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October 1, 2020

Static Age #12: Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Battlestar Galactica (1978) poster art


This Static Age is focusing on Battlestar Galactica (1978), created by Glen A. Larson and its sole season consisting of 21 episodes. Taking its cue from George Lucas’ then-recent Jedi epic (the titles as well as Stu Phillips’ score are almost identical, but further inspiration can be found to have come from old serials), this is the classic that spawned the television franchise, but whereas it is now mostly remembered for its drama (and even its humor), for me its real strength lies on its groundbreaking special effects that are a joy to watch and make you feel as if you are inside a 1980s sci-fi video game; a great experience indeed. Starring Ray Milland, the feature-length ‘Saga of a Star World’ (which was in fact edited into a feature film release as well) is set a thousand years after the War and finds the Twelve Colonies’ human population attacked by the evil Cylons, whose murderous spree left only the titular ship standing. Battlestar Galactica is now on a mission to find the notorious planet Earth. Colonial Warriors are mysteriously infected in ‘Lost Planet of the Gods: Part 1’, which leads to the discovery of the planet Kobol in ‘Lost Planet of the Gods: Part 2’. In ‘The Lost Warrior’ Cylon fighters force Apollo to crash on Equellus, which is basically a planet that resembles a Western movie. All common sense should be suspended in order for the viewer to believe ‘The Long Patrol’ in which Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) finds himself in the Proteus a prison planet where the hostages are kept in unlocked cages for generations, yet they have developed some very social skills such as cheering when drinking; other gags in this otherwise memorable episode include the introduction of CORA (Computer Oral Response Activated) which is a futuristic Alexa, and Starbuck womanizing both Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang) and Athena (Maren Jensen) at the same time. Starring Britt Ekland, ‘Gun on Ice Planet Zero: Part 1’ and ‘Gun on Ice Planet Zero: Part 2’ take the action to planet Aracta and are reminiscent of a certain alien takeover in the snow classic sci-fi film from the 1950s that was remade by John Carpenter in the 1980s, as well as the 1970s avalanche epics from Roger Corman. The western-like ‘The Magnificent Warriors’ is featuring ugly alien dwarfs riding some horse-like creatures and it is quite creepy as well as among the best episodes in the series. The title of ‘The Young Lords’ is referring to a bunch of children that rescue Starbuck when he crashes to planet Attila. The Battlestar runs short on fuel in ‘The Living Legend: Part 1’ and ‘The Living Legend: Part 2’, when it has to attack planet Gamoray in order to continue its journey. ‘Fire in Space’ is about Cylon arsonist-style suicide attacks. ‘War of the Gods: Part 1’ and ‘War of the Gods: Part 2’ find the Battlestar crew landing on a red planet, which gives the cinematographer a chance to pursue some very unusual and gorgeous lighting options. ‘The Man with Nine Lives’ is about an old con artist who claims to be Starbuck’s father. Starbuck is framed for murder in ‘Murder on the Rising Star’ and he and his friends spend the entire episode trying to clear his name.


And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…


Doctor Who - Season 5

The 5th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is introducing Matt Smith as the eponymous character (a more tongue-in-cheek and quite playful approach by the actor is on hand) and the drop-dead gorgeous Karen Gillan as his sidekick Amy Pond. The series appear to having grown up at least visually as is made apparent by the re-designed titled (now looking more mature) and the cinematography (that is echoing a certain Chris Carter sci-fi show from the 1990s). The hour-long ‘The Eleventh Hour’ brings the dynamic duo against the evil Atraxi aliens that resemble the familiar otherworldly creatures from a well-known Ridley Scott film from the late 1970s. ‘The Beast Bellow’ finds The Doctor in a U.K. starship in the future where he comes against the creepy-looking Smilers, some human-sized mannequins that are a predecessor of the recent horror films’ eerie dolls and the like. Set in WWII, the ‘Victory of the Daleks’, The Doctor and Amy join forces with Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) in order to defeat the Daleks, now disguised as British soldiers. ‘The Time of Angels’ and ‘Flesh and Stone’ mark the return of the creepy Weeping Angels, this time amidst a Byzantium spaceship setting. ‘The Vampires of Venice’ sounds promising, both due to its setting (in 16th century, no less) and its monsters, but the former leaves much to be desired as the actual shooting was mostly studio-bound. ‘Amy’s Choice’ is a fascinating episode about scary old folk that are alien within; starring Toby Jones. Silurians, the ancient reptile-like monsters, are featured in the ultra-creepy ‘The Hungry Earth’ and ‘Cold Blood’. The very sweet and emotional ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ is about master painter Vincent Van Gogh (Tony Curran) fighting his (alien) demons. The Tardis has escaped The Doctor, who must now find it in ‘The Lodger’. The titular Van Gogh painting in ‘The Pandorica Opens’ is found during WWII in France as it was meant for Prime Minister Winston Churchill; the action then moves to Roman Britain and Stonehenge in particular where the work of art’s prophecy of the exploding Tardis comes true as all sorts of villains from the Doctor’s past (including the Daleks, of course) are conspiring for his destruction. The story as well as the season conclude with ‘The Big Bang’, which had me thinking that had creationists been ever a little bit clever, they would have by now turned the term into a punch-line of pornographic jokes. Jokes aside, this season is offering one of the most intelligent and condescending approaches to love triangles ever seen on television.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 7

