Battlestar Galactica (1979)

PG | 122 mins | Science fiction | 18 May 1979

Director:

Richard A. Colla

Writer:

Glen A. Larson

Producer:

John Dykstra

Cinematographer:

Ben Colman

Production Designer:

John E. Chilberg, II

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

According to articles in the Sep 1978 Millimeter and in the 24 Jul 1978 HR, Battlestar Galactica evolved from an idea by writer-executive producer Glen A. Larson called “Adam’s Ark,” a story about an alliance of humans searching for a new home. The script was in development for eight years until the space genre gained popularity, aided by the phenomenal success of Star Wars (1977, see entry).
       Larson created the project as a television production, in association with Universal Television. The two-hour theatrical feature was a shorter version of the original three-hour television film, which premiered 17 Sep 1978 on American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a launch for the television series. According to a 17 Nov 1978 DV article, the tele-film was titled Saga of a Star World and ran 148 minutes, without commercials. The length of the feature film was 125 minutes. The major difference between the tele-film and the feature film was the fate of the traitor “Count Baltar,” played by actor John Colicos. He is executed in the theatrical version, but spared at the last moment in the television pilot.
       Larson’s concept was influenced by the outer space setting of Silent Running (1972, see entry), which included special effects photography by John Dykstra, who produced Battlestar Galactica and was in charge of the special effects through his company, Apogee, Inc. In Millimeter, Dykstra described his role as more an associate producer than a typical lead producer because he was not involved in many of the details during post-production and distribution. ...

