Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The April 2011 A - Z Blogging Challenge - V is for Vipers!

The April 2011 A - Z Blogging Challenge might bring us to a Victory lap, or a View to a Kill or even a Vision of 70's Sci-Fi Heaven, and I'm thinking that last one sounds right, for 'tis true that...

V is for Vipers!

(Colonial Vipers, that is!)

Battlestar Galactica  (Universal, 1978)

Yes, it's true - top billing went to Sensurround.

Before the Camera:

Richard Hatch  (Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen)
Dirk Benedict  (Ruckus)
Lorne Greene  (Earthquake)
Jane Seymour  (Live and Let Die)
Terry Carter  (Foxy Brown)
Herbert Jefferson Jr.  (Detroit 9000)
Maren Jensen  (Deadly Blessing)
John Colicos  (No Contest)
Laurette Spang  (Airport 1975)
Tony Swartz  (The Archer: Fugitive from the Empire)
Rick Springfield  (Hard to Hold)
Noah Hathaway  (Troll - where he played Harry Potter, Jr.!)
Ed Begley Jr.  (Get Crazy)
Randi Oakes  (TV's CHIPs)
David Greenan  (Silent Madness)
Sarah Rush  (The Nude Bomb)

Guest Stars
Lew Ayres  (Calling Dr. Kildare)
Wilfrid Hyde-White  (My Fair Lady)
Special Guest Star
Ray Milland  (The Thing with Two Heads)
as Sire Uri

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Richard A. Colla

Produced by John Dykstra, Winrich Kolbe, Glen A. Larson, and Leslie Stevens

Written by Glen A. Larson

When Star Wars became a huge hit on theater screens for 20th Century Fox in 1977, television execs at all three networks began to shake their fists and bellow "Get me some of that science fiction crap! It's selling like hotcakes!" Successful writer/producer Glen A. Larson grabbed up his decade old unsold sci-fi property Adam's Ark and began giving it an update polish. Shortly after, with a revised and modernised (up to the late 70's anyway) pitch, he got Universal Studios and ABC to bite. They had a couple of stipulations - one of them that the word "star" had to be in the title somewhere. Larson thought for a bit, and soon after Battlestar Galactica was born. Costing the then unheard of price of $7 million, they shot a 3 hour pilot episode and ABC cleared an entire Sunday night of programming to launch this epic series. And launch it did - to very respectable ratings - despite an interruption of over an hour by President Jimmy Carter and his overseeing of that trifling signing of the Israel/Egypt peace accord by Israeli president Menachem Begin and Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat. There's a whole other blog post waiting to be written about this series - but we have other fish to fry in this one.
    Because they'd spent so much money on the pilot, and it looked so damned good, the studio execs started thinking the same thought they usually did about this time - let's cut the pilot down to feature length and release it as a feature film! Usually they did this overseas, but this time they went whole hog and planned a theatrical jaunt for this flick all over the world, including the United States of America! And in addition to planning a domestic run, Universal used the film's release to launch the third iteration of that jazzy theatrical sound system known as Sensurround!™ (To know more about this flick and Sensurround III,  go to this Let's Get Out of Here post from 2010.)
    The film starts off with some cool narration from actor Patrick Macnee (uncredited but providing some key voicework throughout the flick) setting up the plot - why not include it here?

"There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive far far away amongst the stars."

With that, we are introduced to the Battlestar Galactica, a giant spaceship loaded with tiny snub fighters called Colonial Vipers. There are twelve such warships, each charged with defending the Twelve Colonies of Man in their epic thousand year war against the Cylon Empire. The Galactica and all of her sister Battestars have come together at a neutral spot far from their homeworlds. It seems a human named Baltar (Colicos) has somehow managed to broker a peace summit between the Twelve Colonies and the Cylons. Before the summit can get underway the Galactica's commander Adama is wary, and orders his right hand man Colonel Tigh (Carter) to keep patrols flying to keep an eye on the space around the fleet. As it turns out, the latest patrol consists of two Vipers, each piloted by one of Adama's sons - Captain Apollo (Hatch) and young Lieutenant Zac (Springfield). Their sister Athena (Jensen) is also present - a flight controller back on the bridge. Apollo and Zac find a large tanker ship lying adrift not far from the fleet, empty of fuel. Surmising that this could have been a refueling station for some kind of sneak attack, the boys break for the Galactica. And it turns out Apollo was right - the Cylons have brought the Battlestars together so they can launch a mass ambush on the fleet and a simulataneous attack on all twelve colony worlds - their aim - to wipe the human race from the stars forever! Zac's ship is damaged, and he urges Apollo to fly ahead to warn the fleet. Apollo does, and then tries to go back to rescue his little brother - but it's too late. And Zac is only the first loss of the day as the Cylon attack does indeed wipe out a large part of the Twelve Colonies, and eleven of the Battlestars, thanks to the indecision of President Adar (Ayres) and the treachery of Baltar. Only the Galactica escapes, thanks to Adama's foresight to have Vipers ready to launch as a part of a fake drill. The great ship makes it back to its home planet of Caprica, where Adama and Apollo find death and devastation. But there are survivors, and Adama comes up with a plan: using every spacefaring vessel they can get their hands on, the Battlestar Galactica will lead these survivors out across the stars - on a quest to find the fabled lost Thirteenth Colony - a shining planet known as Earth.
    Eventually 220 various space vessels are found and pressed into service, and they set out on their quest, underfueled, and with poor provisions. There will be problems with the new Council of the Twelve, with members like greedy, self-serving Sire Uri (Milland) sitting at the table. Even with heroic warriors like Apollo, Starbuck (Benedict), Boomer (Jefferson), Jolly (Swartz) and Greenbean (Begley), they'll need the Lords of Kobol to look after them so they can stay one step ahead of the Cylon fleet as they try to find food and fuel to get them safely out of the sector of space the Cylons now rule. Will this ragtag fugitive fleet be able to find that long lost sister world?

