New at ExploderButton, an NSFW look at The Vixens of Kung-Fu

Producer / director Bill Milling’s porno cash-in on the mid-70s kung-fu craze may hail from the adult industry’s golden age, but it’s no classic by a long-shot. Reviewed from the DVD by VinegarSyndrome, with plenty of pics to offend those with prudish sensibilities. Read the review here!

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In less scandalous review news, I take a fresh look at the lamentably lovable Yeti – Giant of the 20th Century while Denis shares his thoughts on some pre-SyFy camp and a Lindsay Lohan flop that may be worth a second look.

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Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete

a.k.a. Teseo Contro il Minotauro
directed by
 Silvio Amadio
1960 | Gino Mordini | 92′ 

Life isn’t pleasant in Ancient Crete. For a generation or so the Cretans have made yearly human sacrifices to the Minotaur, whom its priesthood sees as a protective godhood rather than a monster with a tragic backstory roaming a labyrinth. Crete’s king Minos (Carlo Tamberlani) changes his mind about the whole human sacrifice thing when his wife begs him on her deathbed to abolish the practice. After all, she even has proof the god’s don’t care about these sacrifices, seeing as she secretly hid away one of their twin daughters with foreign peasants to protect her from being sacrificed as the later born of every twin pair in Crete should be, and was not punished by the gods for it.

That argument is enough to convince Minos, and while he’s planning on breaking with traditions, he also decides to bring that twin daughter, Ariadne (Rosanna Schiaffino) to court. Alas, his other daughter Phaedra is not very happy with another claimant on a throne he already sees at hers, and the man Minos sends out to find Ariadne, Chiron (Alberto Lupo), is all too willing to fulfil her wish to see her sister dead rather than rescued.

Chiron’s tactics as a political assassin are bad, though, for instead of locating Ariadne and then silently letting her disappear, he hires a horde of bandits to snuff out the whole village where she lives. Fortunately for the forces of justice, hero and prince-of-Athens Theseus (Bob Mathias) and his best buddy, the Cretan noble Demetrius (Rik Battaglia), are in the area. As Greek heroes, they are quite willing and able to push back a mere horde of bandits, even though Ariadne’s adoptive parents and a lot of villagers die in the attack before the duo can get in on the action.

Since Ariadne is a bit of a stunner, and Theseus really a nice guy, he takes the now orphaned girl to Athens to be taken into his father’s house and romanced. Demetrius’s confused reaction to the girl looking exactly like his princess our hero just laughs off.

Of course, this won’t be the last attempt on Ariadne’s life, and of course Theseus and Demetrius will sooner or later have to set out to set things right in Crete. However, things will become more dangerous and complicated than anyone could have expected, with Phaedra falling in love with Theseus, the involvement of the Cretan resistance of people who sit around drinking wine instead of acting, and war and doom coming for Athens.

 
 
 
 

Silvio Amadio’s Teseo came as a bit of a positive surprise to me. I do love my peplums, but I generally don’t expect too much of them, so when a film delivers so much more of interest as this one does, I tend to get a little giddy. It’s only fair, too, for there is much to be giddy about here.

Some of the film’s positive aspects are easily explained by the fact that it came relatively early in the peplum cycle, when the budgets for films of the genre often were a bit higher, and the productions could afford to hire extras for mass scenes and put more effort into their production design, which is always helpful in films as soundstage based yet in need of spectacle as these tend to be. Consequently, there are often more people on screen here when the script needs it than one would expect, giving the handful of battle scenes and the obligatory storming of the bad guys’ throne room (though it’s the sacrifice chamber here) a bit more weight and believability through the sheer number of participants. Compared to classical Hollywood monumental epics, there aren’t still all that many participants, but when you have seen enough of these films, you get rather thankful when an army consists of more than ten people. Depending on your taste in historians, you may even see the not quite as large armies as more realistic, though I doubt anyone involved here was interested in historical authenticity as much as in producing as much of a visual spectacle as the budget allowed.

Weight and a bit more believability seem to have been important when it came to the production design too, for every set and every costume is created with a love for telling details, from the walls of the houses of nobles actually being adorned with pictures and wall hangings, to the ubiquitous minotaur and bull depictions in Crete. This extra effort helps make the film’s Mythical Greece feel more like a world with its own coherence and its own rules than a series of sets.

Yet even an army of extras and the most beautiful production design in the world need a director equal to the task of using them properly. Amadio is more than equal to the task, with a sometimes painterly eye for the staging of scenes to the greatest visual effect, and a wonderful sense for the use of vivid colours. Amadio’s Mythical Greece may not be as dream-like and magical as that of Mario Bava, but it never is bland or colourless, and always vivid and larger than life.

The word “bland” unfortunately does lead me to the film’s greatest weakness, Bob Mathias as Theseus. His performance isn’t bad at all, but rather painfully neutral, as if that awesome (in the classic sense of the word) hero Theseus the other characters are speaking of had just stepped out for a moment only leaving his body there. Mathias’s blandness isn’t enough to ruin the film or even to annoy me much, yet it may be a stumbling stone for some.

The rest of the cast is much stronger, with Schiaffino able to play her double role well enough to keep Phaedra and Ariadne believable as two distinctively different persons; even though the script tends to make Ariadne a bit too virtuous and Phaedra a bit too evil for my tastes. But that sort of thing is part of the genre, and on the other hand, Ariadne is a bit spunkier than peplum heroines usually are. It’s probably not necessary to mention that Alberto Lupo could play the type of heel he’s playing here in his sleep; he’s clearly not asleep here.

On the script side, the film underplays the mythological elements of the story for most of its running time, making this a very entertaining and melodramatic story of Mythical Greek palace intrigues with an influx of swashbuckling, that just happens to include a surprise rescue by Amphitrite, and the battle against a not very threatening but rather lovely Minotaur with a very mobile but also very confused looking face. I also have to applaud the writers for their use of interesting and not always the most obvious parts of Greek myth here. They take their freedoms with it, but they sure do seem to know what they are doing and why.


