Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Review: Galactica DVD

I had been in the market (as it were) for one of those cheap DVD multi-film packs for awhile last year. Then I happened to across this Galactica set last October in an Orlando outlet mall, so I picked it up for less that ten bucks. Unlike some of the others I've come across, not all of the titles on this set are public domain, and some are obscure rarities that were a pleasure to discover. Others, unfortunately, were quite painful. So let the reviewing begin!

In the Year 2889 (1967)
Token "Celebrity": Paul Peterson

In terms of cheese, the first one is perhaps the best. Director Larry Buchanan had a string of projects that were remakes of films whose scripts the studio had the rights to. This one here is a remake of Roger Corman's The Day the World Ended. If nothing else, this remake convinces you that Corman was lightyears ahead of some other directors in terms of talent. The dialogue, such as it is, is badly dubbed. The plot makes little sense. And the sets don't get more elaborate that the acre or so around some schmuck's house that they were able to obtain the use of (they mention a natural spring out in the woods at one point, and when we actually see the "spring", it comes complete with diving board, ladder and concrete walkway). Paul Peterson, who is best known as one of the original Mousketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club, does about as well as the other actors, which is to say "not very". Seriously, this is a great selection for the "so bad it's good" category.

Journey to the Center of Time (1967)
Token "Celebrity": Lyle Waggoner

I first watched this film while drugged out on cold medicine. That could probably account for my going to sleep halfway through, but I don't want to give the NyQuil too much credit. Watching the film while healthy still resembles a fever dream, and when I went back to see watch parts of it the second time, I couldn't believe that my mind hadn't made it up. Cardboard sets, inexpressive actors, a slow plot, and some guy I could have sworn was Leslie Nielson, but apparently was not. Lyle Waggoner, who plays one of the aliens, is best known for The Carol Burnett Show and Wonder Woman, two credits which he will definitely list before even remembering this one.

Idaho Transfer (1973)
Token Celebrity: Keith Carradine

One can't but help but feel you've stumbled into "student film" territory with this one, and that isn't hard to do with most of the cast being teenagers and twenty-somethings. The basic premise is that a time machine has been created at a university in Idaho that can only go a certain number of years into the future; a future that appears to be one after the extinction of the human race. Compared to everything else on this disc, this is pretty good. The plot is interesting and the minimal props and special effects were well used. Aside from the brief appearance by Carradine, most of the acting is wooden. I'm willing to bet director Peter Fonda grabbed most of these people from colleges in the area he was shooting the spooky post-apocalyptic scenes (Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument). You can find another good review of this flick at Unknown Movies, complete with screenshots.

The Day Time Ended (1980)
Token "Celebrity": Jim Davis

So here we have an retired couple moving into a new home in the desert that is totally modern with it's solar power and hemispherical design and whatnot. Come to visit them on this occasion is their children, grandchildren and, unfortunately, some aliens from another planet! Any more description would be really pointless, because the rest of the story simple serves as set-ups for stop-motion action with a cavalcade of creatures, spaceships and glowing pyramids. Jim Davis is better known as the grand Ewing patriarch on the Dallas TV show during the 1980's. He and the other actors do an adequate job reacting to the nothings around them. To see some footage, go check out the film's entry on the Badmovies.org website.

Star Odyssey (1979)
Token "Celebrity": Somebody Italian ... maybe

This one hurt. It's not the most painful film on this disc (that one is two slots down), but it comes close. It's an Italian film that was clearly... ahem ... "inspired" by Star Wars. We have some goofy aliens, annoying robots, futuristic sets, heroes, villains and plenty of shoot outs with laser guns. The acting is over the top with some painful comic relief. Even though it is dubbed in English, the plot makes little sense. One thing that stick out like a sore thumb was sequence square in the middle of the film that was clearly meant for the beginning as it gives the backstory that drives the plot ... such as it is.

Warriors of the Wasteland (1982)
Token "Celebrity": Fred Williamson

Now here is an Italian ripoff that was quite welcome; Mad Max cheese of the highest order. You know the drill: Post apocalyptic wasteland, the lone reluctant hero drawn in to help the pilgrims and fight the mean barbarians. The interesting thing I noticed in this one was how, even though civilization has fallen and everyone is in rags, the barbarian bad guys all have snazzy matching uniforms and custom vehicles. Where did they get those? Oh, and Fred Williamson plays the badass that helps out our stoic hero. Anybody who has watched their share of Blaxploitation films and cheap straight to video fare will recognize him and count themselves glad he's there.

Waiting for the Giants (2000)
Token "Celebrity": No one to be seen for miles

(A side note: The original release of this DVD set had the old B&W version of Day of the Triffids included. Apparently, there were some rights conflicts with this, and subsequent editions of the set replaced that film with this one. As I will soon reveal, it was a most unfair trade.)

OH, THE PAIN! We're in serious low budget film territory, here. The story, which is really a ripoff of the original X-Men film, has little appeal. The actors, well, aren't. And the execution is really horrid at times, particularly during the night scenes where you seriously cannot hear the actor's dialogue over the thrumming of the portable generator powering the lights. Oh, and the most priceless moment is a dream sequence where they all three main characters are supposed to be floating in the sky, so they achieve this by putting the camera on the ground tilted up and shooting the actors as they wave their arms and make like they're floating while walking around. Damn, this one hurt.

Killers From Space (1954)
Token "Celebrity": Peter Graves

This film has the MST3K feeling about it, and it's a wonder that they never did this one.
Peter Graves stars as a scientist that is abducted by aliens and he turns out to be the only one that can save the planet from destruction! What with all the military stock footage and lame special effects that make ordinary animals look like giants, you'd think you were watching a Bert I. Gordon flick. Still, it's easy enough to pass the time with this one, particularly if you like the cinematic fare that Joel and the 'bots were regularly subjected to. I suspect I don't need to explain who Peter Graves is, but here's the link to his IMDb resume just in case.

Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Token Celebrity: Jack Nicholson (Jack doesn't get the sarcasm quote marks)

Roger Corman was also a frequent subject on MST3K, but this film is actually considered a classic by some. It went on to inspire the 1986 Frank Oz remake and, subsequently, the stage musical. The storyline is the same: young kid who works for a florist finds a unique plant that brings in customers, but only if the plant is regularly fed human blood. It's very low budget, but they do a lot with what they have and you have to respect the dedication of both Corman and the entire crew. Jack Nicholson makes one of his first film appearances here. Contrary to many things I had read before seeing this, he plays a masochist dental patient, not the dentist himself. This is a full nine years before Easy Rider, and his one appearance does provide one of the films highlights.

Neophytes and Neon Lights (2001)
Token "Celebrity": Matt Doran

As we are made aware of during the introductory Amiga-ish computer animation, there is a teleport station out in the middle of Sydney harbor. We get to know a few of the travelers as well as the staff of the place and a quartet of cyberpunk teenagers (with theivery on their minds). The set up is fine, but the story they have could have been told in fifteen minutes, if that. The padding is painful to watch, and the actors don't give you much incentive to follow them around. Plus, there is a lot of swearing in the film. Normally, I don't give a rats ass about this, but the swearing is so inelegant and unnecessary, that I grew tried of it and the characters spouting it by the time it was over. They were clearly going for a Kevin Smith vibe with this one, but they never got remotely close. Matt Doran will always be known as Mouse from the original Matrix film. The most I can say is that he is not quite as annoying as the lead characters.

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