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According to articles in the Sep 1978 Millimeter and in the 24 Jul 1978 HR, Battlestar Galactica evolved from an idea by writer-executive producer Glen A. Larson called “Adam’s Ark,” a story about an alliance of humans searching for a new home. The script was in development for eight years until the space genre gained popularity, aided by the phenomenal success of Star Wars (1977, see entry).
       Larson created the project as a television production, in association with Universal Television. The two-hour theatrical feature was a shorter version of the original three-hour television film, which premiered 17 Sep 1978 on American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a launch for the television series. According to a 17 Nov 1978 DV article, the tele-film was titled Saga of a Star World and ran 148 minutes, without commercials. The length of the feature film was 125 minutes. The major difference between the tele-film and the feature film was the fate of the traitor “Count Baltar,” played by actor John Colicos. He is executed in the theatrical version, but spared at the last moment in the television pilot.
       Larson’s concept was influenced by the outer space setting of Silent Running (1972, see entry), which included special effects photography by John Dykstra, who produced Battlestar Galactica and was in charge of the special effects through his company, Apogee, Inc. In Millimeter, Dykstra described his role as more an associate producer than a typical lead producer because he was not involved in many of the details during post-production and distribution. For example, he was ambivalent about the decision to release a feature film. However, he did feel positive about the fact that the two-hour theatrical version was edited first, prior to cutting the longer television pilot, which allowed for the essential story line to emerge.
       Dykstra, who was credited in Star Wars as a special photographic effects supervisor, was joined on the Battlestar Galactica crew by several other Star Wars collaborators, including photographers Richard Edlund and Dennis Muren, and modelmaker Grant McCune. Muren explained that Star Wars was somewhat of a training ground, so that at the start of production for Galactica the crew was already proficient with the equipment and techniques. He considered the effects to be not only groundbreaking for television, but “in many cases, better that what we turned out in Star Wars.” Muren also noted that the filmmakers opted for cinematography in the style of a theatrical film, allowing for dramatic lighting, as opposed to the flatter lighting typical of television production.
       Live action filming and the editing took place at Universal Studios in Universal City, CA. According to Dykstra, the production shot for fifty-seven days, thirty days longer than originally scheduled.
       According to Millimeter, the three-hour pilot was made for $8 million, amounting to one of the most expensive made-for-television films to that time. This figure did not account for prints or advertising for the theatrical releases. A studio advertisement in the 25 Oct 1978 Var publicized the cost as $14 million.
       As stated in a 13 May 1979 NYT article, the feature film was originally intended for release in Canada and other foreign territories, but not the United States. The film opened in Canada on 8 Jul 1978 in seventy-five theatres and reported strong box-office earnings of $471,917 in the first three days of its release, according to a 19 Jul 1978 Var article. Overseas engagements began mid-Oct 1978 as advertised in Var on 25 Oct 1978. An item in the 6 Sep 1978 Var reported that the U.S. premiere of the feature film took place 11 Sep 1978 at the Philadelphia International Film Festival and Exposition, but there was no mention of a future domestic release.
       To test the appeal for a U.S. theatrical engagement, Universal released the two-hour version in San Antonio, TX, Memphis, TN, and Phoenix, AZ, on 17 Nov 1978. The 17 Nov 1978 DV reported that this three-city trial represented “one of the first U.S bookings of a one-time telefilm while the series is still on the air.” To differentiate the cinematic version, the screenings took advantage of Universal’s Sensurround sound technology. Galactica was the fourth Universal feature to use Sensurround, following Earthquake (1974, see entry), Midway (1976, see entry) and Rollercoaster (1977, see entry). The grosses were encouraging, paving the way for a national opening as reported by a 29 Nov 1978 Var article. Among the test theatres, Phoenix’s Cine Capri had the top box-office after the first week, earning over $28,000. By the time the film was released in 400 U.S. cinemas on 18 May 1979, the television series had been cancelled by ABC, according to the 13 May 1979 NYT article.
