film started as yet another film student project, but managed to get some Hollywood attention and had a small theatrical release in May of 1974. Somehow, Gadney managed to get some recognizable actors to be a part of his project. Victor Buono and John Carradine dominate the film.

Quick Plot Synopsis
In the 1920s, a young art student stops to sketch an old mission church. The Walker, (Carradine) invites him to stay at the hotel and sketch the bells. The Student agrees. In the mission hotel is the stiff and brusque manager, the emotional Maitre D' (Buono), a scrabbling minion named Homonculous, and old prospector type named Alchemist, a bossy old woman maid and a pretty blonde who runs around in flowing silk dresses. Through much convolution, the Maitre D' and the Manager come to represent two opposing sides, vying for control over Student. Not quite "good vs. evil" or God vs. Satan, although the terms get guessed. It's more of a battle between weird and other-weird. Student is not charmed by either side, so seeks out the Alchemist who blathers poetically. Student is fairly obsessed with knowing more about the blonde girl. Eventually, he is told that he has done all this many times before, died and come back to do it again until he gets it right. The Maitre D' (dressed as a pope) holds an inquisition, charging the Alchemist with black arts and Student as an accomplice. After some stern, if obtuse, speeches, things devolve into a chaotic fight. Student helps the blonde carry her father, the Alchemist, away. They go through tunnels, out to the rocky hills beyond the mission. The Manager pursues and eventually stabs and kills Student with a sword. Alchemist, Blonde and Manager return, talking of having to do it all over again because Student chose badly again. A 1940s car pulls up on the mission road. Student gets out, dress in an army uniform shirt and dress uniform officer's cap. He photographs the mission. Walker invites him to come stay at the hotel. Fade to black. Edgar Cayce quote. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
Primarily, the fun is Victor Buono. His flamboyant over-acting is the highlight of what would otherwise be a muddle of a movie.

Cultural Connections
The New Age -- Moonchild manages to be a glimpse into the nascent New Age mindset, with much emphasis on Deja Vu, reincarnation, vague spiritual powers and a heavy dose of existentialism. Appropriately, the film is not so much a coherent manifesto as it salient dream put on film.

Hotel California? -- It is hard not to think of the 1977 Eagles' song "Hotel California" while watching Moonchild. A young man enters a hotel (in California) which has all kids of strange guests, a pretty girl, and, he can never leave. Had Don Henley or Glenn Fray been among the few who had seen Moonchild in its brief release? The movie and the song tell different stories, but the premise seems the same. Gadney filmed his project at the Mission Hotel, in Riverside, California. The Eagles' album art features a mission. The lyrics talk of "mission bells" -- which Student was going to sketch. The mission hotel's ornate architecture, spiral stairs and lush plazas do make for an eye-appealing set.

Young Jumble -- The story of Student seems appropriate for the inner struggle of the adolescent mind. Torn between to Fates (God or The World) and not understanding either, the young man searches for a third way simple enough for him agree with. All the while, the only thing he strongly believes in, is running after a pretty blonde. That "third way" the youth likes preaches that HE is the sole judge of everything. "You are the way. You are the path." Gadney apparently had a traumatic upbringing regarding the Catholic church, which did not progress beyond boyhood fears of nuns and popes.

Bottom line? Moonchild is a confusing jumble with too many vaguely mystical notions to make a coherent story out of. Fans of New Age mysticism may find the film intriguing. Fans of classic sci-fi are likely to come away frustrated from the total lack of any science in the fiction.

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