Monday, February 25, 2013

News: Original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978) Coming to Blu-ray Soon?

Maybe. I've read reports in a couple of places now that folks who bought the new Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome miniseries on Blu-ray found an insert inside the case that promised "The Original Movie That Launched A Phenomenon" and "Own it on Blu-ray High-Def!"

Star Kid Jerome Wybon posted a photo of that insert on the Space: 1970 Facebook page. I haven't found a listing for it on Amazon yet, nor any official online announcements. If - or when - I get more information, I'll update this post. If anyone finds anything, please pass it along.

Hopefully, this is true, and Universal will have put at least a little effort into cleaning up the source material and remastering it for HD, although based on the studio's track record, I'm not going to bet on anything. Still, I've said several times that I'd love to have this on Blu-ray, and I'm thrilled by the possibility. Hell, the standalone DVD I own of the Battlestar Galactica pilot isn't even anamorphic, so I'll be buying any new Blu-ray edition without hesitation. Stay tuned.


  1. Chris, it sounds like great news, but as I mused a few months ago, I doubt the effects will look all that impressive.

    As you know, it was made specifically for small screen television. Watching the current DVD is hard because you can see all the bluescreen matting behind the ships in flight, I especially notice it behind the rolling Cylon Raider space scenes. The models naturally look great, but the actual filming of it left much to be desired (the opening credits look rather flimsy as well..). Since it was meant as a television project, the level of quality wasn't necessary. The movie was only shown in theaters to generate initial interest and later on to recoup production costs.

    I like the blu-ray idea (and LOVE the show..) but I doubt the quality had ever been improved. Apart from the space effects, I'd be interested in reading what folks think of it.

  2. I always thought Universal should at the very least, release the theatrical version of the pilot on Blu-Ray.

    True the f/x scenes won't be that great but the live action should look quite good.

  3. Of course they're releasing it on Blu-ray. I finally caved and bought it on DVD last week.

  4. I really hope this is true, and they follow through with the entire series. I would certainly purchase this series on Blu-ray. The movie is a good start - it might be used to measure if there's any interest in the full series. The only problem that might come from using that as a measurement of people's interest is some may wait hoping for the full series. For me, there are enough differences between this and the full series that I would definitely pick this up if it gets released, and the series later if it happens.

    Space:1999 looked phenomenal on blu-ray, and there's no reason to doubt that this would as well.

  5. I got the Cylon Head box set a few years ago at a really good price. I'm quite happy with it, besides I haven't gone Blu-Ray yet.

  6. Saw the movie version of the pilot at the drive-in in Ontario in summer '78, before it was broadcast on TV (the movie version was released to theatres in Canada, Europe and Japan before the show's network premiere). Always loved Galactica, have all the Marvel comics, the novels, the VHS edition, the Cylon Head DVD set, and if it's released on Blu-ray, I'll buy that too.
    Sure, would love it if they did a great restoration, but I'll pick it up regardless.

    1. Hey maybe we were at the same screening! Ottawa for me. I distinctly remember that there was a short film before the movie featuring stop motion plasticine dinosaurs.

  7. Oh, I had the Cylon Head boxset, but sold it.. I REALLY need to buy that again.

    I had audio problems playing the commentary for the movie though, it kept freezing up, but perhaps buying another copy would have fixed that.

    I LOVE the 1999 Blu-Ray set, especially the full stereo sound quality added. Perhaps the Galactica release will surprise us as well. See, I'd love the television series released MUCH more than just the movie. I became a huge fan when the show started building secondary characters, later on in the series.

    More than just the sum of it's parts, per se.

  8. Thanks for the heads-up!

    There is no need, generally, for a cleanup on the 'films'. It's more a case of going back to the cut negative (which has not been touched since the Interpositives were first struck back when the show was ready to air).

    I remember reading a review of the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea DVD release from a few years ago. Misinformed Internet reviewers were talking of all the effort expended on "cleaning up" the picture. "Not exactly." The original negs are pulled out of storage, put on the cleaning machine, and put up on the film scanner. The studios' home-vid departments rarely put any effort into large scale "dust-busting", or anything such thing, simply because they don't know how well the discs will sell. There are some exceptions, but as a general rule, it's just a matter of going to the "source(s)".

    The impending release of Battlestar Galactica sounds exciting. (I can live with some matte fringing. Big deal.)

  9. I'd end up buying the Blu-ray release if it is indeed an improvement over the DVD release. I really wish that we could see the touch-up and improvements that we saw with the updated Star Trek (TOS and NG) releases. Heck, even new CGI would be welcome, as long as it's done well and respects the original designs.

    Also, on a side note, I saw Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome and enjoyed it for what it was. I almost wish they could go back and reboot that series, starting with the Cylon War (sparing us the dreadful ending that we saw on SyFy).

    1. The standalone DVD I own of the Battlestar Galactica pilot isn't even anamorphic, so I'll be buying any new Blu-ray edition without hesitation.