The 7th (and final) season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – 2020) concludes the adventures of the titular heroes and their battle against the evil forces of Hydra, this time-traveling to the 1930s prohibition-era New York in order to change or maintain history (whichever is more suitable) amidst a cultural chaos of misogyny and racism. The series eventually go back and forth in time, namely in the 1950s and 1970s (when the appropriate title cards are also appear) when things are not that much better. The state-of-the-art special effects of the show are only matched by the impressive costume design.


On the mainstream movie front, I caught up with the following…


The War with Grandpa (2020)

Director Tim Hill’s The War with Grandpa (2020) is a lousy attempt at emotional comedy, in which a kid (Oakes Fegley) and his grandpa (Robert De Niro) fight for the same room in a big house. The film benefits from some very high profile star actors (Uma Thurman and Christopher Walken) but is suffering from some very tired gags and a predictable script. You will laugh a couple of times, but you’ll forget ever seeing the flick quickly after it’s over.


And finally, I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…


Kier-La Janisse’s already landmark House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (2012, FAB Press) is about the author’s journey from foster homes to abusive relationships and from pill-popping moments to festival screenings organizing, all through the support of viewing several horror and exploitation classics. Having suffered many stigma-inducing situations, it is a joy that the book makes it apparent that salvation can come via the aid of our favorite genre films. The first section reads like an autobiography (albeit one offered through the eyes of a person obsessed with cinema, like the readers) while the second section contains dozens of capsule reviews of the films already discussed and other related outings. In my entire life of reading film related books, this is the most original I ever come across, and the fact that it is also so well-written makes it an undeniable masterpiece.


Jasper Sharp’s excellent and astonishingly well-researched Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema (2008, FAB Press) is divided onto several chapters, each one of them dealing tackling tent pole topics of the evolution and triumph of the notorious Pink genre of erotic cinema. The amount of detail and work that went down is apparent, as well as the crisp writing talents of the author, resulting in a work like no other that is unacceptable to be missing by any exploitation movie fan’s bookshelf. What’s more, the book also proves that in order to understand cinema (and society and history as well) you can never underestimate the importance of porn. And although it becomes clear that the genre tackled within the pages of the book is not all about rape and torture (as many people falsely believe), you will still need a good shower after reading it.


Edited by Robin Bougie (and otherwise written mostly by him, save for the contributions of a few talented writers), Cinema Sewer Volume Seven (2020, FAB Press) consists of two issues of the author’s same-titled magazine as well as 80 previously unpublished pages, making for a good 180+ pages of sleaze. From underrated 1990s flicks to – ahem – fisting epics, this volume has you covered, but it really shines when it tackles whatever that has to do with 1970s New York porn, where it is apparent where its heart is.


Part memoir and part film review book, fanzine editor and online columnist Nick Cato’s Suburban Grindhouse: From Staten Island to Times Square and all the Sleaze in Between (2020, Headpress) is taking us on a journey through various exploitation movie classics. The author is writing strictly from memory, making each review unique.


And finally, I had the chance to tackle the Frightfest Guide quadruple bill (all published by FAB Press) which includes Alan Jones’ Exploitation Movies (2016), Michael Gingold’s Monster Movies (2017), Axelle Carolyn’s Ghost Movies (2018), and Gavin Baddeley’s Werewolf Movies (2019). Lavishly illustrated and gorgeously designed, these books are not in-depth as their back covers claim as only one paragraph is dedicated to each capsule film presentation, but for pop items they do their work as they’re fun to read through both for newbies (who without doubt will learn a thing or two and will also be introduced to an amazing new world) and those in the know (who will have fun revisiting the classics).

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