COOL STUFF: GALAXINA/THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER on BLU-RAY!

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GALAXINA/THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER on BLU-RAY!

It’s amazing to live in an age where two B-movies like these can get a nice remastering and blu-ray treatment. Both flicks are from the long defunct Crown International Pictures and both are nostalgic titles, as I actually saw them in a theater back in the day…when stuff like this still got a theatrical release. While this Mill Creek Entertainment disc is itself out of print, it is still available through E-Bay and independent sellers on Amazon, which is how I got mine.

Both movies look great considering their age and that they were very low budget to begin with. Galaxina is presented in it’s original 2:35.1 aspect ratio with The Crater Lake Monster being presented in it’s original 1:85.1 aspect ratio. The picture on both are colorful with the film prints having only marginal wear. The images are sharp and there is some nice contrast. For low budget movies from the late 70s and early 80s, they look really good, especially considering the disc originally went for less than $15. The audio is only Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0, but considering the age of the movies in question, the sound quality is not bad. There are no extras, but as this was a bare bones release, that was to be expected. If you are a fan of either flick or both, it’s worth checking out Amazon or E-Bay to get a copy while they last. Shop around, I got mine for less than $25 including tax and shipping.

This is a time where digital technology can make a lot possible and this disc is a good example. These were two “drive-in” flicks from a company that produced a lot of movies on this level, but gets sadly overshadowed by rivals New World Pictures and American International Pictures. It’s wonderful that these flicks got the respect they deserve and hopefully they don’t stay out of print for too long.

-MonsterZero NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: PLANET OF DINOSAURS (1978)

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PLANET OF DINOSAURS (1978)

I first read about this flick in the immortal Forrest J. Ackerman’s legendary Famous Monsters magazine, but sadly didn’t catch up to it till VHS years later. This would have been a lot of fun to see in a theater…

Planet Of Dinosaurs is a cheesy, fun 1978 flick that tells the story of the crew of the spaceship Odyssey who are marooned on a primitive Earth-like planet when a reactor explosion destroys their ship. Now, not only are the surviving men and women stranded with little to sustain them, but must also find a way to protect themselves from the planet’s ferocious dinosaur inhabitants, including a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose territory they have landed in.

This flick has become a bit of a cult classic mostly due to the really cool stop motion model animation used for it’s monster effects. The model animation FX are not only very good, but quite abundant, too, with carnivorous critters and other beasties showing up to hassle and snack on our valiant crew members regularly. Aside from that, the acting is pretty bad and the dialog is delightfully awful. Thankfully, it is in an entertainingly bad way, so we get some healthy chuckles while we wait for the next scaly, fanged threat to appear. It is a very low budget flick, but cleverly requires only a few Star Trek-ish costumes and props as it takes place in the outdoors with the creatures added in later. As it does resemble a dino-sentric Star Trek episode, it’s no surprise the movie was supposedly filmed in California at the same location as some original Star Trek episodes were filmed, Vasquez Rocks. Director James Shea directs in a fairly pedestrian manner from a script by James Aupperle and Ralph Lucas, who give their characters some very laughable dialogue here, especially when timid ship captain Lee (Louie Lawless) butts heads with the macho, alpha male engineer Jim (James Whitworth, Jupiter from Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes), who feels the best dinosaur defense is a good offense. Their exchanges are borderline hysterical at times as both men sound out of their minds and neither one seems fit to lead. The rest of the cast are equally bad with pretty Pamela Bottaro really trying hard as second in command Nyla, who is always caught in the middle when Jim and the Captain square off and is forced to play referee when not being attacked by giant stop motion spiders. Also adding to the overall atmosphere of the goofy goings on is a nostalgic 70s style electronic score by Kelly Lammers and John O’Verlin that mixes synthesizers with sci-fi sound effects and actually gives the film a surreal vibe.

I like this movie and have a lot of fun with it. It is bad in a laughably fun way yet, it’s heart is in the right place and you can tell that the filmmakers were really trying to make a good movie on a low budget. Sometimes, in flicks like this, I think it is indeed the heartfelt effort that makes the difference between entertainingly bad and just…bad. Even if ‘so bad it’s good’ movies aren’t your thing, there is plenty of well done stop motion animation to make it worth a watch. There is a nice variety of monsters, too, including one recognizable tribute to master Ray Harryhausen.

There weren’t many more movies made like this after Planet as more advanced techniques like Go-Motion and then CGI were introduced and the stop motion dinosaurs give this little flick a nice charm that works perfectly along with the heavy 70s nostalgia. Planet Of Dinosaurs is not a widely known flick and despite it’s flaws it is entertaining in it’s own way and deserves more attention then it gets. It’s laughably bad in some ways, but surprisingly good in others. A fun monster movie in spite of itself and a welcome addition to any evening on the couch with other lesser known stop motion flicks like The Crater Lake Monster and Laserblast… and some of your favorite beverages to go along with it!

3 stop motion, astronaut-eating carnivores.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

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THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

I’ll start out by saying this isn’t a good movie in the conventional sense, but I love monster movies, especially the old fashioned stop motion animation ones and, as you may know by now, I do love a ‘so bad it’s good’ flick. So I cut this movie a lot of slack. Plus it does have a bit of personal nostalgia for me as I saw it at the Showboat Cinema in Edgewater N.J. when it first came out in 1977.