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Arena

directed by Peter Manoogian
1989 | Empire Pictures | 87′ 

In the future, an intergalactic, inter-species fighting championship is held in a shoddy looking space station. Since the contestants are kept on the same physical level (except for things like size and number of limbs which won’t ever be important in a fight, no sir) by magical scientific handicap beams, a level playing field should be guaranteed for all. In truth, the championship is in the hands of evil Rogor (Marc Alaimo for a change being the evil boss instead of the evil boss’s first henchman) who cheats, lies and sucks the sportsmanship out of the sports wherever he can. Under these circumstances it comes as no surprise Rogor’s rude fighter Horn (Michael Deak) is the Champion of the Universe right now, and there’s no chance for the only honest trainer in the universe, Quinn (Claudia Christian), to ever lead one of her fighter to the title.

That is, until a series of complicated circumstances including a punch-up in a Space McDonald’s, an illegal gambling den and the human’s four-armed buddy Shorty (Hamilton Camp doing his best Ernest Borgnine) turns Earthling Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield in the beginning stages of anime hair) into her main fighter. Steve is not just as pure-hearted as Quinn, but also, as it turns out, the fighter who will once and for all lay the space sports rumour to rest that humans can’t fight, even if he has to survive sex with and a poisoning attempt by Rogor’s (space, one supposes) girlfriend and (definitely) space singer Jade (Shari Shattuck), and other evil plans of Rogor and his assistant Weezil (Armin Shimerman) to get and win his title fight.

People who know me won’t be at all surprised to hear that one of the few movie genres that doesn’t do anything at all for me is the sports film. Turns out I don’t care who can throw the ball hardest or kick his opponent in the reproductive organs the most subtle, and find the whole ideological shtick of these films rather unpleasant. Hell, I usually don’t even enjoy tournament martial arts films, unless they feature a yogi with retractable arms.

But put the sports film onto a space station and make most of the fighters cute little alien freaks, and I get all excited. It seems as if the best method to convince me that the general silliness of sports movies is fun lies in transporting them into even more silly space opera SF surroundings. And who am I to complain about it, seeing as I get a very fun time out of it, at least in Arena‘s case?

 
 
 

One of the best features of Arena is how serious it takes its own silliness, with nary a moment going by where the film isn’t decisively not winking at its audience, even if winking would be the most natural thing to do given the circumstances. However, delivering the weird and the silly with a straight face is often the best technique to make it fun to a viewer instead of just annoying. One doesn’t, after all, go into a movie to witness how much the filmmakers look down on their own work (and implicitly the audience paying to see it). Here, the knowledge of the silliness of the film’s basics is taken as self-evident but not as a reason to half-ass anything.

In fact, half-assing is quite the opposite of Arena‘s way of going about things. Instead director Peter Manoogian (also responsible for the awe-inspiring Eliminators), working for Charles Band when Charles Band was still doing his best to be Roger Corman and not a puppeteer, scriptwriters Danny Bilson (also responsible for a few other fine bits of fun low budget movie writing before he became a videogame company suit) and Paul De Meo (Bilson’s long-time writing partner), and the usual Empire Pictures gang do one hell of a job of piling weird, interesting and often funny detail upon weird, interesting, and often funny detail. There might not have been much money going around, but what these guys had, they put visibly on screen in form of a surprising number of different aliens with actually different body types (no Star Trek “facial lumps” only aliens here), sets that may depend on the audience’s goodwill yet are also built with love and effort, haircut and make-up crimes that make for a distinctly 80s kind of future, and more sight-gags than anyone could notice in a single session with the film.

Arena is the sort of movie that goes so out of its way when it comes to creating its world (even if its is a very silly world), it even features two pretty alien musical numbers for its not-all-that-alien singer Jade where most films would have contented themselves with a mock swing number with synthies instead of horns. The film isn’t creating a believable future (not that it’s out to do that), but it sure builds a place out of cheap sets, concepts and ideas plundered from Hollywood films of the 30s to 50s, pulp SF, and energetic enthusiasm.

That the few fights the film contains aren’t all that great to watch (it seems Steve’s fighting prowess consists in his ability to actually move faster than a snail) isn’t much of a problem in this context, for who cares about the quality of the fights when everything that happens on screen is so fun to look at?


The Horror!? is a regular cult cinema column by Denis Klotz, aficionado of the obscure and operator of the film blog of the same name.

Music Monday: Return of the Deadly Spawn Edition

We’re expecting Ted Bohus / Elite Entertainment’s new Blu-ray of the indelible man-eating monster classic The Deadly Spawn pretty much any time here in Wtf-Film-land, and given that the original pressing was such an unmitigated disaster I really can’t wait to see what improvements have been made. I’m not getting my hopes up too much until I’ve actually seen the new disc, but things sound positive so far. And let me just say that, whatever the results, kudos to Ted for taking fan complaints to heart and at least trying to make things right, and for keeping the community posted on his efforts besides. There are too few out there who are even willing to make the effort, and if for that alone Bohus is deserving of credit. Consider any and all given credit revoked. The new disc is ass as well.

Anyway, with the film so much on my mind this Music Monday selection seems almost pre-ordained. It’s the opening title music for The Deadly Spawn as heard on the Synapse DVD edition of the film. Enjoy, and check back soon for the low-down on the new Blu-ray.

Hammer Definition: The Reptile

Before I begin, a huge thanks is owed to my readers, without whom this Blu-ray review of The Reptile would not currently be possible. It was your support of this site, through our Amazon affiliate links, that allowed for the purchase of the disc here reviewed, as well as The Plague of the Zombies, which is to be reviewed here shortly. Thank you!

The final in an unsuccessful four-film experiment by producer Anthony Nelson Keys to make Hammer Film Productions’ operations at Bray Studios more cost effective, John Gilling’s The Reptile was produced back-to-back with the same director’s The Plague of the Zombies and released in the Spring of 1966 on a double bill with Don Sharp’s Rasputin: The Mad Monk. A small-scale horror produced with modest resources, The Reptile was the only of Keys’ four experiments to come in both on time and under budget, but it proved a case of too little success too late. Hammer Films’ operations at Bray Studios wrapped in October of 1966 with the conclusion of production on The Mummy’s Shroud, coincidentally also a Gilling film (this time under producer Michael Carreras), and scarcely four years later Bray was sold outright.

