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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Post Apocalypse > Creature > Monster > Satire > Space > Machines > Robots > Damnation Alley/The Crater Lake Monster & Galaxina/Crash And Burn & Robot Wars (1977/Shout! Factory Blu-ray/1977 + 1980/Mill Creek Blu-ray Double Feature/1990 + 1993/Shout! Factory Double Feature)

Damnation Alley/The Crater Lake Monster & Galaxina/Crash And Burn & Robot Wars (1977/Shout! Factory Blu-ray/1977 + 1980/Mill Creek Blu-ray Double Feature/1990 + 1993/Shout! Factory Double Feature)


Picture: B/B-/C/C-/C     Sound: B/C/C/C/C     Extras: B/D/D/D/D     Films: C+/C-/C/C/C-



Here we'll be taking a look at a few discs worth of sci-fi cinema made from the late '70s to the early '90s.  While the majority of these titles might be of questionable pedigree, fans of schlock will nonetheless be happy to receive them with open arms.


In the summer of 1977, all bets were on Damnation Alley to be the breakout science fiction film for 20th Century Fox.  Their projected low performer of the year was none other than George Lucas' Star Wars - a film both he and the studio continue to depend on when it comes to raking in piles of cash.  But what happened to the “other” movie?  For a long time Damnation Alley languished on VHS, and did eventually gain some cult favoritism, but was never anything mass amounts of people discovered... something that's still not likely to change with this release.


Looking at both movies, as ahead of its time as Star Wars was, it can be hard to believe that they were even conceived of within the same time frame.  Whereas that movie created a fantastical new approach to the genre and was able to present a new, believable universe, Damnation Alley had only clunky and outdated special effects to work with in offering its look at the dismal future of Earth.  This would prove to be a major handicap, and one that made several scenes in the film totally laughable.  In the end, though, it wasn't just the effects, but also the using of aging genre clichés that rendered this film impotent.


Making this release attractive as more than just a historical oddity is the inclusion of several new bonus features.  There's a commentary track with the film's producer, Paul Maslansky, as well as a few interesting featurettes and a trailer and TV spot for the film. Damnation Alley does look good for what it is, but the archaic optical effects do occasionally mar the appearance of some scenes.  It is presented here on Blu-ray in 1080p with an anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 frame.  Soundtrack options include a 6.1 DTS-HD track, and another featuring 7.1 PCM uncompressed audio.


Mill Creek has been stepping up their game lately with several double feature Blu-rays hitting the market.  The one looked at here includes another release of Galaxina as well as The Crater Lake Monster.


The Crater Lake Monster does feature some good effects courtesy of noted stop-motion artist Dave Allen.  However, the parts of the movie without his work to be seen (almost all of it) are mind numbingly stupid.  As a result, this is little more than a way to kill an hour and a half – and not a pleasant one.  Collectors of Allen's work will doubtless still want to pick this disc up, and the inclusion of the other film at least improve the odds that you'll find the purchase to be worthwhile.


We've taken a look at Galaxina previously on two different formats.  For expanded coverage, you can read those reviews starting with this link:





This sci-fi space comedy treads much of the same territory that Barbarella and Flesh Gordon had staked out some time earlier.  While it never outshines either of those classics, it is still of some interest as it was the last film to feature the late actress and Playboy Playmate, Dorothy Stratten.  Previously released on DVD and HD-DVD through BCI Eclipse in editions laden with special features, it now comes to Blu-ray through Mill Creek, but is lacking the added content included with the previous editions.  For those who missed out on those releases when they had the chance, this at least presents a very inexpensive way to see the film until a better version comes along.


The Crater Lake Monster is only presented in 1080i, but looks surprisingly crisp, though still far from perfect.  Unlike the HD-DVD before it, Galaxina is now presented in full 1080p, but due to the age of the print and some issues with detail, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image isn't all that great.  Both Crater Lake and Galaxina offer three separate audio options – in DTS-HD, Dolby and uncompressed PCM, all of them being 2.0 mixes.


Lastly, we arrive at the Giant Robot Action Pack – a double shot of 'bot action from Full Moon Features and Shout! Factory.  In it, we have Crash and Burn from 1990, and Robot Wars from 1993.  Both of them are considered spiritual successors to Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox, and were even marketed as sequels in certain territories.  While these films aren't examples of filmmaking at its finest, if you're familiar with Full Moon's other movies, you should know what you're getting into.


Neither was ever going to win awards, but I found the time I spent watching Crash and Burn to be enjoyable – though some might be put out by the minimal amount of action we see from the giant 'bot depicted on the cover.  Making up for that, Bill Moseley is always able to hold interest and he makes for a great villain here.  On the other hand, Robot Wars is every bit as lame as you expect it to be, and for most viewers won't be worth the time you'll put in.  You can only take so much cheap banter and recycled ideas (and footage, too) before you can take it no more.


These titles are both pretty basic, with no special features whatsoever and only the bare minimum you could ask for of the picture and sound.  Both are presented with a lackluster 1.33:1 full frame image accompanied by a 2.0 sound mix.



-   David Milchick


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