Directed by William Sachs
BCI Eclipse Region 1
Before this movie had its premiere, Playboy Playmate of the Year 1980 Dorothy Stratten (who plays the title character) had her head blown off with a shotgun by her husband before he turned the gun on himself. She was twenty years old and has since been played on screen by both Jamie Lee Curtis in Death of a Centrefold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981) and Mariel Hemmingway in Star ‘80 (1983).
I didn’t know any of this back when I was a kid. All I knew was that, according to articles in Starburst and Starlog magazines, there was a cool new sci-fi film called Galaxina supposed to be coming out... and where was it already? Well I don’t know if it ever did get a cinema release here in the UK but I certainly saw no sign of it at my local cinema and it had always been one of those “films that got away”... until I recently discovered there was a 25th Anniversary edition of the movie that got a release on DVD in the US. So now I’ve finally gotten to see one of the movies I wanted to see as a kid... and it’s a curious little timepiece I must say.
While its not quite the Star Wars bandwagon rip off I was expecting from this movie... there are certainly all the obvious elements that would point to the green light for the budget being given the go ahead in the wake of the first installment of Lucas’ seminal space opera. However, it has to be said that Galaxina is a real pot pourri of styles and inspirations, many of which are far from subtle, given the fact that this is definitely a film which is both not to be taken seriously and... to my surprise... not trying to take itself seriously. It’s definitely a comedy and, while not really that big on laughs, you can see that it’s certainly been inspired by both Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and, more obviously, John Carpenter’s Dark Star... that is to say, the influence of Dan O’ Bannon is perpetually on screen in this movie with some elements, such as a “feeding the alien” sequence and a dinner table “alien parasite birth”, being quite blatant in their sense of “homage”. It very much carries the atmosphere of the original Heavy Metal cartoon within its frames too... perhaps it could be said that both movies were good at catching the spirit of their time.
The story tells of a police starship crew who are ordered to take on a mission which will necessitate spending 27 extra years in suspended animation. During the time the crew sleeps, the ship’s robot, Galaxina, reprogrammes herself so that she can have sex with a particular human on the ship she has fallen in love with, Sgt. Thor, without electrocuting him (a feature built in to stop humans and robots sexually fraternising) and also teaches herself how to speak. The crew go to retrieve a revered artifact but they are not the only ones who want to take possession of it... hilarious and also, it has to be said, not so hilarious hijinks ensue.
This is played for laughs for a lot of the time but, while I personally found that a lot of the jokes just weren’t working for me, this didn’t fail as spectacularly as one might think... indeed, even with some of the less than tasteful attempts at humour on display here, the film does have a certain charm laying within its celluloid coils and when the occasional joke or witticism does strike true... it really begins to work as a movie and while it is, in many ways, quite terrible... I have to say that I quite enjoyed it and will certainly be taking another look at this one in due course.
The aforementioned and tragic Miss Stratten is, obviously, not hard to look at and plays her role more than competently. She is, it seems to me, quite underused at times but when she is sent down to a planet to retrieve the artefact in question, "the blue star", she really comes into her own... even if she does have to be rescued from a dangerous cult of Harley Davidson worshipping bikers. The tragedy of her wasted life will probably start to hit home once you see how good she was in these sequences.
Also, although the comedy and wit is, as I said, a bit hit and miss... there’s enough of it coming at you on all sides that you sometimes fail to keep track of some of the good stuff. A “Human Restaurant” on the planet which turns out to be a restaurant serving bits of cooked humans has some great titles on the menu... fun stuff like "Knuckle Sandwich" for example.
There’s also some great little things for movie fans to watch and listen out for...
The alien planet is shown in posterised colours during the daytime, presumably to hide the lack of “alien atmosphere” when the cheap production could only afford to utilise a Western back lot set for the planet... but this doesn’t stop the director from pushing that point home when he includes a little homage to the Sergio Leone “stare” shots in a shoot out between Galaxina and her enemy.
The Batmobile from the Adam West Batman TV show is also prominently on display as a car from another planet and many of the sound effects heard in the show are cribbed straight from old episodes of Star Trek and what would have been a fairly new TV show at the time, Battlestar Galactica.
The biggest homage to movies, apart from the pre-credits title crawl lifted from Star Wars (although it was originally used in the old Universal Serial recaps of the late 30s and early 40s... and I suspect the director must have been conscious of this in light of what I’m about to write) is the use of music. These guys presumably had no budget for a soundtrack so they’ve gone with old classical music pieces, needle-dropped in for the bulk of the film. One cue in particular is Franz Liszt’s Les Preludes which is played quite prominently during key scenes of the movie and eagle-eared viewers may remember this as being the piece culled to score the opening titles and a lot of the interior music to the 1939 serial Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. Although this is obviously the cheap option... the use of this just feels so right to invoke a science fiction movie where the emphasis is on fun as opposed to anything more cerebral... Galaxina is, it should be said, not a cerebral movie.
All the actors in this, including the aforementioned Playboy Playmate of the Year 1980, are more than competent in their performances and, if the script often creaks and jars credibility and taste, at least the performances of these lines are put across with a certain conviction and loyalty to the finished product. I’m not saying that makes the lines that much easier to take in some instances... but it does sweeten the pill just a little bit and, at the end of the day, what this movie lacks in decent scripting, it more than makes up for in the charm department.
If you like science fiction movies in a big way and want to see something which is vastly inferior to Dark Star while at the same time being a noble stab at something which is not a “complete” rip off of Star Wars... but made at a time when not being a complete rip off of Star Wars was considered a crime against the mighty spirit of the box office, then giving this film a spin certainly won’t do you any harm and you may find you start to enjoy it. Get some alcohol and a few friends in and give it a go, perhaps?