Though in scope only a minor Hammer horror, noticeably constrained by the limits of both time time and budget (the title for the original concept, The Curse of the Reptiles, hints at greater things, if by plurality alone), The Reptile ultimately rises above its modest ambitions through a keen sense for atmospherics and a generous helping of weird. More than that, The Reptile stands as a quintessential example of English Gothic horror cinema, replete with suspicious locals, strange happenings on the moors, and deep family secrets, and anchored with a downright Jamesian perspective on the dangers of venturing where one doesn’t belong.

After the unexpected, unexplained death of his brother in a small Cornish village, Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett, of Thunderbirds and Stingray fame) and his young wife Valerie (Jennifer Daniels, Kiss of the Vampire) take over his small cottage estate as their own, much to the consternation of superstitious locals. Suspicious as to the nature of his brother’s untimely demise Harry sets about investigating, and finds an unlikely co-investigator in friendly barkeep Tom (Michael Ripper, Hammer’s preeminent regular). It seems a regular spate of unusual deaths has the populace spooked, convinced that pestilence is afoot, but an examination of exhumed victims reveals things stranger still. The afflicted present with grotesquely swollen, blackened faces and, more bizarre, puncture wounds not at all unlike those inflicted by the King Cobra – a creature not exactly native to Cornwall.

Meanwhile the Spaldings become increasingly acquainted with Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman, ), a domineering theologian who keeps a stranglehold on his beautiful daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce) with the help – or is it hindrance? – of a mysterious Malay servant (Marne Maitland). Dr. Franklyn, who spent his professional years investigating the obscure cults of Southeast Asia, keeps the temperatures within his sprawling isolated estate at tropical levels, perfect for the exotic plants that fill his greenhouse and fit, perhaps, for a reptile…

The Reptile certainly isn’t the first film to ponder the cinematic potential of people who moonlight as monstrous snakes (it’s a sub-genre especially well represented throughout Asia), but it may be the first to attach to them the principals of Gothic horror – and indeed, the transposition of such an alien thing upon Victorian English sensibilities is a deliciously odd one. More interesting still is the context for it all. Though far from loaded with subtext The Reptile‘s premise does offer a bit of intellectual bite by way of an oblique criticism of England’s colonial past. In his travels through Asia Dr. Franklyn trespasses where he isn’t wanted, presuming the sanctity of his own research in an invasive investigation of local rites, and finds himself cursed for so long as he lives by a feared and secretive snake cult. As repayment for his own assumptions of superiority he must now watch as his own beloved daughter is regularly transformed into a malignant inhuman beast, powerless all the while to control her murderous impulse.

For his part character player Noel Willman is superb in the role of the tormented yet dominating Dr. Franklyn, a man trying desperately, if ineffectually, to keep the family secret under wraps. It certainly helps that Willman’s character is the one most developed in the screenplay (courtesy of regular Hammer producer / writer Anthony Hinds), but the actor layers the part with genuine pathos, backing a cold and icy demeanor with a palpable sadness. Jacqueline Pearce’s Anna evokes a comparably conflicted nature, but underwriting keeps her from being truly memorable beyond her exotic looks (including those plastered so thoroughly on the film’s advertising, the intriguing if not entirely effectual creation of ace make-up artist Roy Ashton). Pearce had starred in Hammer’s previous production The Plague of the Zombies, but isn’t the only carry over here. Fifth-billed Michael Ripper takes a substantial second turn as well as the good-hearted barkeep, and seemingly the only friendly sort in town. Ripper remains one of Hammer’s most recognizable faces (and voices), and though never so prominent as mainstays Cushing and Lee he would go on to appear in more of the studio’s productions than either.

Hammer’s close-knit staff of artisans were masters of style in their time, and despite the limitations of its production The Reptile is a pre-eminent example of the same – no small feat given that director Gilling was veritably hounded to bring the film in as swiftly as possible. The set and production design of studio regulars Don Mingaye (They Came From Beyond Space) and Bernard Robinson (These Are the Damned) is stellar, dominated by sprawling Gothic interiors that belie the compactness of the production. Ace DP Arthur Grant (Quatermass and the Pit) treats Mingaye and Robinson’s work right, demonstrating again his keen understanding of the importance of shadow, while director Gilling (The Flesh and the Fiends) does his best to elevate a shoestring production to something more. By my estimation he and his crew succeed admirably. The Reptile may not always work, but it’s rarely if ever a bore.

StudioCanal disappointed with the lackluster video presentation on Dracula: Prince of Darkness, a particularly embarrassing development given its status as a flagship Blu-ray from the most recognizable of Hammer franchises, but to their credit they appear anxious not to repeat the mistakes of that release here. Quatermass and the Pit still reigns as the superior HD Hammer presentation, but The Reptile certainly isn’t far behind.

Restored from a fresh 2K scan of the original negative (with the exception of the ratty opening title sequence), The Reptile looks absolutely marvelous in its new Blu-ray edition. The 1080p 1.66:1-framed transfer isn’t entirely spotless, and still kicks up the occasional speck or vertical scratch, but a substantial effort has obviously been undertaken (as the included restoration comparison attests) to ensure that it appears as good as is reasonably possible. The fine film grain isn’t quite so well rendered as on Quatermass, but it does appear demonstrably filmic and goes blessedly unperturbed by the kind of egregious digital manipulation that ruined Dracula: Prince of Darkness – in motion it looks damned good. Otherwise, contrast is at robust levels and the level of detail is impressive, with some of the close-ups looking mighty impressive. I really have no complaints, and can’t imagine The Reptile looking much better.

Technical specifications are similarly impressive. The Reptile receives a strong Mpeg-4 AVC video encode at an average bitrate of 31.9 Mbps, with peaks reaching as high as 35.0 Mbps. The encode is stable and free of issues, thoroughly avoiding the issues of posterization and noticeable artifacts. Perhaps the best thing one can say about this sort of thing is that it’s transparent, and doesn’t obscure the strengths of a transfer. The Reptile‘s encode fits that bill, and I’ve no complaints. It’s more difficult to laud the audio presentation, though the issue rests soundly with the quality of the original mix and not with any error on the part of Hammer / StudioCanal. The Reptile simply sounds no better and no worse than other efforts of its place and time, and while the mix will rarely impress its 16-bit LPCM 2.0 monophonic rendering here is authentic and trouble free, and remarkably clean to boot. A set of optional English SDH subtitles is included, and as with the rest I’ve no complaints.