       As summarized in DV articles from 17 Nov 1978 and 25 Aug 1980, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. filed a copyright lawsuit against MCA, Inc./Universal City Studios on 23 Jun 1978, arguing that Battlestar Galactica resembled Star Wars in “‘look and feel.’” In response, Universal filed a counterclaim on 9 Jul 1978, alleging that the idea for Star Wars was taken from Silent Running. Judge Irving Hill from United States District Court in Los Angeles, CA, dismissed both claims in two separate rulings. The Universal counterclaim was denied in Apr 1979 and the original suit by Fox was denied the following year on 22 Aug 1980. In regard to the question of infringement by Galactica on Star Wars, Hill stated that the two works “were vastly different when viewed as whole.” In a 4 Jun 1982 HR legal column, attorney Lionel Sobel outlined how the lawsuit “ushered in a new legal era” as major studios opened similar cases based on the principle of “substantial similarity.”
       Critical reaction also compared the two films. Battlestar Galactica was often considered “a poor man’s version of Star Wars,” as stated in the 17 Nov 1978 HR review. Janet Maslin, in the 18 May 1979 NYT, noted that the filmmakers “have worked so carefully and expensively at aping Star Wars that the humor has been lost, and so has the sense of fun.”
       According to a 13 Dec 2009 LAT article, director Bryan Singer was attached to a proposed new feature film version of Battlestar Galactica.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Nov 1978
p. 3, 8
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1980
p. 1, 15
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 1978
p. 3, 15
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1982
---
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1979
Section F, p. 19
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 2009
Section D, p. 1
Millimeter
Sep 1978
---
New York Times
13 May 1979
Section D, p. 15, 28
New York Times
18 May 1979
p. 12
Variety
19 Jul 1978
---
Variety
6 Sep 1978
---
Variety
25 Oct 1978
---
Variety
29 Nov 1978
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Glen A. Larson Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Supv prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit cam
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Ed asst
Ed asst
Ed asst
Ed asst
Ed asst
Ed asst
Ed asst
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
conducting The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Galactica theme
Galactica theme
SOUND
Sd re-rec
Spec eff system
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des
Titles and opt eff
Spec electronics eff
Prod supv, Apogee, Inc.
Miniature and opt eff unit supv by
Spec eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Spec eff photog, Apogee, Inc.
Cam, Apogee, Inc.
Cam, Apogee, Inc.
Cam, Apogee, Inc.
Cam, Apogee, Inc.
Cam, Apogee, Inc.
Cam, Apogee, Inc.
Key grip, Apogee, Inc.
Chief model maker, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
David Scott
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Model builder, Apogee, Inc.
Eff illustration and des, Apogee, Inc.
Joseph Johnston
Eff illustration and des, Apogee, Inc.
Eff illustration and des, Apogee, Inc.
Addl artwork, Apogee, Inc.
Addl artwork, Apogee, Inc.
Spec mechanical equip, Apogee, Inc.
Spec mechanical equip, Apogee, Inc.
Spec mechanical equip, Apogee, Inc.
Spec electronics, Apogee, Inc.
Anim and rotoscope des, Apogee, Inc.
Anim, Apogee, Inc.
Anim, Apogee, Inc.
Anim, Apogee, Inc.
Anim, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Opt photog, Apogee, Inc.
Test and display equip by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
SOURCES
SONGS
"It's Love, Love, Love," by John Tartaglia, Sue Collins and Glen A. Larson.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 May 1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 May 1979; New York opening: week of 18 May 1979
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Universal City Studios, Inc.
20 September 1978
PA15343
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
122
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the seventh millennium, a fleet of space battlestars from the twelve colonies of mankind travels to a peace conference that will bring an end to the thousand-year war with the robotic Cylon race. Aboard the Battlestar Atlantia, President Adar, leader of the Council of Twelve, thanks Count Baltar for making the armistice possible, but Commander Adama of the Battlestar Galactica remains wary of the Cylons, who have always loathed mankind. Meanwhile on Galactica, Captain Apollo, a top colonial warrior and eldest son of Adama, allows his eager younger brother, Lieutenant Zac, to accompany him on a routine reconnaissance patrol. However, during the mission, Apollo and Zac are ambushed by hostile fire. Apollo returns to the Galactica to warn the fleet, but Zac’s starfighter loses an engine and trails behind. When Adama learns of the attack, he asks permission to launch interceptor fighters as a precaution, but on the advice of Baltar, Adar insists on restraint for the sake of the peace mission. As an alternative, Adama places warrior starfighters on alert. When thousands of Cylon spacecraft close in on the colonies’ fleet, Galactica is the only battlestar able to react in time. Atlantia is obliterated. In his final moments, Adar realizes that the peace conference was a trap. After returning safely, Apollo is distraught to hear that his brother was killed while approaching the docking bay. Realizing the magnitude of the Cylon’s ambush, Adama watches the simultaneous bombing of the unprotected colonial planets. In the midst of the battle, Adama and Apollo journey to their home planet Caprica. There, Adama finds his house in ashes. ...

