Galaxina (1980) -*
Captain Cornelius Butt.
Did that make you laugh? Roll your eyes and snort with contempt? Smile furtively and hope that no one caught you being amused? Mumble something like, “Was… was that supposed to be a joke…?” in absolute bafflement? I ask because your reaction to hearing the name, “Captain Cornelius Butt,” is a fair predictor of your reaction to Galaxina as a whole— or half of your reaction, anyway. The other half is guaranteed to be boredom, since rarely has any filmmaker managed to squeeze as much nothing into a single film as writer-director William Sachs (whom you may remember holding the same two posts on The Incredible Melting Man) does here.
The title, the tag line, and the opening crawl (it’s a crappy post-Star Wars sci-fi movie; of course it has an opening crawl) would all like us to believe that this is the story of Galaxina (ex-Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratten, whose other movies include Autumn Born and Skatetown U.S.A.), a “machine with feelings” that serves as the automatic pilot system aboard the Space Police patrol ship Infinity. And I suppose that could even be interpreted as true, since the fact that Galaxina doesn’t really do anything can hardly be held against her in a film where none of the other characters do, either. Still, though, if you’re looking for something like the “Blade Runner with boobies” flick that the setup seems to imply, you can pretty much write this one off as a total loss. For the most part, what we’ll be getting is 90-some minutes of tepid, free-form zaniness courtesy of the aforementioned Captain Butt (Avery Schreiber, of Silent Scream and The Monitors) and his crew: first officer Sergeant Thor (Stephen Macht, from Nightwing and Deadly Visitor), helmsman Private Buzz McHenry (Night Eyes 3’s J. D. Hinton), and engineers Maurice (Lionel Mark Smith, from Stranger in My House and Youngblood) and Sam Wo (Tad Horino, of Red Sonja and Eliminators). There’s also a captive Rock Eater (Herb Kaplowitz) in the Infinity’s brig, and an exceptionally pathetic riff on Alien’s monster-birth scene yields a second space creature that eventually grows into Angelo Rossitto in a rubber suit nowhere near as good as the one he wore for Invasion of the Saucer Men 23 years earlier. The one incident of any real importance during the first half of the film is a desperately lame space battle early on between the Infinity and a vessel piloted by Ordric (the body of Ronald Knight with the voice of Percy Rodriguez, from The Astral Factor and Come Back Charleston Blue), a mysterious and apparently mechanical being who looks more or less like Darth Vader wearing Obi Wan Kenobi’s robe. You’ll find no reason to imagine that the clash with Ordric means anything while it’s actually going on, however.
The virtually invisible plot, when it finally deigns to put in an appearance, concerns an artifact called the Blue Star. Don’t ask me what that is, though, beyond roundabout proof that Sachs saw Young Frankenstein at least once, and thought Frau Bluecher was the funniest thing about it. (Whenever anyone mentions the Blue Star, the utterance is followed by an “angelic” choral fanfare that the characters can hear along with the audience. Trust me, it’s only trivially more amusing to watch than it is to have me explain it to you.) Nevertheless, Space Police überboss Commander Garrity (Fred D. Scott, from Sins of Rachel and Reform School Girls) considers the Blue Star vital enough to contact Captain Butt with orders for a 27-year hypersleep mission to the far reaches of the galaxy in search of the object. No one likes that idea very much, so Garrity sweetens the deal by granting the Infinity crew a few days’ shore leave on a whorehouse planetoid before they embark. It’s basically an excuse to do the Cantina Café over again, but with more corsets and garter belts this time. While the carbon-based crewmembers are in suspended animation, we get what now looks like a witless but spot-on precognitive parody of Prometheus, as Galaxina wanders around the deserted ship, perving on her crewmates’ dreams and pursuing a self-improvement program that will theoretically enable her to return Sergeant Thor’s love when he thaws out at the Infinity’s destination. (Did I forget to mention that Thor was in love with Galaxina? Sorry. It was part of that tepid, free-form zaniness I was talking about earlier.) Eventually, the Infinity tracks the Blue Star’s energy emissions to the planet Altair I, which is represented by a leftover Western set that I sincerely hope isn’t the Spahn movie ranch (because Galaxina is plenty uncomfortable enough on account of Stratten’s murder by her abusive prick of a husband— throwing in a Manson Family connection on top of that would just be gratuitous ickiness on the universe’s part). Unfortunately, Altair I not only has a radioactive atmosphere (probably because copying The Angry Red Planet’s visual trickery makes the set look just a tiny bit less like a B-Western range town), but is also overrun by creatures that like to eat humans. Thus it’s up to Galaxina to find and recover the Blue Star— and to battle Ordric (oh yeah— him!) for control of it.
On paper, I suppose it sounds like a good, or at least profitable, idea. “Let’s get a Playboy Bunny, and put her in a sexy parody of those sci-fi movies the kids are so crazy about these days!” In practice, though… Yeesh! There really isn’t any level on which Galaxina isn’t a spectacular failure. For starters, it’s a rare thing to find a comedy that bungles its humor in so many different ways, although Galaxina’s central sin of deriving none of its supposed laughs from the material it claims to be parodying is certainly common enough. You want obsolete Borscht Belt leftovers? Captain Cornelius Butt (whose dialogue I strongly suspect to have been mostly improvised by Avery Schreiber) has you covered. Ethnic humor so lazy and uncreative that it can barely even manage to be offensive? Head on down to the engine room, and spend some time with Maurice (black jive cat tricked out as an alien so as to deflect charges of racism) and Sam Wo (white dude posing as an opium-smoking, Confucius-garbling Chinaman, which apparently was judged not to require a cover story). Private McHenry brings the Texas cornpone on a scale that will make you long for Megaforce’s Dallas, Sergeant Thor and Galaxina put a clumsy sci-fi spin on a hundred Pepe Le Pew cartoons that were mainly just irritating the first time around, and the subplot with Angelo Rossitto’s alien (which is convinced that Captain Butt is its mother) is so hackneyed that I’ve completely lost track of where I might first have encountered it. The Rock Eater mistakes loudness and a foul mouth for wit, like a tenth-rate Sam Kinison clone. There’s even a done-to-heat-death “Star Trek” gag, with an alien bartender who looks exactly like Mr. Spock, except that his ears point downward. Galaxina is just as lousy a sexploitation movie as it is a comedy, too, although Dorothy Stratten’s horrid fate makes it difficult to critique on that level without sounding like a sewer-brained creep. Suffice it to say that although Sachs apparently thought his job on the titillation front was done the moment Stratten zipped up that lycra catsuit, it took a lot more than that to satisfy the target audience for soft smut in 1980. Galaxina may be rated R, but in truth it’s completely inappropriate for viewers over the age of eleven.