Creature/Titan Find (1985) ***
Some of you probably figured this out a long time ago, but I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to old-school Alien rip-offs. Forbidden World is an old favorite of mine (and one which I simply must get around to reviewing someday...), I saw Leviathan in the theater and enjoyed it quite a bit, and I even hold a mostly positive opinion of the generally reviled Inseminoid/Horror Planet. So with that in mind, you might want to make some kind of compensating adjustments before you seek out Creature/Titan Find on my recommendation. I thought it was a fun little movie, but I seem to be just about the only person who ever did.
I can only assume that Creature takes place in a slightly less far-flung future than Alien, because the prospecting mission gone awry is merely of an interplanetary character, rather than fully interstellar. There are two competing companies involved in the offworld mining business, and the lawless intensity of that competition has more than a few echoes of the Old West in it. An expedition under the auspices of the West German (heheh... West German...) company Richter Dynamics has made an extraordinary discovery beneath the surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan— an apparently artificial cavern filled with scientific equipment of great antiquity and obviously alien origin. Just how old the stuff in there may be is mostly a matter of conjecture, but the company’s scientists estimate its age at somewhere around 200,000 years. The most interesting things in the subterranean (sub-Titanian?) chamber are a collection of metallic pods containing the remains of alien organisms from what may well be all over the galaxy. Most of these pods have long since split open from age and corrosion, leaving their contents open to the hostile elements. (Actually, if the temperature in the cavern is 77 degrees below zero— as will later be asserted— anything left in it would be perfectly preserved more or less eternally.) There is one canister, however, whose outer casing is still intact, and the horrible, toothy thing inside it is in very good condition indeed. In fact, it’s still alive, and when the dumb-asses charged with transporting it back to the Richter Dynamics ship accidentally break the seal on its stasis pod, it gets loose and kills both of them.
Some time passes. Don’t ask me how much, because the editing between this scene and the last one is just insane, but long enough in any event for whoever survives the resurrected alien’s rampage to launch the ship and make a beeline for home— or for the space station Concord, at least. Trouble is, that survivor doesn’t seem to be up to the task of piloting a spacecraft, because instead of docking with the space station, he plows right into it, doing who the hell knows how much damage. This, it would seem, gets the attention of Richter’s American rivals, NTI, for the Concord is an American space station. Having thus been clued in that something odd is afoot on or around Titan, an NTI exec named David Perkins (Lyman Ward, of Sleepwalkers and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) books passage for himself and company security officer Melanie Bryce (Diane Salinger) aboard the spaceship Shenandoah, captained by Mike Davison (Stan Ivar). Davison’s people are not trained salvagers, however, so the company makes sure to keep all of them in the dark about what they’re going to Titan for.
Okay, so let’s meet the members of Davison’s crew. His first officer and engineer is also his girlfriend, Beth Sladen (Wendy Schaal, from *Batteries Not Included and Munchies). The ship’s doctor is one Wendy Oliver (Annette McCarthy). Then there are Jon Fennel (Robert Jaffe) and Susan Delambre (Marie Laurin, from Talking Walls and Burial of the Rats). Frankly, I’m not at all sure what their jobs are supposed to be— unless, of course, Captain Davison pays them to fuck. They do a lot of that, for Susan has a bad feeling about this mission. She’s convinced she’s not coming back from it, and she understandably wants to get in all the laying she can while she’s got the chance.
Now we come to a point in the movie that I just don’t understand. When the Shenandoah takes up its orbit around Titan, Fennel picks up on his sensors the presence of a large metal object at the bottom of one of the moon’s many craters. Perkins reveals that this is the German ship he’s come to outmaneuver for the salvage of whatever spectacular find it is that the Richter crew made before their mission went to hell in a hand basket, but that doesn’t make any kind of sense at all. If the German ship is still on Titan, then what in the hell was that vessel that crashed into the Concord a few scenes back?!?! Regardless, the emphasis on stealth and treachery inherent in his mission means that Perkins can’t very well afford to have Davison set the Shenandoah down in the same crater, and he has the captain land the ship beside its outer rim. Well it just so happens that the Germans landed in that crater for a reason. The ground in the area is riddled with caves and tunnels, so the upper surface is incapable of bearing the weight of an object the size of an interplanetary transport. The Shenandoah falls through the ground, breaking almost everything aboard that’s of any importance— including and especially the main engines and the machinery that recycles the vessel’s air supply.