Supplements are a bit lighter here than with Quatermass and the Pit or Dracula: Prince of Darkness, but no matter – any love at all for this modest film is appreciated. Newly produced is the short documentary The Serpent’s Tale (22 minutes, 1080i / 25fps HD), featuring interviews with writer / actor Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen), Hammer historians Marcus Hearn and Wayne Kinsey, critic Jonathan Rigby, film music specialist Dr. David Huckvale, Pinewood restoration manager Jon Mann, and The Reptile‘s surviving art director Don Mingaye. Other feature-related content is limited to a nifty theatrical trailer (2 minutes, 1080p 24fps HD) that wisely avoids showing Pearce’s make-up and a brief restoration demonstration (2 minutes, 1080p 24fps HD) that reveals the not inconsiderable work that has been done to restore the film. Rounding out the package is the World of Hammer episode Wicked Women (25 minutes, PAL SD), which is perhaps most interesting in that it doesn’t discuss The Reptile at all!

The double play package includes both the Blu-ray disc reviewed here and a PAL format DVD that duplicates its contents for standard definition viewers. The package is region locked, region B for the Blu-ray disc and region 2 for the DVD – as such viewers outside of those respective territories will need multi-region capable hardware in order to view it.

I have to admit that when I first saw The Reptile many years ago it didn’t do much for me, but with time the film has definitely grown on me. Imperfect as it may be it’s rarely less than interesting, and at times it manages to be quite an arresting Gothic horror experience. Words cannot express how much it pleases me to say that there’s nothing at all wrong with Hammer / StudioCanal’s Blu-ray edition, which so thoroughly trounces the mediocre standard definition representations of the past that they don’t even bear mentioning. Even with the distraction of region locking (which can be circumvented easily enough these days) this gets an easy recommendation – fans of the Hammer horrors are heartily encouraged to indulge.

Order The Reptile on Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk

Screenshots were captured as native resolution .png in Totem Movie Player, then compressed to .jpg at a quality setting of 97% using the ImageMagick command line tool.
 

Order The Reptile on Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk

 

Score One for the Old Country: The Universal Classic Monsters Blu-ray Debacle

When I reported not so long ago that Universal’s new Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray was due in October, I was under the impression that Amazon’s pre-order price for the title – $111.99 for the 8-disc set – was perfectly reasonable. That was before news of the UK edition arrived, and I’ve since changed my tune dramatically.

Quoting from Amazon.co.uk, the specs for the release are as follows (region coding is unknown at present):

For the first time ever, eight of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces of the horror genre are available together on Blu-ray as Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection. Digitally restored in perfect high-definition picture and perfect high-definition sound. This essential set includes a never-before-seen featurette about the restoration of Dracula and the first ever offering of Creature from the Black Lagoon in its restored Blu-ray 3D version.

Contain hours of bonus features, a 44 page booklet and 8 exclusive art cards with original theatrical posters.

Dracula (1931):
The original 1931 movie version of Bram Stoker’s classic tale has for generations defined the iconic look and terrifying persona of the famed vampire. Dracula owes its continued appeal in large part due to Bela Lugosi’s indelible portrayal of the immortal Count Dracula and the flawless direction of horror auteur Tod Browning.

Bonus Features: Dracula: The Restoration – New Featurette Available for The First Time!, Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About the Making of Dracula, Dracula Archives, Score by Philip Glass performed by the Kronos Quartet, Feature Commentary by Film Historian David J. Skal, Feature Commentary by Steve Haberman, Screenwriter of Dracula: Dead and Loving It , Trailer Gallery

Frankenstein (1931):
Boris Karloff stars as the screen’s most tragic and iconic monster in what many consider to be the greatest horror film ever made. Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) dares to tamper with the essential nature of life and death by creating a monster (Karloff) out of lifeless human body parts. Director James Whale’s adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel and Karloff’s compassionate portrayal of a creature groping for identity make Frankenstein a timeless masterpiece.

Bonus Features: The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster, Karloff: The Gentle Monster, Monster Tracks: Interactive Pop-Up Facts About The Making of Frankenstein, Universal Horror, Frankenstein Archives, Boo!: A Short Film, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer, Feature Commentary with Historian Sir Christopher Frayling, 100 Years Of Universal: Restoring the Classics, Trailer Gallery

The Mummy (1932):
Horror icon Boris Karloff stars in the original 1932 version of The Mummy in which a team of British archaeologists accidentally revives a mummified high priest after 3,700 years. Alive again, he sets out on an obsessive-and deadly-quest to find his lost love. Over 50 years after its first release, this brooding dream-like horror classic remains a cinematic masterpiece.

Bonus Features: Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed, He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art Of Jack Pierce, Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy, The Mummy Archives, Feature Commentary by Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong, Feature Commentary by Film Historian Paul M. Jensen, 100 Years Of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era

The Invisible Man (1933):
Claude Rains delivers an unforgettable performance in his screen debut as a mysterious doctor who discovers a serum that makes him invisible. Covered by bandages and dark glasses, Rains arrives in a small English village and attempts to hide his amazing discovery, but the drug’s side effects slowly drive him to commit acts of unspeakable terror.

Bonus Features: Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Rudy Behlmer, 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935):
The acclaimed sequel to the original Frankenstein has become one of the most popular horror classics in film history. The legendary Boris Karloff reprises his role as the screen’s most misunderstood monster, now longing for a mate of his own. Colin Clive is back as the proud and overly ambitious Dr. Frankenstein, who creates the ill-fated bride (Elsa Lanchester). The last horror film directed by James Whale features a haunting musical score that helps make The Bride of Frankenstein one of the finest and most touching thrillers of its era.

