Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Escape from Galaxy 3 (1981)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Freese contributes to many different magazines, zines and websites such as Videoscope, Rue Morgue, Drive-in Asylum, Grindhouse Purgatory, Horror and Sons and Lunchmeat VHS. (His most recent piece, about the 80’s video distributor Super Video, can be found here). He also co-hosts the Two Librarians Walk into a Shelf podcast so he has an excuse to expose library patrons to ninja and slasher films. 

Depending on what copy of the movie you are watching, the title is either the really cool sounding Escape from Galaxy 3, or it is a fake looking title card blocking out that title with Starcrash II superimposed over it, in classic Commodore 64 font.

Our movie starts with a space attack. Almost immediately we don’t so much as feel like we’ve seen this all before, but we know for a fact that we have seen this all before because we are watching special effects outtakes from Luigi Cozzi’s 1979 sci-fi-adventure flick Starcrash. You may be tempted to take the disc out to check it to make sure you put in the correct movie, but rest assured, you did.

Cosmic radar has picked up an unidentified space craft in the galaxy. It is Oraclon, the King of the Night and possibly a member of some intergalactic glam-rock Village People cover band. He has big eyes and a glittery beard.

Oraclon wants to claim King Ceylon’s planet for his own. Ceylon’s hot to trot daughter, Princess Belle Star, wears half a dress and a glitter pastie in the shape of a star over her single uncovered breast. She is ordered to get into an escape ship with Captain Lithan and collect the King’s allies before Oraclon can make his next move. (This is “Plan Epsilon,” for whatever reason. Seems like a good old fashion retreat to me.)

When Ceylon refuses to surrender to Oraclon, the Studio 54 disco-reject puts a hurting on Ceylon’s space station and blows up the king’s home planet of Exalon.

Belle Star and Lithan manage to get away from the battle that is just as exciting as it was the first time we watched it in Starcrash. Oraclon, enraged, screams, “You galactic idiots! Imbeciles! We are not returning to the base until I have their heads at my feet!”

After rocketing through space, Belle Star and Lithan discover a strange planet, third from a sun, populated by savages. They crash land and damage their ship. These savage men and women, although cleanly shaven, live in huts and perceive the visitors to be enemies. The atmosphere of the earth enables the Captain and the Princess to display superhuman powers. Naturally, they are quickly sentenced to death.

In a moment before being condemned, Lithan saves a young boy from falling to his death, and then the primitive Earth people love him and the princess and welcome them to live in their village. While living among the cleanly shaven primitives, Belle Star and Lithan spy a young couple partaking in some nookie in the woods. This is odd to them, as physical contact between people is not allowed where they’re from. They are curious. It looks like fun. They decide to try kissing.

Never before has the screen exploded in such raw, non-passionate making of the love. I mean, these two kids kiss like they are sharing the same stick of gum. It is painful to watch, like watching your mom and dad kiss. Later, after a nude swim under a waterfall, one of the savages loves up Belle Star and she is enthusiastic for Lithan to try it. He can’t seem to get into the spirit of her experimentations. Just then, a trio of young people, two girls and a guy, come walking by and Belle Star suggests they basically engage in some group lovin’. Everyone is for it but before they can bang a gong and get it on, Oraclon learns where they are and announces he is coming for them. They try to decide what to do and finally feel it is best to leave once the final repairs on their ship are completed.

That night, at the Festival of Love, young men battle in odd, elementary school “Field Day” type competitions to win the opportunity to bed down and make the intercourse with any female they desire. The winner takes Belle Star. She looks longingly at Lithan. Lithan feels jealous and takes a young lady to his bed for a passionless coupling.

Both Belle Star and Lithan imagine the other’s head on the bodies of the people they are shagging. (I think it is safe to say that the similar scene of Tom Hanks imagining different peoples’ heads on Monique Gabrielle’s body in Bachelor Party (1984) drew quite a bit of inspiration from this scene.)

When Oraclon finally attacks Earth, they flee. While on the spaceship and drifting through space, they become bored, so they make sweet, sweet intergalactic nookie. Disgusted, Oraclon watches from a sensor screen and exclaims, “What are they doing?! I don’t understand!!!”

Like a jealous 13-year-old who hangs out with two friends, another guy, and a girl, and love suddenly connects the other guy and the girl, Oraclon vows to destroy Lithan and take Belle Star as his slave. He’ll show them! He has captured all the remaining kings of the different galaxy worlds to bare witness to his cosmic hissy fit. Belle Star tells her soon to be master, “After thousands of years, our sexual powers have come back to life and we haven’t suffered any harm. On the contrary. We’ve acquired a powerful new dimension.”

Aghast, Oraclon and his giant eyes and weird glittery glam beard look at the princess like she has lost her damn mind and wails again, “I don’t understand!”

