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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Theatrical From TV Release > Battlestar Galactica (1978/Universal DVD)

Battlestar Galactica (1978)


Picture: 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?


The story 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.


Director 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.


Producer 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.


The 1.85 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.


The DVD 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.


Besides 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


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