Bonus Features: She’s Alive! Creating The Bride Of Frankenstein, The Bride Of Frankenstein Archive, Feature Commentary with Scott MacQueen

The Wolf Man (1941):
Originally released in 1941, The Wolf Man introduced the world to a new Universal movie monster and redefined the mythology of the werewolf forever. Featuring a heartbreaking performance by Lon Chaney Jr. and groundbreaking make-up by Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man is the saga of Larry Talbot, a cursed man who transforms into a deadly werewolf when the moon is full. The dreamlike atmospheres, elaborate settings and chilling musical score combine to make The Wolf Man a masterpiece of the genre.

Bonus Features: Monster by Moonlight, The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth, Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr., He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man Archives, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver

The Phantom of the Opera (1943):
This lavish retelling of Gaston Leroux’s immortal horror tale stars Claude Rains as the masked phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. A crazed composer who schemes to make beautiful young soprano Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) the star of the opera company, the Phantom also wreaks revenge on those he believes stole his music. Nelson Eddy, as the heroic baritone, tries to win the affections of Christine as he tracks down the murderous, horribly disfigured Phantom.

Bonus Features: The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Scott MacQueen, 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, Theatrical Trailer

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954):
Captured and imprisoned for scientific study, a living “amphibious missing link” becomes enamored with the head researcher’s female assistant (Julie Adams). When the hideous creature escapes and kidnaps the object of his affection, a crusade is launched to rescue the helpless woman and cast the terrifying creature back to the depths from which he came. Featuring legendary makeup artist Bud Westmore’s brilliantly designed monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon is an enduring tribute to the imaginative genius of its Hollywood creators.

Bonus Features: The Creature From The Black Lagoon in Blu-ray TM 3D, Back to The Black Lagoon, Production Photographs, Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver , 100 Years of Universal: The Lot, Trailer Gallery

The only substantial differences between this list and the specs for the US edition is the exclusion of the Spanish version of Dracula, considered by many to be the superior film, but don’t fret. While I’m unsure of why it is excluded from the spec sheet, Universal Pictures UK have confirmed that it will be included on the release itself, making this set nigh identical to its upcoming US counterpart with the exception of the possible differences in packaging.

Now for the kicker: The UK Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray, including the same 8 discs of films and supplemental material, is currently available for pre-order at a whopping £37.49 through Amazon.co.uk. At present exchange rates the total comes to just $54.00, shipping included, for orders originating in the United States, or less than half the price of ordering the domestic equivalent!

Needless to say I’ve since cancelled my US pre-order – $55 plus in savings is too much to pass up on. While there is a slim chance that the set will be locked for Region B (the majority of Universal’s UK releases are region free duplicates of versions they’ve made available worldwide), those unencumbered by the troubles of region compatibility are encouraged to go the same route.

The UK Universal Classic Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray is due for release on October 1, 2012.

King Kong

written by Delos W. Lovelace
conceived by Edgar Wallace and Marian C. Cooper
originally published in December 1932
reviewed copy published by Tempo Books,
a subsidiary of Grosset and Dunlap, in 1976
with illustrations by
Richard Powers
the novelization of King Kong is available in innumerable editions through Amazon and other booksellers.


King Kong is here reviewed as part of MOSS’ May-long Hairy Beasts celebration. Be sure to check out our contribution from earlier in the month – the El Santo saga Santo vs. Las Lobas courtesy of Denis’ weekly The Horror!? column.


Something of an anomaly from a time in which the movie tie-in wasn’t nearly so ubiquitous a phenomena (a difficult past to imagine now that even hollow Hollywood extravaganzas like Battleship are granted novelizations), Delos W. Lovelace’s brisk prose adaptation of the quintessential monster fantasy is, if nothing else, proof positive of the great lengths to which producers Cooper, Schoedsack and Selznick went to familiarize the public with their epic Depression-era production. Lovelace’s King Kong, originally published in late 1932 (well in advance of the film’s March ’33 premiere), wasn’t the great ape’s only contemporary foray into print media either, but while the abbreviated two-part adaptation serialized by Mystery Magazine in February-March of 1933 is now all but forgotten Lovelace’s Kong lives on, having been reprinted time and again, typically in timely association with the latest big screen Kong adventure. Case in point is the copy reviewed here, a mass-market paperback scale-down of the hardcover The Illustrated King Kong from Grosset and Dunlap, originally published to coincide with mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis’ unsatisfying 1976 iteration.

While I picked up my copy of the Lovelace Kong longer ago than I can remember, to the best of my knowledge this marks the first time I’ve actually read the thing. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted, but having never been without a copy of the film on video (be it VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, or Blu-ray) that temptation was always tempered by the fact that it was just darned easier to watch Kong than read him, even with the big-print of the paperback scarcely filling two hundred pages. And then there was the persistent question – just how much can a Kong book possibly have to offer when the film is so indelible, so familiar?

And indeed, the narrative of Lovelace’s Kong is as familiar as one might expect, deviating little from the screenplay that serves as its foundation. The tale begins with adventurer and filmmaker Carl Denham stalking about downtown Manhattan on a desperate hunt for a pretty (and unrepresented) face for his latest production, a mysterious bit of documentary-fiction whose South Seas subject Denham keeps a closely guarded secret. He finds that face in the beautiful Ann Darrow, a down-on-her-luck performer he rescues from hunger (and certain arrest) after he sees her snatching an apple from a street vendor’s stand. After feeding her, clothing her, and assuring her of his honest intentions (“No funny business!”), Denham whisks Ann off to the tramp freighter Wanderer and sets off, with dependable Captain Englehorn, handsome first mate Jack Driscoll, and three times the ship’s usual crew, for an uncharted speck of land far west of Sumatra…

With rare exception Lovelace’s Kong emulates its cinematic equivalent to a prosaic T in so far as its human drama is concerned. Sure, Ann and Jack’s “I guess I love you” romance is moved ahead in the schedule (and up from the deck to the crow’s nest for good measure) and ethnic stereotype Charlie (the Wanderer‘s Chinese cook in the film) is now a more politically correct old codger named Lumpy*, but substantive differences are few and far between. Ann Darrow makes screaming screen tests while Denham rattles on about Beauties and Beasts (“I’m going right into a theme song here!”) until the Wanderer encroaches upon a mysterious fog bank and Denham’s elusive shooting location is finally revealed – Skull Mountain Island**, a rocky outcrop covered in dense tropical foliage and whose only populated area is cut off from the rest by an immense and ancient wall. The fair-haired Ann inevitably catches the eye of the Island’s native populace, who were in the midst of an ancient sacrificial rite at the time of the Wanderer‘s arrival. They eventually kidnap the unsuspecting beauty with the intention of making her the latest offering to their prehistoric god – a new bride for the mighty Kong.