As long as they’re not going anywhere, Perkins figures they may as well try snooping around the crater to see what the Germans had been up to. Perkins himself leads Bryce, Fennel, and Delambre to the ship itself, while Davison takes the rest of the crew to investigate the environs of the crater. Davison’s contingent rediscover the alien laboratory, with its grisly tenancy of extraterrestrial mummies and bloodied Germans, but that’s nothing compared to what surprises the ship has in store. There, Susan finds the canister in which the space monster had been hibernating, with the dead body of one of the ship’s crewmen inside it. There are more corpses stashed all around the cabin— in closets, under tables, behind bulky pieces of equipment— and Delambre freaks out at the sight of them. This is just as well for her, in that her panicked flight from that part of the ship reunites her with her companions before the monster can get to her, and it is forced instead to take on all four astronauts at once. Bryce’s gun doesn’t seem to hurt it, and the explorers retreat. However, in the rush to escape, Delambre ends up on the wrong side of an airlock from the other three, and is caught and killed by the alien. Guess she was right about not coming home from Titan, huh?
When the crew gets back aboard the crippled Shenandoah, they learn that they’ve got a guest. No, it’s not the alien, but it might qualify as a monster by some people’s definitions. It seems there was one German who was able to escape from the deadly creature, and this German— Hans Hofner (Klaus Kinski, from Nosferatu, the Vampyre and Creature with the Blue Hand)— has now snuck aboard the Americans’ vessel in search of comparative safety. (Or maybe just in search of a few good chances to feel up Melanie Bryce— he does that a lot over the rest of the film. Normally this would be pretty bizarre, as Bryce looks rather like a slightly more masculine version of the young Tim Curry, but given that this is a Klaus Kinski character we’re dealing with, we should probably count ourselves lucky that he isn’t running around trying to give head to the space monster!) Hofner makes peace with his American rivals by telling them that he knows more or less what the thing aboard his ship is. Far more than just a big, toothy monster, it is reasonably intelligent and possesses a unique talent that is sure to make it an enormous pain in Davison’s ass. The creature has the ability to detach small pieces of its body, which can then act as parasitic remote control systems for the corpses of its victims. Most of the Richter Dynamics crew were killed not by the monster itself, but by the zombies it made out of the first few men it slew. The problem now confronting Davison’s people may thus be summed up as follows: Their ship is irreparably damaged, and will soon run out of air. The Richter Dynamics ship, on the other hand, is perfectly serviceable, but it happens to be occupied by a killer beastie from an unknown world, which cannot be killed with the weapons at the crew’s disposal. Finally, that beastie has the ability to commandeer the bodies of any humans it kills. That’s not as big a deal with Susan (who they already know is dead), but if the monster should find an opportunity to waylay anybody else while they’re out of sight of the rest of the crew, then a fifth column within their ranks is a possibility they’ll have to take seriously.
Creature definitely isn’t a “rush out and tell all your friends” kind of movie. Rather, it’s the kind of movie you pick up on a lark at the video store, which causes you to spend the rest of the evening quietly pleased with how your little gamble turned out. My favorite thing about it is the way that it plays like an 80’s update of Planet of the Vampires, a movie for which I have an arguably inordinate fondness. It isn’t often that one encounters Alien-inspired monsters and the living dead in one movie, and far be it from me to complain about any reasonably competent combination of two of my favorite things. Gender-role hobbyists, too, will have a field day with this one, which posits a crew in which such typically masculine positions as doctor, first officer, and security chief are filled by women. Alternately, you could appreciate Creature for its unintended comedy— especially Kinski’s flagrantly overblown performance as that lecherous, perverted little troll Hofner. And finally, how can you not crack a smile at a film whose main characters get their inspiration for an endgame strategy against the monster when one of them remembers how they did it in an old movie she saw once— The Thing from Another World?