I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

“The cosmic radar has picked up an unidentified spacecraft”- There is no escape from Escape from Galaxy 3

by Anthony Galli
Feb. 20, 2014

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far a…Wait! That’s a different movie!

No, Escape from Galaxy 3 is not in any league with 1977’s Star Wars, but it was released at a time when all things space travel were hot and hip. Unfortunately, Escape from Galaxy 3 is neither hot nor hip, yet, its undeniable awfulness should guarantee its cult status for years to come. Yes, it’s so bad that it’s that good.

Sometimes in life you come across something so howlingly irredeemable that you wonder how it could possibly ever exist. Escape from Galaxy 3 lives within that universe. It is really hard to tell what this movie is about or what it wants to be. It is not meant to parody the science fiction space travel genre, because everybody in the film seems to be taking themselves and their mission incredibly seriously, except, of course, for the brilliantly over-the-top Don Powell as Oraclon, King of the Night.

Note to self: In the future, all supervillains will have sparkly beards.

Essentially, Escape from Galaxy 3 is about the battle between the powers of good, here represented by King Zanor and the inhabitants of planet Exalon, and the powers of evil, ostensibly Oraclon and his Erich von Stroheim-like sidekick Jemar.

And evil wins!!!  Sort of…for now…

As evil sidekicks go, Jemar seems particularly laughable, but I’m not sure if it is because Oraclon inexplicably shouts his name every time he requires his attention, even though he is standing only inches away, or that Jemar’s voice is dubbed by a cartoon version of Harvey Keitel.

Escape from Galaxy 3 is an Italian film, and I think that when the American actors overdubbed the Italian voices in English, the “director,” or whoever it was manning the microphone at the time, told them that they were dubbing a cartoon, and since it was only a cartoon, they were allowed to say the most ridiculous things in the most out-of-sync voices possible.

Also, as an Italian film, its original title is Giochi Erotici Nella 3a Galassia, roughly translating to Erotic Games in the Third Galaxy. If this film was originally released as porn in Italy, I’m a little embarrassed for them. Escape from Galaxy 3 includes some of the most awkward makeout scenes and least erotic love scenes in all of cinema. Even the movie’s love song, “The Touch of Love,” is an exercise in punishment, the singer demanding “Touch Me” as if she were an evil Celine Dion doppelgänger sent from the future to dominate our weak, mortal flesh.

In fact, something tells me the soundtrack composer had more to do with the movie than anybody is letting on. I have the feeling that the composer, Don Powell (yes, Oraclon, King of the Night) actually directed Escape from Galaxy 3. Why else would his “Synthesizers for Dummies” musical score be smeared across every frame of this film?

There is much to fear in the soundtrack. It veers wildly from some strange hybrid of the CHiPs theme with the “Theme from Shaft,” to a mash-up of David Bowie’s “Golden Years” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” but without any of the interesting or entertaining qualities.

But, that’s okay, because the whole film feels like a combination of confusions and hallucinations from another time. Escape from Galaxy 3 seems like a remake of The Wicker Man in space with no budget as written by a 12-year-old boy. The costume design falls somewhere between a high school Shakespeare production, and a sword and sandals epic performed by cheerleaders. The whole movie has the production values of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians crossed with Shazam! And, although it was released in 1981, there is a certain 1970’s bad disco vibe that allows space for the Solid Gold dancers and Battle of the Network Stars, almost as if Escape from Galaxy 3 is in competition with Xanadu to see which movie can travel furthest out in space with no hope for return.

Note to self: In the future, all women will wear space uniforms with one butt cheek and one breast exposed, except for a strategically placed star.

Perhaps one of the things that make this movie so hilarious, and so cult-ready, is its amazingly random dialogue. Nevermind the strange super sci-fi artillery that populates the spacecraft, such as the Uranium Vapor Rockets, the Hydrogen Booster Units, or even the Shield of Mega-Rays, but lines like “Father, Captain Lithin has reported to me that the cosmic radar has picked up an unidentified spacecraft that doesn’t belong in our galaxy,” or, “Don’t worry, father. I’m sure we’ll overcome the dark forces of evil,” or, “Do you fancy him?,” or, “Would you like to have me?” catapult Escape from Galaxy 3 from garden variety howler straight into the hemisphere of science fiction classic status.

Maybe there really is some porn cartoon version of this movie floating around in the atmosphere somewhere out there. If not, there should be.

Note to self: In the future, there will be no logic, and life will consist of visual continuity errors.

The 1956 Walter Pidgeon/Anne Francis classic Forbidden Planet was famously adapted from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, much like the 2006 Amanda Bynes classic She’s the Man was based on his Twelfth Night. Who knew? I tried to find an analogy for Escape from Galaxy 3, wondering if it was trying to impart a secret message from somewhere out there in the 15th dimension from 30,000 years in the future.

Unless the film is about the fall of the Roman Empire, with its Bacchanalian “Festival of Love” games that could get one burned alive if he were to fall into the pits of fire, amidst more awkward making out, it is entirely impossible to figure out what on earth is going on here.

I think part of the confusion of understanding this film lies in the director’s own identity crisis. The film’s director credit goes to Bitto Albertini, but throughout his illustrious career he has also directed variously under the names Adalberto Albertini, Al Albert, Albert Thomas, Ben Norman, Albert J. Walkner, and Stanley Mitchell. Where Stanley Mitchell came from is anybody’s guess but it makes about as much sense as the rest of Escape from Galaxy 3, aka Erotic Games in the Third Galaxy.

How do you say “Alan Smithee” in Italian?

However, one thing that can be said about Escape from Galaxy 3 is that it has everything; Kung Fu, a spaceship that resembles an evil Pokémon, an Arne Jacobsen egg chair and foosball table in the captain’s deck, Bunga Bunga, sound effects stolen from Ken Russell’s 1975 version of Tommy, rings that shoot lasers…

Note to self: In the future, everyone will run from place to place, unless they are disembarking from a spaceship, for which it will take a minute and a half of screen time.

Basically, Escape from Galaxy 3 lets us know that the future will resemble the 1970’s, and not in a good way. But, what’s not to love about this film? After all, its parting message is that “Love is worth it.” Who can argue with that?

Anthony Galli currently lives in Athens, Georgia. He shares a birthday with his black cat, Magic, and they both claim Wings of Desire as their favorite film. Anthony has published two books of poetry, Amnesia for Insomniacs and Invisible Idiot.