It is in the story’s comparatively dull buildup to its fantastic adventure across Skull Mountain Island that Lovelace’s Kong shows its weaknesses most. Part of the trouble obviously lies in the familiarity of the drama, but the greater problem rests with Lovelace’s prose itself – this is where the briskness of the novel becomes a bit of a distraction. Technically speaking there is nothing at all wrong with Lovelace’s writing, but all the grammatical proficiency in the world can’t make up for the fact that it’s such slight, barren stuff. The film relies (and beautifully so) on the artifices of its medium, the performances, the photography, the score, the fantastical set and effects design, to build atmosphere and evoke emotion in the viewer. Lovelace finds no literary substitutes for the same, and the novel Kong, bereft of all but the sparest of descriptions and characterizations, suffers greatly for it.

That said, Lovelace’s word-pinching ways aren’t enough keep the story’s most attractive element – its lengthy diversion into the prehistoric jungles of Skull Mountain Island – from being anything less than enjoyable. Indeed, this is where those already familiar with the film (are any of you not?) will find the most to love.

As with the earlier drama, the majority of the Wanderer crew’s death-defying trek through the hostile territory beyond the wall is by the book (or film, as it were), with the sailors menaced not just by the furious Kong, but by the uncharacteristically aggressive advances of two of the Island’s herbivores – a Stegosaurus and Brontosaurus respectively. The major difference arrives at the end of the Brontosaurus attack, after one unfortunate straggler is chased up a tree by the brute, at which point the crew reaches the edges of a tar pit and catches sight of a trio of Triceratops, themselves in pursuit of Kong. The great ape holds his own, bashing in one of the beasts’ heads with a massive slab of slate, but the Wanderer‘s intrepid adventurers don’t fare so well when the remaining pair turn their frustrations towards more defenseless prey. Only a single sailor falls victim to the expected violence – being crushed beneath one of the monsters and eventually gored. The rest are chased towards an enormous ravine-spanning log, and lost cinema history.

Produced, but cut from the film prior to release for whatever reason, the long lost Spider Pit Sequence has become the Holy Grail for fans of monster cinema – and it’s alive and well, if a bit dulled by the paucity of verbiage, in Lovelace’s Kong. With a charging Triceratops at one end of the log and the enraged Kong at the other, the crew of the Wanderer find themselves with no escape but into the dark recesses of a primordial hell below:

“Two of the men lost their holds. One grasped madly at the face of a prone comrade and left bloody finger marks as he went whirling down into the decaying silt at the bottom. He had no more than struck when the lizard flashed upon him. [...] The second man did not die in the fall. He was not even unconscious. He landed feet first, sinking immediately to his waistline in the mud, and screamed horribly as not one but half a dozen of the great spiders swarmed over him.”

The horror of the spiders over and done with, Lovelace’s Kong returns once more to the familiar. Driscoll and Denham survive the onslaught, though on opposite sides of the ravine. While Denham heads back to the wall for help from the Wanderer‘s surviving crew Driscoll silently stalks Kong, witnessing his battles against various Jurassic-age monstrosities on the way to his lair high on Skull Mountain. Aside from a particularly romantic retelling of Driscoll and Ann’s harrowing escape from Kong’s clutches (arguably the most successful part of Lovelace’s novelization, and in welcome possession of the sort of emotional hooks that are in such scant supply elsewhere) the rest of the novel Kong plays in the predicted fashion, albeit less the tragic undertones that make the film’s final moments so unforgettable.

If it sounds as though I’m being too harsh towards Lovelace, I really don’t intend to be. I have no qualms with his style of writing in and of itself, and there are plenty of bloated modern efforts that would do well to take his frugal sense to heart. It just never works well enough with the material in question to make it anything but ordinary, and as such Lovelace’s Kong never excels beyond the low expectations these film-to-book adaptations typically command. Ultimately this is far more interesting as an artifact of early tie-in marketing than as literature, and unless you’re one of those obsessed with all things Kong (I’ll admit I’m guilty, at least so far as the ’33 film is concerned) there’s very little to recommend here.

* Peter Jackson’s 2005 Kong wisely took this change to heart, before unwisely offing the character mid-way through.
** Just ‘Skull Island’ in the film, I know. Lovelace, and perhaps the script from which he worked, preferred this less concise delineation.

The Duplicate Man

dir. Gerd Oswald
1964 / United Artists Television / 51′
written by Robert C. Dennies
from the story by Clifford D. Simak
director of phogoraphy Kenneth Peach
original music by Harry Lubin
starring Ron Randall, Constance Towers, Mike Lane, Steven Geray and Konstantin Shayne
available on DVD from MGM, or for free viewing on Hulu and Youtube

There is no shortage of promise to be found in the truncated and too often disappointing second season of The Outer Limits, but Gerd Oswald’s late-run effort The Duplicate Man offers more in the way of it than most. Adapted from the Clifford D. Simak story Goodnight, Mr. James (published in the March 1951 issue of Galaxy for those interested – it’s an excellent read!) and ambitiously set in the future of 2011 The Duplicate Man never really transcends its limitations of time and budget, each of which was in ever shorter supply at this point in the series’ history (the episode was produced shortly before ABC let it known that the show was to be cancelled all together), but at least it tries.

The story concerns one Henderson James (Ron Randell), a noted astrobiologist who, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, has been secretly studying a deathly dangerous space creature known as the Megasoid in his estate. Fearful of their superior intelligence, telepathic abilities and murderous inclinations, the governments of Earth outlawed the importation of Megasoids in 1986, leaving James in quite a pickle when his own smuggled specimen escapes. Too much a coward to hunt down the creature himself, James turns to a drunken has-been with connections to the Federal Duplication Bureau, an institution that clones human beings in an extensively regulated manner, for help.