The show was so expensive to produce, actors Herbert Jefferson, Jr. and
Richard Hatch also had to be production assistants - here they're telling
Jane Seymour camera is ready.

You know, when this premiered I was just really getting going in my double digits, and I thought it was a pretty neat show. In 2003 they "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica, and I sat down with the pilot episode. When 45 minutes had passed and there hadn't been one dogfight in outer space, I turned it off - this was not "my" BSG. I never watched another episode. But the new show became a hit, and it became de rigeur to spit on the old show - it was 70's crap! Terrible hair! Bad writing! Recycled special effects! Okay, those things cannot be denied - and again, the problems this had when it went to series are big enough for their own post. This is a review of the chopped down pilot episode as it played in theaters.
    This is a good movie. It's not a great movie. It's not an Oscar winning life affirming game changing piece of cinema. But it is a good movie.
    The story is involving. The characters are interesting. The actors are at worst adequate, and some are pretty good. The effects are very cool - though they do get used over and over a lot - and on DVD there's now a "matte cloud" of differently colored blocks of space that follow some of the spaceships around - but you can always tell yourself those are the shields...
    Best of all, (and these are not things I usually mention, let alone gush over in a review) the production and costume designs are INCREDIBLE. This thing was made during a time when most clothes in the world were hideous - but my old buddy Jean-Pierre Dorleac really had an eye for some terrific outfits here - I love the Egyptian motif that runs through everything on the Galactica -  these costumes worked well then, and they still work today - over 30 years later! The ship designs and sets are also iconic - forgiving the old solid state electronics on that $1 million bridge set.

Two views of the big ship herself.

The good guys' fighters - Colonial Vipers - hence the post title!

The bad guys' ship - the Cylon Raider

The Colonial Warrior costumes - and look - there's Anne Lockhart - she's not in the movie.
This is from the series, but was the best picture I could find of these outfits.

    There are some downsides - the "little kid" factor comes into play with rescued single journalist Serena (Seymour) and her young son (Hathaway) shmoozing with Apollo and slowing the story down a couple of times - but the robot "daggit" (dog) they invent to pep up the boy's spirit is an interesting figure - a robot dog suit wrapped around a chimpanzee...The editing down from the longer pilot episode leaves a couple of choppy moments in the story too... but these are quibbles. All in all I mark this as one of my favorite things to come out of the 70's. If you want to see some of the best of the science fiction projects greenlighted thanks to Star Wars, then definitely check this flick out!

Let's Get Out of Here ?

Around 10:00 in, Richard Hatch knows it's an ambush. He then waits a while to go on a spree with The Line, clocking it again at around 1:45:20, 1:48:40, and 2:00:30.

Eye Candy ?
The three ladies in this movie epitomize 70's hot - so yes to all three!

Maren Jensen

Jane Seymour



Laurette Spang

Buddha Man's Capule Review

Buddha Man says "Battlestar Galactica can always find its
onto my movie screen."

Thank you Buddha Man! As Commander Adama says - "Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest - a shining planet, known as Earth." And til next time, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Yet another movie/series I didn't see because my folks didn't like sci-fi, and we just had the one TV, and pesky child labor laws prevented me from finding work and buying my own.

    Rather than adventuring through outer space, I was stuck on Walton's mountain, or watching the tragedy-of-the-week befall the family Ingalls. Why did these people not relocate to a climate sans pestilence, woe and faded clothes?!?

    Anyway, for anyone who's not written a plot synopsis, they're hard to do well, and this one is excellent. Nicely done!

    My memories of BG come from trading cards. I didn't get to see the movie or watch the show, but I did get to eat bread. And Wonder Bread had BG trading cards. I ended up with a handful of them, and tried to piece together story and characters from the pictures and a bit of writing on the back.

    Sad, I know.

    I remember being perplexed by the artificial pet, but thinking it looked really cool.

    Sadder still: I can't remember my cellphone number, but I remember this.

    Having not turned my head toward the original series since it first aired, I hadn't seen the costumes or opening narrative. The seed of the story--humans be-bopping about the galaxy while some stayed home--and the Egyptian motif, remind me a lot of Stargate!

    I read your screen roster and kept saying, "Hey, I didn't know (actor I know) was in that!"

    Looks like an adder to my Netflix list.

    Thanks for another walk down memory lane. Or in this case, around the flight deck...

    v: voices from the past

  2. I was a huge Battlestar Galactica fan!! Starbuck was a cutie!
    I am amazed at all this trivia you know!