Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Galaxina / The Crater Lake Monster Science Fiction Double Feature

Science Fiction Double Feature Blu-ray
Mill Creek Entertainment

MPAA Rating: R
Region Code: A,B
Aspect Ratio: 1080p 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, LPCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0
Duration: 95 mins
Director: William Sachs
Cast: Dorothy Stratten, Stephen Macht, Avery Schreiber
Tagline: She's too good to be true... and too real to be otherwise.

SYNOPSIS: This beloved sci-fi parody chronicles the adventures of the starship Infinity where Captain Cornelius Butt finds himself playing "mommy" to a baby alien while handsome crewman Thor falls in love with the beautiful robot pilot Galaxina and tries to turn her into a real woman.

FILM: Here's a science fiction send-up that would be all but forgotten if not for it starring Dorothy Stratten in the titular role. Stratten was a 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year whom met an unfortunate demise that same year at the wrong end of a  shotgun when her hustler husband Paul Snider caught wind of her affair with director Peter Bogdonavich. The seedy details of the story can be seen in the film Star 80 (1983). Galaxina (1980) is a schlocky Star Wars (1977) drive-in cash-in that follows the crew of the galactic police cruiser Infinity as they attempt to recover an item called the Blue Star. We've got Capt. Cornelius Butt (Avery Schreiber), his second in command Sgt. Thor (Stephen Macht), Buzz (J.D. Hinton) the ships voluptuous android Galaxina (Stratten). The plot is nonsense and the subplot involving Sgt. Thor and Galxina's attraction for each other is even more so. This aims to be a sci-fi lampoon of Star Wars (1977), Star Trek and Alien (1979) but it's just not funny, it's as simple as that. The gags are truly terrible, the pace is painful and the production looks budget starved. Highlights include a sad attempt to emulate the chest-burster scene from Alien and the cantina scene from Star Wars in the guise of a intergalactic whorehouse, a Vulcan-esque character named Mr. Spot, a Darth Vader-ish villian Ordic and a clan of Earth descendants whom worship a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as God. This is pure drive-in schlock that fails on nearly every level. Seeing this with a group of like minded friends with some beers could have gone a ways towards improving my viewing experience but going at it solo and sober was fairly mind-numbing. 1.5 outta 5

BLU: While the source material is not overly wrought with print damage it is mighty dirty and the image is soft, the colors are muted and the black levels are lacklustre. Compression issues mar the image throughout and the 1080p high definition bump does little to improve the presentation with very little fine detail to note other than some of the miniature ships effects shots. Audio options include mono DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, LPCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitle options. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: Mill Creek Entertainment offer nothing in the way of supplemental materials which is a bummer as the BCI/Eclipse HD-DVD edition of Galaxina featured a commentary, an interview and trailers but these features are not carried over. While I feel that the films is definitely a dud it does fall into that so bad it's kinda fun territory and a commentary may have provided some additional fodder for viewer's entertainment. 

MPAA Rating: PG 
Region Code: A,B
Aspect Ratio: 1080i 1.85:1 Anamorphic 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, LPCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0
Duration: 85 mins
Director: William R. Stromberg
Cast: Richard Cardella, Glenn Roberts, Mark Siegel
Tagline: A best more frightening than your most terrifying nightmare!

SYNOPSIS: Crater Lake, Oregon is the site of a meteor landing that causes a long-buried dinosaur egg to hatch. The creature quietly stalks the countryside and finds the locals as a good food source. The mysterious deaths confound the authorities until the dinosaur finally reveals his presence to the townspeople.

FILM: A group of archaeologists that includes a pipe smoking professor (of course) discover cave paintings that prominently feature a plesiosaurus-type creature that would seem to proves that dinosaurs existed in the time of primitive man. It's a bombshell discovery that will rock the scientific world but before it can be documented a meteor slams into Crater Lake (ironic, no?) destroying  the discovery. Shortly thereafter the backwoods community of Crater Lake, Oregon experiences as rash of mysterious deaths that starts with cattle and soon moves onto tourists. Turns out a long buried plesiosaurus egg buried in the mud of the lake has been incubated by the searing heat of the submerged meteor and what should emerge? A full grown dinosaur – pure genius! Not surprisingly the creature bares more than a passing resemblance to the Loch Ness creature that had captured the imagination of millions in the 60's and 70's, it s pure schlocky awesomeness done in Ray Harryhausen style stop-motion animation by then newcomer David Allen whom would go onto to do visual effects for The Howling (1981), Q - the Winged Serpent (1982), The Hunger (1983) and Dolls (1987). He worked on a ton of great stuff and here we have an example of his early work which also included the cult classic Equinox (1970). For a schlocky 70’s B-movie the setting is great and makes full use of the area's natural beauty. There's a fun cast of characters that include the skeptical Sheriff Hanson (Robert Cardella) and two hicks that run the local boat rental  shop Arnie (Glen Robert) and Mitch (Mark Siegel). These two not only provide some fun slapstick laughs but are in fact the heroes of the film. Odd moments abound throughout and the most peculiar may be a random liquor store robbery that leaves two store employees dead. The Sheriff gives chase and shoots and wounds the suspect who flees on foot through the forest but quickly becomes creature bait. It's odd and came out of left field but it's best just to roll with punches and enjoy this schlocky creature feature, fun stuff. 
3.5 outta 5

BLU: The Crater Lake Monster looks surprisingly remarkable on Blu-ray given the age of the film and it's drive-in origins. There are a few bits of print damage but overall the transfer is clean and offers a surprising amount of detail and depth the image.  The colors are vibrant and the black levels are solid throughout. I think fans of the film will be quite pleased with what they find here. As audio goes we get the option of mono DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, LPCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles. An interesting audio quirk is that the Dolby Digital 2.0 track on The Crater Lake Monster is actually the audio for Galaxina. Weird.


VERDICT: Something these two films have in common are fantastically painted theatrical posters that are gloriously epic, the films themselves not so much. Galaxina is definitely a slab of non-essential cinema even in the context of a Star Wars knock-off but might appeal to schlock cinema buffs. If you love campy 70’s schlock and creature features The Crater Lake Monster is a true b-movie treat and a sight to behold on Blu-ray. I've been enjoying this latest wave of Mill Creek Entertainment Blu-ray double features and would love to see some 70's/80's horror gems from the vault get a decent blu-ray double feature. At $8 on I give this a recommend if only for The Crater Lake Monster, that's some good stuff right there.