Shortly thereafter Henderson James awakens near a natural history museum, and finds himself armed with a handgun and driven by a singular purpose – kill the Megasoid, which has taken to hiding in one of the museum’s displays. The intervention of a museum security guard leads James to suddenly remember more about himself, his address, his job, and so on, facts that confuse his purpose and lead him to explore more about who exactly he is. When James eventually encounters the Megasoid things become even more complicated. The creature reveals that James is not James at all, but an exact duplicate of the real James manufactured for the express purpose of doing his dirty work. Though wounded in their encounter the Megasoid escapes, putting James mark II on the hunt for both the creature and existential enlightenment.

Robert C. Dennies’ penultimate contribution to The Outer Limits complicates the more straight-forward Simak source story in any number of ways, as in its focus on both James instead of just the clone and in the addition of a troubled marriage to the mix, but is most destructive in its expansion of the story’s relatively minor kill-the-alien opener into a full-fledged subplot (a move made to sate ABC’s demand for monsters). The more interesting human drama of The Duplicate Man is interrupted early and often, either by the appearance of the Megasoid itself or by the constant need to include it in the considerable conversation (like many of the second season episodes The Duplicate Man is talky stuff).

It’s a shortcoming that would be easier to overlook were the monster not such a dire creation, an ungainly gorilla-sloth-thing that adds to Second Chance‘s convincing Empyrian mask a ridiculously overstated forehead and a beak of hysterical proportion. Director Gerd Oswald is forced to cut the critter far too often, as it stalks endlessly about James’ property to fulfill its bloated narrative obligations, and unfortunate gaffs (like the appearance of actor Mike Lane’s shirt between the neck and body of the suit in some shots) only result in further embarrassment.

Otherwise The Duplicate Man‘s greatest failing is to be found in its two central performances. Co-stars Constance Towers (Shock Corridor), Steven Geray (Spellbound) and Sean McClory (appearing from beneath a ludicrous and ill-fitting leather head piece meant to cover unseen scars from a Megasoid attack) all do well enough in their respective, but relatively minor, roles. Star of the show Ron Randell (The She-Creature), as both Henderson James and James mark II, doesn’t fair nearly so well. Randell’s performance is leaden throughout, and serves only to detract from what should be the episode’s most appealing moments – like James mark II’s discovery of the simple pleasures of water fountains and greenery or Henderson’s eventual reconciliation with his wife. I’ve only seen Randall otherwise in the dreadful 40s sci-fi throwback The Most Dangerous Man Alive from 1961, and he made no better impression there.

On the brighter side of things The Duplicate Man‘s ambitious aesthetic often belies the paucity of its budget, and Oswald and his crew manage some creative futuristic flourishes through intelligible location scouting and the modification of everyday objects. The Chemosphere house in Los Angeles adeptly doubles for the residence of Sean McClory’s scarred smuggler, while James encounters plenty of familiar items with a modern twist (a public water fountain activated by a beam of light, a touch tone telephone decked out with a video display). My favorite touches have to do with the clothing, which is delightfully strange. The upscale suits the two James spend their time in are lacking any kind of lapels, while their collared button-up undershirts are punctuated with slim knotless ties. Nevermind that these changes could have been accomplished by any costume designer with a couple of minutes and a pair of scissors to spare, as the minimal effort pays off wonderfully in expanding the episode’s future setting.

It’s undeniable that there’s a lot wrong with The Duplicate Man, which too often undermines its big-idea aspirations (a rare enough thing in a second season episode) with silly pulp trappings – that monster is nigh unforgivable. But it certainly strives to be better than it is, with even the capably mundane director of photography Kenneth Peach putting in extra effort to give the show some much-needed visual oomph. All in all The Duplicate Man is one of the last really interesting things to come out of The Outer Limits before ABC kicked it off the air in favor of a low-cost variety show, and worth a watch if for that reason alone.

Shadow of the Colossus

Year: 2005  Company: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Studios, Team ICO
Designer: Fumito Ueda   Writers: Junichiro Hosono, Takashi Izutani, Masahi Kudo
Music: Kow Otani   Cast: Kenji Nojima, Kazuhiro Nakata, Kyoko Hikami, Naoki Bando, Hitomi Nabatame
Reviewed from the Ico / Shadow of the Colossus Collection, released September of this year for Playstation 3, and available for purchase through Amazon.com. The original Playstation 2 edition is also still available.

While I’ve toyed with reviewing books, comics and even a bit of music here at Wtf-Film, the one medium I’ve always wanted to cover, but never have, remains video games. I play quite a lot of them, after all, and unlike any number of naysayers I don’t see the medium as being any less a legitimate art form than the others I mentioned above. That’s not to say I think that all art is good art, and personal taste certainly enters into things, but the potential is there for video games to rattle off complex symbolism, big ideas and the just plain aesthetically beautiful every bit as well as the rest of the more lauded forms. What’s more they can do so in collaboration, while at the same time offering a brand of personal interaction with the material that’s unique unto themselves.

But I digress. I’m really not here to argue how the video game should be considered a valid artistic medium – really - you’ll find plenty of that elsewhere, and just as many dissenting opinions. Instead I present for your consideration a game that I certainly consider to be “good art”, the epic Shadow of the Colossus (or Wander and the Colossus / Wanda to Kyozou) from Japanese designer Fumito Ueda and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Japan Studio in 2005. As is too often the case I took a good long while catching up to Shadow, having never owned a Playstation 2, but its recent remastering for the Playstation 3 (along with Ueda’s freshman effort ICO) gave me all the excuse I needed to finally check it out.

Taking place in a nameless expanse at the “edge of the world”, Shadow posits the player as the boy Wander, who travels to the forbidden land with his faithful horse, Agro, and the body of the dead girl Mono in hopes that a mythical demon said to reside there can return her to life. The demon, little but a few wayward shadows and a disembodied voice echoing about an immense shrine, agrees to help, provided that Wander destroys the sixteen Colossi – the vessels for the demon’s divided evil – that roam throughout the territory. As each Colossus is defeated the evil essence within is absorbed by Wander, whose mortal form grows more corrupted and diseased with each conquest…

The simple narrative of Shadow of the Colossus is a familiar one, but is refreshingly free of the heroic ego that so often comes with the territory. Wander proves himself uniquely selfless as video game protagonists go, flinging himself out into the abyss and confronting certain annihilation with unflinching determination, but his singular devotion is to the point of fault. He is driven to sacrifice himself, agonizingly, to save a fellow mortal unjustly struck down (the scant dialogue suggests only that she was sacrificed for being “cursed”), but is so obsessed as to be blind to the consequences of unleashing the greatest evil known to his civilization. In his singular, destructive drive he reminds of Captain Ahab, neither villain nor hero, just a man slowly destroyed by his own obsession. It’s an allusion that becomes all the more fitting once the nature of the game’s action is taken into consideration.

