If you’ve ever seen some of the god-awful movies that independent film studio Crown International Pictures released like The Beast of Yucca Flats, The Creeping Terror, or They Saved Hitler’s Brain, you may have pondered the age-old question: “What they fuck were these guys thinking?” Well, while the more “traditional” film historians out there will continue to vomit over the mere mention of some of the movies Crown released over the years, we B-movie lovers will prolong to show our adoration for enduring class-icks such as 1980’s sci-fi sex romp, Galaxina, and 1977’s throwback to ’50s horror, The Crater Lake Monster — both of which are featured here on this double feature Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.
Following the galaxy-sized success of Star Wars in 1977, filmmakers around the world were eager to jump on the science fiction bandwagon. Sadly, very few folk were ever able to develop a franchise (or even a sovereign entity, for that matter) that was anywhere near the level of illustriousness that the George Lucas hit had.
William Sachs, on the other hand, who brought us 1980’s Galaxina, wasn’t too worried about making a classic: he was just in the market to make fun of sci-fi movies — something he had tried to do once before with The Incredible Melting Man (which was, sadly, re-edited by the studios into a “serious” monster movie; but that’s another review altogether). This time, though, Sachs succeeded.
With a budget as low as the brow of its humor, Galaxina brings us a delightfully corny send-up of space operas and the classic style of westerns that helped to inspire them. Set in the 31st Century, the “opus” follows the exploits of a police vessel manned by a motley crew of inept men (and aliens), all kept together thanks to the efforts of a sexy, human-like android named Galaxina (former Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered by her estranged husband shortly before this film was released).
Stephen Macht and the always wonderful Avery Schreiber are in charge of the ship, which ventures to an old west style world with man-eating aliens and Harley Davidson-worshipping bikers. The film spoofs just about every popular sci-fi flick of the time, and its classical music score is the perfect balance to the silly sex jokes and goofy premise.
Speaking of goofy premises, the same year Star Wars first hit our galaxy, another Crown International Pictures release was meandering onto theater screens; its name, The Crater Lake Monster. Set in a small mountain community (not the famous Oregon State Park), this ineptly-acted and so-bad-it’s-good tale is of a giant plesiosaur that comes to life following a meteor crash.
Growing up real fast like, the critter enjoys snacking on the many people who venture out or near the body of water (which is not a crater, incidentally), but never seems to eat any of the film’s truly unlikable characters like two odious hillbillies and a nearly emotionless sheriff with a grand pornstache (Richard Cardella, who also co-wrote the story with director William R. Stromberg , both of whom faded into obscurity after this, their only feature ever).
The highpoint of the movie are the stop-motion special effects by special effects guru, Dave Allen, with assistance from several other experts in the field like Jim Danforth and Phil Tippett. Another lad from the FX realm, Michael F. Hoover, also worked on the film, though as a cast member rather than a technician — and appears in a suit and hat that makes him look like Joe Flaherty as Guy Caballero from SCTV!
In addition to the bad acting, Crown allegedly screwed the pooch on this picture by not giving the feature their full support. According to Richard Cardella himself (who submitted the following information at badmovieplanet.com), Crown execs backed out on several important scenes, added a library music score, and hired an inexperienced editor to piece what eventually became a mess together.
Well, that would explain why the day-for-night scenes don’t have any sort of “nighttime” filter on ’em, and why there are long shots when there should be close-ups. It would be interesting to see what would happen were Cardella and Stromberg afforded with the opportunity to revisit their single film résumé entry today; I don’t know about you, but I’d pay to see The Crater Lake Monster: The Director’s Cut any day. I bet that the original film elements are still lying around somewhere, too, given that Crown has uncovered stockrooms full of memorabilia (I should know: I bought several stacks of exploitation pressbooks in an auction a few years back).
The print used for this Blu-ray release might also serve as proof there are original elements lying around, too, since the presentation for The Crater Lake Monster here is way better than I expected from a budget label like Mill Creek. The colors here are vibrant, the print surprisingly crisp (and refreshing!), and detail is pretty darn good. Galaxina’s transfer, however, is not as exceptional, and is rather dark and grainy. That said, though, Galaxina’s flaws make it all the more enjoyable — even if the whole release is a barebones affair (though there are some great special features on the BCI Eclipse Special Edition DVDs) — and the fact that both films are in their widescreen ratios here makes this disc a keeper if you’re a lover of cheese this ripe.