Battlestar Galactica (1978)
B- Sound: B- Extras: C+ Film: B-
In one of
the more interesting, if overly simple ways studios other than 20th
Century-Fox (they had a hyphen then) tried to catch up with the Fox hit Star Wars (1977) was Universal cutting
together some episodes of their semi-hit ABC-TV series Battlestar Galactica. The
show was slow-moving so audiences could see the visual effects, which dragged
the show down more than they should have.
The pace of this makeshift feature is punched up, but it is no space
opera. But what is it?
has an exodus of humans from outer space searching for earth, but they have to
survive the human extermination of the Cylon Centurions, robot killers much
more mobile than Dr. Who’s Daleks. This also involves many space battles that
try their best to be WWII dogfights with laser shots. In the meantime, their leader (Lorne Greene)
uses his wisdom to help their strategy in surviving before they reach earth, if
ever. The best space fighters (Richard
Hatch, Dirk Bendict) are the leads, but it tries to push its cast the best it
can. Singer and then little-known Rick
Springfield plays a brother of one of them, doing an obvious impersonation of
Mark Hamill in the first Star Wars,
but not as well. Jessie’s Girl was still four years away.
Richard A. Colla had helmed the cult favorite The Questor Tapes, a TV movie written by Star Trek mastermind Gene Roddenberry as a possible pilot for a
series that never happened. That looks
really good as compared to how Roddenberry’s best known franchise has been
overly exposed. Colla began in TV doing
episodes of Westerns (The Legend of
Jesse James, Gunsmoke, The Virginian) made him the ideal
candidate for that aspect of this franchise.
That he then did the pilot episode of the detective hit McCloud sealed it. A series of other quality telefilms and
theatrical films like 1972’s Fuzz
led up to this.
Glen A. Larson wrote the script, which is really teleplay material. The world is never truly explained and the
new version of the franchise trashes this world totally. The passive design emphasis on pyramids and
lie structures were more interesting on the TV hit Isis and are more dated than many of the visual effects.
X 1 image is not anamorphic, but holds up better than expected. Some special effects work is obvious set
work, but at the time, this was more seriously done and realistic looking as
compared to TV hits like Lost in Space. That helped keep audiences tuning in for a
while. The camerawork is nothing special
otherwise, though John Dykstra was still on the Star Wars franchise when he did some of these effects. Ironically, some of them have the very look
at their best that lost effects innovations in the original Star Wars films have had dropped for
often inferior digital replacements.
We’ll have to see how they compared to the new (fourth!) versions of the
older films when the DVDs finally arrive.
also offers the return of the infamous 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono with subwoofer
effects created at the time of the film’s release. No magnetic multi-channel Dolby 70mm blow up
for this baby, baby. The .1 subwoofer
track was created for Sensurround presentations to boost the film in
theaters. It might be another reason Universal
did not use Dolby, which Star Wars
broke in. Sensurround was Universal’s
big sound process and this film was one of its last gasps. As it is, this is still amusing and can claim
to have the best sound of any TV show cut into a theatrically-released
film. I would argue that the Dolby
Digital 2.0 Mono on Anchor Bay’s out-of-print Night Stalker/Night Strangler disc is
cleaner, but this is a fun DVD for PCs that have a 2.1 configuration. Too bad the film was not 2.1 Mono or Stereo.
repeating the first DVD release on one side, you get weblinks, a short plug for
the new Battlestar Galactica
mini-series, and a longer piece on the new videogame based on the entire
franchise, save Galactica 1980. Maybe that will be announced at a later
date. As a matter of fact, the only
thing missing are the TV ads for Battlestar
Galactica Space Glow Putty and the Cylon Bubble Machine. It is at least competent entertainment and
now, nostalgia. It will be interesting
to look at the TV boxed set and new mini-series next.
- Nicholas Sheffo