Low budget sci-fi/horror begins as a meteor crashes into a California mountain lake by a remote rural town. The lake temperature rises and a long dormant plesiosaur egg hatches and 6 months later we have a giant prehistoric monster on the loose feeding on the local livestock and any inhabitants who get near the water. It’s now up to Sheriff Steven Hanson (Richard Cardella who also co-wrote) to try to find a way to stop the rampaging beast.

Crater Lake Monster has a good B-movie plot that is wasted by the totally amateurish handling of the production by director and co-writer William R. Stromberg. If the lame attempts at suspense aren’t enough, the weak dialog, awful acting and ridiculous attempts at comic relief by two good ole boys who rent boats (Mark Siegel and Glen Roberts), put the nail in coffin of this flick’s potential as a serious B-movie horror treat and catapults it into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory…though it’s on thin ice there, too. Cardella claims the withdrawal of funds and hiring of a terrible editor by Crown International pictures was the cause of the film’s ruin, but neither of these reasons explain how sub-par everything other than David Allen’s cool stop motion animated dinosaur is done. The title creature is a fine bit of FX from the under appreciated Allen, but doesn’t have quite enough screen time to make up for the film’s flaws and even it’s climactic battle with a snow plow is far too short to live up to it’s entertainment potential.

But there is definitely some fun to be had at the incompetent film making here and there is definitely some 70s nostalgia to enjoy, but how much you enjoy it depends on just how tolerant you are of a bad movie like this. I enjoy them for what they are and I like this flick for all it’s badness, there is a cool beastie and with a couple of brews this can be a good time, if that’s your thing. It definitely is mine. In an era of senseless remakes, this is a title screaming to be turned into a better movie by more talented hands, but they sadly don’t make movies like this anymore, at least not with the kind of charm flicks like this had. And despite all Crater Lake’s flaws, it still has it’s heart in the right place and plenty of charm. And that goes a long way with a movie geek like me. A guilty pleasure for sure but, a fun one.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The full size creature head was made by Steve Neill, another unsung hero of movie make-up and prosthetic FX.

3 guilty pleasure plesiosaurs!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958)

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FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958)

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Fiend Without A Face really spooked me as a kid. The brain creatures are one of the most iconic 50s sci-fi creatures and maybe of all time. To a five year-old watching Chiller Theater or Creature Features (don’t remember which it was on) on a Saturday night they were the thing of bad dreams. Having recently revisited this 50s classic it obviously doesn’t have the same effect in some ways, but in others it does. A lot of what was creepy is now campy, but I got to say these bizarre little beasties are still effective and the stop motion effects that render them haven’t lost their charm.

Fiend is an English film set in the rural Canadian town of Winthrop (though filmed in England) where locals are very unhappy about a nearby US air force base and it’s nuclear reactor. Remember, it’s the 50s and every sci-fi flick had something to do with atomic power. This small village is also home to Professor Walgate (Kynaston Reeves) and the well meaning professor’s experiments with psychic power and telekinesis don’t mix well with atomic energy. After a series of mysterious deaths blamed on the air force personal and their use of the reactor, it’s revealed that Walgate somehow created a race of invisible and quite hungry beings who like to suck the brains and spinal cords out of their victims and feed off the atomic energy created at the base. It’s now up to Major Jeff Cummings (Marshall Thompson) and Walgate’s plucky secretary, Barbara (Kim Parker) to stop these fiends. But with the creatures rendering the reactor out of control and now becoming fully corporeal, no one may have the power to stop them as they feed and multiply.

The film made quite a stir when first released, but is kind of silly and campy now. Director Arthur Crabtree creates a decent atmosphere of dread and takes this tall tale of science gone awry very seriously as does his cast. But the film does take about an hour for our fiends to finally appear visible and there is some silly dialog and grin inducing situations to sit through, before our stop motion animated critters trap Cummings and company in Walgate’s house and lay siege to their potential meals. At only 77 minutes that’s quite a stretch to sit through to get to the real action, but the last act is still effective today as the effects still hold up and the creatures design still gives chills.

All in all, Fiend is still one of the best examples of 50s atomic age sci-fi and it’s creatures are still held in high regard by fans of horror cinema even if it’s science is silly, dialogue worthy of MST3K and it takes a really long time for our mysterious villains to actually appear. Campy fun and with one of the most unique and iconic creature designs ever. Fiend is available on DVD in a wonderful edition from the awesome Criterion Collection!

MonsterZero NJ trivia: Fiend is based on Amelia Reynolds Long’s short story The Thought Monster with a script by Herbert J. Leder who was originally to direct. The stop motion effects were actually done in Munich, Germany by FX artist K.L. Lupel and the spooky FX sequences were directed by Florenz Von Nordorff.

…and does anyone else think the reactor guy (Kerrigan Prescott) looks like he’s from the 80s band Squeeze…

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…and leading lady Kim Parker is quite fetching in a towel… *sigh*

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 Fiend gets a nostalgic 3 hungry brain monsters and 1/2 left over human brain!

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. TO THE LEGENDARY RAY HARRYHAUSEN (1920-2013)

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Today the film world lost a legend and a pioneer as master SFX artist Ray Harryhausen has passed away at age 92! Harryhausen is known for his amazing stop motion animation that graced such classics as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles To Earth and Clash Of The Titans. Ray will be missed but, he and his work are immortalized in numerous film classics and shall never be forgotten.

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