BCI Eclipse // 1980 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // September 22nd, 2006
"What's on your mind, if you'll forgive the overstatement?" -- Captain Cornelius Butt (Avery Schreiber)
Some movies persist in our minds not because of their own merits, but because of the stories surrounding them. Would Galaxina even be remembered as anything other than a forgotten relic, one of a thousand z-movie knock-offs that flooded the market after Star Wars, if it were not for Dorothy Stratten's awful death? In fact, the DVD packaging for this movie even includes a paragraph briefly relating Stratten's story (and plugs Star 80, the most popular account of her tragedy). The booklet insert tells Stratten's life story in more intimate (and melodramatic) detail -- and says nothing at all about the production of Galaxina. Clearly, the death of Stratten is, in the eyes of distributor BCI, a key selling point for the film.
Oddly, this is not the way I remember Galaxina. When I first saw it, back in the early days of cable television, I knew almost nothing about Stratten, her brief reign as a Playboy Playmate of the Year, or how her estranged, lunatic husband Paul Snider murdered her. All I knew about the film is that my mother insisted that comedian Avery Schreiber was her cousin. I never met Schreiber, and none of my other relatives confirmed this fact, and it was only many years later that I learned that Schreiber, a mainstay in commercials and sitcoms throughout my childhood, was an early member of The Second City improv company. So the guy had chops. Yet -
See, there I go. As I said, Galaxina the film is actually less interesting that the stories that surround it. Stratten, an icy pin-up beauty -- the girl next door, if you lived next door to the Swedish bikini team -- is cast in a role that is not altogether taxing: she plays a robot. Of course, if robots could squeeze butts that perfect into skin-tight jump suits like she could, they'd have conquered Earth long ago. Unfortunately, if you want to see Stratten outside of that jumpsuit, you'll have to find the old Playboy issues she appeared in, which I am guessing now go for a lot of money. Her contract with Hefner prevented her from showing any skin in this movie.
A Lucas-style crawl tells us that the year is 3008. Try not to cringe at the comma errors while you read about the Galactic Federation and its efforts to patrol space. Anyway, the police ship Infinity is led by Captain Cornelius Butt (Avery Schreiber). Leering pilot Thor (Stephen Macht) ogles robot helper Galaxina (Stratten). Captain Butt eats a space egg for a bad parody of Alien. There is a sassy black mechanic with bat wings (he calls one character a "space honkey"), an aphorism-spouting Chinese guy stoned on opium, and a foul-mouthed rubber alien kept in a prison cell. There is a trip to an alien brothel (meant to send up the cantina in Star Wars). Eventually, the film discovers its plot about halfway through.
The Blue Star is missing, and the crew must travel to a far-away planet for 27 years. You know it is a forbidding and dangerous planet, home of "the scum of the universe," because the Batmobile is parked there. No, seriously. Galaxina must take charge and find the Blue Star and save the galaxy. Or something. Honestly, I am not even sure writer and director William Sachs (who also helmed the equally aimless The Incredible Melting Man) was even keeping track by that point. When the pointy-eared alien called Mr. Spot, wearing a Star Trek uniform, turned up, it all slid downhill fast. I remember something about a biker dance party and -- oh, it just hurts. Make it stop.
Schreiber at least makes the most of jokes that would be stale in a 50s television sketch opposite Milton Berle. At least he seems to be having fun. Stratten herself doesn't utter a word until 45 minutes into the picture. Her function until then: sit imperiously in a tight jump suit, serve dinner in a tight French maid outfit, slink about in billowy lingerie, and look emotionally vulnerable for no particular reason. This is probably great for a centerfold, where you just have to hold still and look pretty. But it ain't acting. And the "romance" between Thor and Galaxina throws as many sparks as a wet paper towel. The movie is an effort to parody -- and cash in on -- popular movies of the period. You will see Star Wars, Alien, and even Grease -- none of it hanging together with any coherence. At one point, one character watches part of First Spaceship on Venus, a much better b-movie. I wish I could have watched that instead.
Twelve minutes of additional footage helped pad the film out in its international release. Usually that means nudity. Not here. Just padding that slows down the film even more. There is some raw video footage of the television "commercials" seen in the movie. You can also enjoy the script on DVD-ROM. Ok, stop laughing.
Actor Stephen Macht and director William Sachs offer an amiable commentary track. Sachs really did care about making a good movie, working hard to make the most of a limited budget. And they still think the jokes are funny. Good for them -- listening to their amused banter actually makes the film almost seem bearable. I get a sort of Ed Wood "let's get the gang together and make a movie" vibe from these guys. A second "commentary track" is really a lengthy interview with Sachs about the making of the movie. A good deal of time is spent on Sachs' bitter impressions of the two Svengalis who destroyed Stratten's life: her husband (and eventual killer) Paul Snider and self-serving director Peter Bogdanovich, whose account of making of the film (in his memoir of his affair with Stratten) Sachs contradicts in almost every detail.
Galaxina fails to stand up as a parody of science fiction movies of the period. All its jokes are done better elsewhere. I suppose this must be why it is only remembered as a vehicle for Dorothy Stratten. Thor speaks for the entire audience when he asks of Galaxina, "Why did they make her like that? Why didn't they make her out of tin stove pipes?" Maybe if they had, this story would have ended differently. There still might be a Galaxina, but at least Dorothy Stratten might have had a quiet life somewhere else. The movie would have been justly forgotten and not her unfitting memorial.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track
* Interview with William Sachs
* Footage from International Version
* Parody Commercials
* Photo Galleries