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In the seventh millennium, a fleet of space battlestars from the twelve colonies of mankind travels to a peace conference that will bring an end to the thousand-year war with the robotic Cylon race. Aboard the Battlestar Atlantia, President Adar, leader of the Council of Twelve, thanks Count Baltar for making the armistice possible, but Commander Adama of the Battlestar Galactica remains wary of the Cylons, who have always loathed mankind. Meanwhile on Galactica, Captain Apollo, a top colonial warrior and eldest son of Adama, allows his eager younger brother, Lieutenant Zac, to accompany him on a routine reconnaissance patrol. However, during the mission, Apollo and Zac are ambushed by hostile fire. Apollo returns to the Galactica to warn the fleet, but Zac’s starfighter loses an engine and trails behind. When Adama learns of the attack, he asks permission to launch interceptor fighters as a precaution, but on the advice of Baltar, Adar insists on restraint for the sake of the peace mission. As an alternative, Adama places warrior starfighters on alert. When thousands of Cylon spacecraft close in on the colonies’ fleet, Galactica is the only battlestar able to react in time. Atlantia is obliterated. In his final moments, Adar realizes that the peace conference was a trap. After returning safely, Apollo is distraught to hear that his brother was killed while approaching the docking bay. Realizing the magnitude of the Cylon’s ambush, Adama watches the simultaneous bombing of the unprotected colonial planets. In the midst of the battle, Adama and Apollo journey to their home planet Caprica. There, Adama finds his house in ashes. As he mourns the loss of his wife Ila, a group of survivors approach and demand to know what happened to the planet’s defenses. Apollo informs them that Galactica is the only remaining vessel of the colonial fleet. In the hope of maintaining the existence of the human race, Adama sends a message throughout the twelve colonies that survivors should escape in any spacecraft that will carry them. In the exodus, 220 assorted vessels set forth and rendezvous with Galactica. Meanwhile, the traitor Baltar reports to the Cylons that the destruction of mankind and the colonies is complete, but the Cylons are not as confident based on information about survivors. On Galactica, Adama holds a meeting to announce that their new mission will be to seek out a legendary sister world, known only through ancient writings. Existing in another star system, this possible thirteenth colony of mankind is called Earth. During the journey, Apollo and his fellow warriors, Lieutenants Starbuck and Boomer, survey damage and supplies among the motley fleet of ships. On the freighter Gemini, passengers are in desperate need of food and water, and Apollo learns that the rations were contaminated by pluton poisoning from the Cylon bombs. At the freighter’s elite club level, he confiscates abundant provisions from the wealthy Sire Uri and distributes the hoard to the starving passengers. While conducting the survey, Apollo befriends an attractive woman, Serina, and her son, Boxey, who is distraught after losing his daggit, a canine-like pet, during the bombing. Back on Galactica, there are no signs of Cylon pursuit, and the new Council of Twelve debates where to land for provisions. Adama suggests the planet Carillon, inhabited by the Ovions, but his nemesis Sire Uri opposes the idea because Carillon is too far. As a solution, Apollo makes an audacious proposition that they can attempt a direct route to Carillon if starfighters sweep the minefields through the straits of Madagon, ahead of the fleet. The Council agrees and Apollo, Boomer and Starbuck clear a path. Meanwhile, Baltar is brought before the Cylon leader and beheaded for misguiding the Cylons about the complete destruction of mankind. On Carillon, search teams use landrams or ground expedition tanks, to explore the planet’s surface. During their exploration, Boomer and Starbuck encounter a luxurious gambling resort, full of vacationers who are oblivious to the destruction of the colonies. The casino, run by the insect-like Ovions, fascinates Starbuck because no one seems to lose money. While searching for tylium deposits to extract fuel, Apollo and Lieutenant Jolly are guided by Ovions to the gambling palace with its temptations of food and drink. Later as survivors disembark for the luxuries of Carillon, Sire Uri reports that the Ovions have extended every courtesy, but Adama is suspicious of this strange oasis for intergalactic travelers at the edge of the star system. At a special Council meeting, Sire Uri proposes that the colonies ask for mercy from the Cylons and lay down their weapons as a sign of commitment. Adama immediately denounces the idea. When Adama walks out, Sire Uri suggests a celebration on the resort in honor of the three heroic warriors who cleared the path to Carillon as an ideal forum to sway the military toward disarmament. In secret, Adama meets with his loyal second-in-command, Colonel Tigh. Sensing that Carillon is a trap, Adama thinks Sire Uri’s military tribute is the ideal time for the Cylons to launch another sneak attack, when troops will be away from the fleet at a party. Since the Council has ordered all warriors to attend the ceremony, Adama asks Tigh to dress civilians in military uniforms for the event, while a reserve of real warriors will be in position to fight. Adama even keeps his son Apollo unaware of the scheme, but as the tribute begins Apollo notices warrior imposters in the crowd. To investigate, Starbuck and Apollo follow three imposters to a restricted lower level. There, they happen upon Cylons conspiring with the Ovions and attack them with their laser guns. As their weapons trigger fires throughout the underground tylium maze, the two warriors realize that the combustion will transform the planet’s bedrock of fuel into a gigantic bomb. When they turn a corner, Apollo and Starbuck discover casino patrons stuffed in the cells of a giant hive, as nourishment for the Ovion young. They surmise that the Ovions are providing tylium fuel to the Cylons, and in exchange, the Cylons are facilitating the Ovion need for human bodies. Upstairs at the ceremony, Apollo orders everyone to leave. As their fellow warriors are prepared for battle with landrams and starfighters nearby, Starbuck and Apollo realize Adama’s clever scheme. The Cylons assume that they are launching a sneak attack, but a squadron of Galactica pilots surprises them and overpowers their fighter craft. In a daring move, Starbuck and Apollo pursue the undefended Cylon base station, forcing it to retreat closer to Carillon. To escape radar detection, the base station hovers above the surface. When the smoldering planet explodes, the blast destroys the Cylon command. Apollo and Starbuck return to Battlestar Galactica, a temporary home until they find Earth.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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