U.S. Theatrical Release Date: 5/18/79
So after the spacedust settled following Gaactica’s tumultuous first and only season, executive producer Glenn Larson discovered that he was in hole for several million dollars. As preparatory publicity for the series’ premiere, in July of 1978 Universal had theatrically released the pilot movie in Canada, Europe and Australia, where it did some decent business. In March of 1979 Larson put the forthcoming Buck Rogers pilot movie, which he also produced, out in America – again, to healthy box office.
And so, on May 18th, 1979, Larson put the Galactica pilot, “Saga of a Star World,” into American theaters to help recoup some of his financial losses. (This time – no interruptions by President Carter.) Simply titled, Battlestar Galactica, it was indeed profitable, since the main costs this time related to printing and distribution. I suppose thee was also the secret hope that it might reinvigorate interest in the show so that high summer rerun ratings might make ABC brass reconsider their cancellation. They didn’t, but perhaps it led, indirectly, to the green light for Galactica ‘80.
Since the theatrical release is basically the same as the pilot movie, I won’t repeat the plot summary (you can read it here). The only major difference is that Baltar is executed by the Cylons in the theatrical release, and it is retroactively revealed that he is spared in the TV version. But I will share a few observations based on my second viewing of the movie:
I still think that, after a dynamite first third, this overlong episode really gets tedious fast, and I can only imagine that young kids sitting in the theater for well over two hours must have been bored silly. After Adama and the crew avert destruction from the Cylon ruse, anything could’ve happended, but the teleplay pretty much grinds to a shuddering halt. We spend a huge chunk of the movie’s midsection with a lot of garbled dialogue dealing with food contamination aboard the ship. And just where did that other Council of 12 come from anyway? And what of “Sire Uri”? What are his motivations? It’s never clear if he is a Cylon pawn or if he just hates Adama and came up with a bad plan that the Cylons exploited. The other enemy here – the Ovions – are a race of human-feasting bug-like aliens, and they’re definitely creepy (even if their cocoons reminded me of the eerie encasements from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie), but their belated arrival is too little, too late.
I saw this feature on an individual DVD edition (apart from the series), which, presumably, is the actual theatrical release. I definitely appreciated the widescreen format (not sure if they blew it up from the TV 1.33 ratio or if it was shot 1.85 in the first place). After watching the documentary on the series, however, I found it odd that they didn’t put back the footage the couldn’t use on TV after getting busted by the censors, like Starbuck with his shirt off after fooling around with Casseopia. The “bonus features” are all text, so there’s nothing special here – it’s just a decent stand-alone edition of the Galactica movie version, for better or worse.
So now, on to Galactica 1980 – the second wind for the series. But for network television in the early 80s, those were tumultuous waters indeed.
Rating: ** (same as original rating)