With rare exception the Colossi Wander is fated to extinguish are appropriately massive in scale, and often appear as though they are built from bits of the landscapes from which they emerge. Alternately magnificent and horrifying, the Colossi are the fantasy equivalent of the sea-beasts of old, which a dwarfed humanity once sought to conquer at its own peril, though the odds against Wander, armed only with a sword, a bow, and his wits, seem even more heavily stacked. Each Colossi is a lumbering level unto itself, either to be tricked into allowing Wander passage on it or to be scaled outright so that its vital points, glowing sigils revealed by the sword, can be reached. The gameplay here is harrowing stuff, and quite unlike anything I’ve encountered before. Appropriately, it becomes as much a test of will for the player as for Wander, as you’re dangle perilously from the shaggy, debris-strewn bodies of skyscraper-sized humanoid giants and bizarre, impossibly proportioned animals with your stamina running out all the while.

Even so, success against them is rarely satisfying on its own terms. Much of that is to do with the context for the Colossi themselves, awe-inspiring titans tucked away in some forbidden corner of the world as guardians against the evil banished there. They aren’t the villains of the piece, even if Wander must approach them as such. Each is individual, unique, from a proportional pseudo-mechanical bull (one of the rare small Colossi) and a tremendous electric eel to the earth-shaking bludgeon-wielding humanoid bear that graces the cover art, and each is never to be seen again. For every ounce of awe their appearances inspire there’s just as much poignancy to their defeat, the Colossi crumpling tragically to the ground with venomous black mist spewing from their wounds. Wander’s reward for killing them is to have himself slowly destroyed, with no way of knowing whether or not the demon with whom he has bargained will keep its promise in the end.

Shadow of the Colossus balances its intense action set pieces and grimmer subject matter with an environmental design ethic that’s breathtaking. The forbidden terrain Wander must traverse to reach each Colossi is a vast, seemingly boundless affair, winding from darkened mountain passes through arid deserts and verdant hills to secluded wooded oases, imposing canyons and hot springs. It’s a world unto itself, separated from the outside by a towering, endless bridge and devoid of any living distractions beyond a few lizards, tortoises and birds. Though obviously once inhabited – a monolithic central shrine and other edifices of civilization past, including Asiatic temples, European castles and a massive buried Greco-Roman amphitheatre, are all testament to this – Wander is the only human life to be seen. It’s a place unencumbered by endless hack-and-slash antics, load screens, or droning soundtrack loops, a wide-open expanse both somber and beautiful, ripe for contemplation and all but demanding of the hours it takes to explore it all. I found myself wholly immersed in it, enchanted even, and after a work week worth of play I’ve yet to tire of it – something few of anything, much less games, can claim.

In lesser hands it would have been easy for Shadow of the Colossus, basically a series of boss fights scattered by lengthy violence-free trekking, to feel tired and insubstantial, but Fumito Ueda and his devoted creative team have made it into something truly special. The simplicity of its premise belies the supreme artistry with which it is related, and the sum experience of it all is quite unlike anything else. I’ll not open the can of worms that is the “best game ever” designation, but it’s certainly one of the best I’ve ever played, a potent mix of thrilling action, aesthetic wonder and quiet humanity that really is second to none. This is must-play material, through and through, and one of the easiest recommendations I’ve had in years.

Reviewed from the Ico / Shadow of the Colossus Collection, released September of this year for Playstation 3, and available for purchase through Amazon.com. The original Playstation 2 edition is also still available.

Galaxina / The Crater Lake Monster

Galaxina – Year: 1980   Company: Crown International / Marimark   Runtime: 95′
Director: William Sachs   Writer: William Sachs   Cinematography: Dean Cundey
Cast: Stephen Macht, Avery Schreiber, J.D. Hinton, Dorothy Stratten, Lionel Mark Smith, Tad Horino,
Ronald Knight, Percy Rodrigues, Herbert Kapltowitz, Aesop Aquarian, Angelo Rossito, Nancy McCauley
The Crater Lake Monster – Year: 1977   Company: Crown International   Runtime: 84′
Director: William R. Stromberg   Writers: William R. Stromberg, Richard Cardella
Cinematography: Paul Gentry   Music: Will Zens   Cast: Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts, Mark Siegel,
Bob Hyman, Richard Garrison, Kacey Cobb, Michael F. Hoover, Suzanne Lewis, Mary Eliot, Garry Johnston
Disc company: Mill Creek Entertainment   Video: 1080p (2.35:1) / 1080i (1.78:1)
Audio: Linear PCM 2.0 English, DTS-HD MA 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: None   Disc: Single Layer BD25   Release Date: 03/22/2011   Product link: Amazon.com

The dissolution of prominent cult distributor BCI / Eclipse may well have been the best thing ever to happen to Mill Creek Entertainment, a company formerly best known for their low price and lower quality bundles of ubiquitous public domain cheapies.  Having snapped up the catalogues of BCI / Eclipse and a number of other defunct distributors at fire sale prices, Mill Creek now have a variety of desirable properties at their disposal and are primed and ready to take position as King of the bargain home video market.  This double feature Blu-ray release sees the company delving into the library of Crown International Pictures, and presents a pair of oddball drive-in attractions – each of which is far more endearing than it has any right to be.

1980′s Galaxina is a parodic futuristic science fiction romance that takes aim at Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien and even Sergio Leone, and is infamously remembered for being released just two months before the murder of its centerfold star Dorothy Stratten.  The film follows the misadventures of the crew of Space Police cruiser Infinity, which is sent to the far reaches of the galaxy to retrieve a glowing blue rock of dubious import before the evil Ordric can get his robot hands on it.

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