At last, Belle Star surrenders to Oraclon. He declares that she will be his slave. Captain Lithan is condemned to slave labor, per Oraclon, “For the rest of his cosmic life!”

Belle Star and Lithan kiss, profess their love for one another, and then accept their fate as they stare longingly into each other’s glazed eyes.

In this one moment, Oraclon appears to honestly feel bad for being such an evil jerk. It’s as if he wants to say something, release these two crazy kids so they can experience a life of love and happiness, but his pride and his glitter glam beard keep him from saying anything. Surprisingly, this is a character of great depth, far from perfect, in constant conflict with his true self. (Just possibly, there is a piece of Oraclon in all of us.)

Belle Star goes to Oraclon, accepting her fate, and kisses him. At that precise moment, Lithan shoots eye beams into Belle Star, which pulse through her body and electrocute Oraclon, rendering him into little more than a smoldering pile of charcoal briquettes. They free the kings, set Oraclon’s ship to self-destruct and escape back to Earth, where they can be free and happy and enjoy the making of the savage love of the primitives. It ends with a nude midnight beach frolic, as the strange cosmic lovers embrace, and the passion squirts out of them as they seemingly share one last stick of gum.

Somehow, I missed this movie back when I was teenager. I mention this only because, as a grown up, I realize what a piece of garbage this movie is, but, as a forever 14-year-old, I really enjoyed the straight Star Wars rip-off plot mixed with a teen sex comedy. I mean, this is like Star Wars meshed with Porky’s.

I can’t say that I can recall too many Star Wars rip-offs that ever had such an emphasis on bedroom space antics. Still, it is not nearly as sleazy as it could have been in the hands of, say, Joe D’Amato. (Oh, my!) It has a juvenile charm. It is not as horrible as many movies I can call to mind.

The reason most people seek this one out is that inappropriate and unfotunated AKA, Starcrash II. Luigi Cozzi’s Starcrash was a hit for New World Pictures and for years various sequels were promised. Several attempts at following it up were made, by many different people. This film claims to be a sequel, but in no way should it ever be considered a sequel, even if Cozzi is sometimes mentioned as a co-director. It seems confusing, but when I had an opportunity to ask Cozzi about it, he cleared it up for me.

According to Cozzi, the Italian executive producer of Starcrash, Luigi Nannerini, was given the rights for Italian distribution. Nannerini thought he could utilize unedited model shots of the spaceships and space footage for an entirely new, low budget science fiction film. Early on, Cozzi said he was interested in making that movie for Nannerini, but the producer refused to give him any money for more optical effects. The only effects would be the unused, unedited footage from Starcrash.

Realizing a movie could not be made like this, Cozzi walked away from the project. Nannerini then hired Adalberto “Bitto” Albertini to put the film together. Released in Italy, the film was a flop. Nannerini went back and inserted hardcore sex scenes into it, only for the film to flop in the hardcore Italian market. (I don’t have any other information on this alternate version, so I don’t know what graphic scenes, if any, were added.) In the end, Nannerini admitted to Cozzi that he had been correct. The film really needed new special effects to make it successful for the science fiction crowd.

When I asked Cozzi if fans of Starcrash should consider Escape from Galaxy 3 a real sequel or continuation to his beloved sci-fi adventure, he did not mince words in his response, saying, “Absolutely not. Escape from Galaxy 3 has nothing to do with me [or] with Starcrash. It’s just a kind of [an] extremely bastard son, a rip-off, a giant theft. A shame. I’d never been able to do such a piece of shit.”

I can certainly understand where Cozzi is coming from with wanting to distance this film with his. But from a certain point of view, Escape from Galaxy 3 has a brain damaged charm that is hard to resist. I mean, if someone said, “Hey, do you want to watch a Star Wars rip-off with a lot of nudity?” What is the possibility that you would pass on watching such a film? Well, Escape from Galaxy 3 is that film.

Now, some bare flesh doesn’t a great flick make. And please don’t think I’m trying to convince you that Escape from Galaxy 3 is some kind of lost “drive-in” classic, because it most certainly is not. It’s a throwaway junk flick made to be watched and forgotten as you go to the next movie on the double bill. For those among us who like their entertainment skewered with weirdness, I don’t believe too many would argue that this film is worth a watch. It is so bizarre, like it was directed with the kiddie market that flocked to Star Wars and Starcrash in mind, but then someone said, “Do you know how many tickets we’ll sell if we show the princess naked?” This is one of those wonderfully weird discoveries within a 50-pack of misfit movies that rises above most in the set to deliver unexpected and surprising entertainment value, especially when you were figuring it was going to be just another Italian Star Wars rip-off. When one considers some of those run of the mill Italian “Sons of Star Wars,” Escape from Galaxy 3 is far from the worst of its ilk.

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