Flash back to the glorious era of the early '80s, a time long before the dawn of Internet porn. If you wanted to get a glimpse of some T&A, you had to subscribe to one of those cheesy premium cable channels to catch some late night soft-core, or wait for a revival of 'The Blue Lagoon' to hit your local drive-in. It was a more innocent time, but ironically, a far sexier era than today's crude, bare-it-all-for-the-reality-TV-cameras culture of exhibitionism. Tits and ass were a valuable commodity back then, and damn if we didn't appreciate it.
'Galaxina' is a movie that understands the law of supply and demand. Today, this 'Barbarella' rip-off -- with its lame sex banter and endless shots of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten in tight spandex -- wouldn't even rate a blush, but back in 1980, this was pretty hot stuff, and boy, does the movie milk its only selling point. The only attraction here is getting a chance to ogle the perky Stratten in all manner of suggestive positions, but since she couldn't show any actual skin (given her iron-clad contract with Hugh Hefner at the time), 'Galaxina' is a total tease.
The plot, as it were, is cobbled together from recycled parts of 'Star Wars,' 'ALIEN,' 'Spacehunter' and (see if you can remember this one) 'Galaxy of Terror.' It's some nonsense about the police ship Infinity, helmed by Captain Cornelius Butt (Avery Schreiber), his co-pilot Thor (Stephen Macht) and their distaff C-3PO, the robot Galaxina (Stratten). After an interminable series of adventures during the first half of the film (involving a opium den, a rubber-suited alien in a prison cell and -- god help us -- a trip to an alien brothel), the "story" of 'Galaxina' finally kicks in, with our robot heroine and crew embarking on a mission to a remote planet to recapture the "Blue Star" and save the universe.
I'll spare you the particulars, other than saying that the plot is secondary to the business of setting up situations for light T&A. Stratten, in fact, doesn't even speak until halfway through the movie -- she just performs all sorts of menial chores in a variety of sultry costumes (a maid uniform, lingerie etc.) for the leering Thor. Unfortunately, that's about as sexy as 'Galaxina' gets, as it barely pushes the boundaries of an R rating, while the "romance" between Galaxina and Thor is about as stimulating as a limp noodle. Even the trip to the alien brothel is played more for laughs. 'Galaxina' has little of the biting humor and erotic button-pushing that at least made '60s-era sex romps like 'Barbarella' genuinely subversive.
In hindsight, however, one must give credit to writer-director William Sachs (who previously had a cult hit with 'The Incredible Melting Man') for being somewhat ahead of his time in terms of satire. With its obvious parodies of then-current hit movies (everything from 'Star Wars,' 'Star Trek' and 'ALIEN' to 'The Wiz' and 'Grease'), 'Galaxina' prefigures the spoof-movie boom that began with 'Airplane!' and continued on with such hits as 'Spaceballs.' While Sachs' brand of humor is very benign and quite hit-or-miss, there is a bit of fun to be had in 'Galaxina' in spotting all the references, which does give the film a bit of retro-charm.
Without a doubt, however, the biggest draw of 'Galaxina' will always remain our continued fascination with the late Stratten. Shortly after completing 'Galaxina,' the actress would be murdered by her obsessive boyfriend (a chilling story famously depicted in Bob Fosse's 'Star 80'), and the pall of her tragic death hangs over every frame of the film. She may not be a master thespian, but she has a natural appeal with the camera, which for me makes 'Galaxina' hard to laugh off simply as camp. Sadly, as there is little else to recommend the film to sci-fi fans, lovers of movie spoofs, and even those just looking for some retro T&A, I suspect the only folks likely to check out this HD DVD are those with a fascination for the morbid.
BCI is at it again with another 1080i/MPEG-2 encode. The original DVD release of 'Galaxina' (cleverly dubbed the "25 1/2 Year Anniversary Edition") was a rather poor presentation of very cheap source material. I have the same general impression of this HD DVD -- it does offer a slight upgrade over standard-def, but we're talking about a 1980s drive-in flick here, so it's hard to get all that excited.
The print is in weak shape, with plenty of speckles and dropouts, and lots and lots of grain. While I could be generous and say 'Galaxina' is very "film-like," in this case the lack of sharpness, weak blacks and lame contrast just make the transfer look bad. Colors are likewise rather faded, with only some of the brightest primaries having any added pop versus the standard-def. To be fair, there is some slightly improved detail over the DVD, as well as a hint of depth on some of the close-ups, and for an MPEG-2 encode, I expected more artifacts, but this is far, far from demo disc material.
BCI offers two audio options for 'Galaxina': Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (192kbps), both in English. Despite the lack of high-res audio this disc does sound better than it looks, though that's not saying much.
For a remaster of a film originally shown in theaters in mono, I was indeed surprised at the presence of the rears. The 5.1 mix won't knock your socks off, but there are a few fairly prominent effects diverted to the surrounds, and a hint of atmosphere. Stereo separation ain't bad, either, with a decent amount of expansiveness. Unfortunately, where this mix collapses is in the quality of the source, which suffers from dated '80s sound. Highs feel compressed and brittle, while the low end won't give your subwoofer much to do. Dialogue can also be a bit spotty, but on the whole it's still intelligible. Considering this is 'Galaxina,' however, I can't say this 5.1 remaster is all that bad.
BCI has kindly ported over all of the bonus features from the previous standard DVD version of 'Galaxina.' I'm not sure if this film really deserves such treatment, but I'm sure 'Galaxina' fans will be more than pleased. (Note that all the video features are presented in 480i/MPEG-2 video, and there are no subtitle options.)
'Galaxina' is a fairly entertaining example of soft-core '80s T&A, complete with cheesy sci-fi trappings and a surprisingly credible performance by the late Dorothy Stratten. This HD DVD release from BCI is rather marginal, however. The video and audio suffer from very poor source elements, which makes the nice package of extras the standout feature. Big-time Stratten fans may still want to pick up 'Galaxina,' but if you're merely curious, stick with a rental.