      If Universal goes back to the source material for their HD transfer, instead of using a worn print, I'll be completely satisfied.

    2. That sounds like justification enough for me to buy it too. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    3. Hi Christopher,

      The framing on your DVD of the pilot should be okay. The show was shot full-frame, or "full Academy", since it was for tv. The prints for the pilot's theatrical release (which I saw here in Canada, back in 1978) would have had a 1.85 masking, or, the projector's 1.85 aperture plate alone would have done the trick. Knowing that the pilot episode would probably get a theatrical release, the cameraman would have "protected" the image at the top and bottom; knowing that they would get lost in projection. (To be honest, the image lost on the top and bottom through regular television broadcast is not a great deal less than the 'spherical widescreen' image of the theatrical version.)

      From your DVD you are getting the entire image that was photographed. The squarish (4:3 ratio) you are seeing, on your laptop or flat-screen tv, is normal. In effect, you are seeing more of the image than you were if you had seen it at the cinema back in 1978.

      I could be wrong, however, since I don't know what stages the frame was taken through in post-production, for the pilot episode. I'm speaking here of the industry standard.

    4. Barry - I am well versed in aspect ratios, as I've been reviewing DVDs for eight or nine years now, and have been a serious videophile/collector for a lot longer than that.

      The standalone DVD I own presents the pilot film in the matted, 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, but is not anamorphically enhanced for widescreen monitors, so it floats in the center of my HD TV screen and looks really soft. On the complete series set, the pilot is presented in its unmatted 4x3 TV ratio.

      I actually aesthetically prefer the composition of the matted frame on the theatrical version (which is why I held onto my standalone DVD in the first place - it's pretty clear from the visual compositions that they were shooting it with a theatrical presentation as a possibility), and look forward to having an upgraded version of the film.

    5. Good to hear. I was not questioning what you know about formats. I know what you mean by preferring the matted composition.

      Hopefully this anticipated release will be a class act.

  10. The pilot was a big cinema hit here in the UK in 1978. I remember it looking pretty good on the big screen, but then again, I was much more easily pleased in those days. I'd sure be interested to see a blu-ray anyway

  11. I would definetley double dip and pick up the series again on Blu if there was a appreciable upgrade in picture quality, I think the shows with outstanding production design are easier to justify purchasing again when there is an improvement in quality (ex. Space 1999) I saw the theatrical release at the Egyptian about ten years ago in Hollywood with Glen Larson, Richard Hatch, Laurette Spang, Noah Hathaway, Richard Edlund and Peter Berkos.

  12. I am sure that this will look better than the old, non-anamorphic DVD. I am hoping universal does not add DNR or edge enhancements. That would destroy the picture quality.

  13. Regarding the first comment, relating to how the effects will hold up. When Space:1999 was first announced for Blu-ray a few years ago, several people on the Space:1999 forums had the same fears - they felt that the series just would not hold up well on such a high-def format. However, remember that both Space:1999 and Battlestar Galactica was shot on film, and I can say that Space:1999 looks phenomenal on blu-ray. The effects look better than ever. Sure, there are some occasional wires visible, but the model work looks more impressive than ever. People also thought the sets would look cheesy in HD - in fact, I think they look stunning in HD. Silent Running is another example of a 70's film that looks remarkable on blu-ray - the miniatures hold up extremely well.

    Now, I doubt honestly that Galactica will be remastered as carefully as Space:1999 was. A lot of care went into the 1999 remasters. Still, Galactica was an expensive show, and there were lots of highly-detailed models that I think will look pretty impressive in HD.

    I have a feeling that many shots will look a bit heavy on optical composite "dirt" where the effects shots may look a bit "messy" due to heavy compositing. But I still expect that this should look quite good in HD. I'm looking forward to it.

    1. My thoughts exactly.
      Some have mentions the Original Star Trek and Space 1999 blu-ray releases, but neither is a good comparison.
      In the case of Trek, respectful CG was required due to the original's extremely limited budget and time constraints.
      1999s FX, like all the Master's shows were done in camera.
      Galactica was the most expensive series ever produced at the time with extensive Optical FX by John Frakin Dykstra.
      The task of cleaning up Battlestar would be more akin to the work done on the ST Next Gen blu-rays, ie. going back to the original optical elements and recomposing them digitally.
      If you've seen Next Gen on blu you know it could look stunning.
      Cheers, Chris B

    2. Almost: The original Trek used the expensive blue-screen and 'optical' processes. As you note, the degradation involved in that method makes them more a candidate for a CG redo or recompositing. The issue of "film grain" is what prompted the Blu-ray producers to opt for CG redos on the 'ship' stuff. The resulting image from the camera negatives, of the live-action photography, was eye-popping; this level of picture quality made the matte shots look even more degraded.

      You are right about 'time constraints'. All shows suffer from that malady.

      Personally I don't care about redoing effects. Just give me the original versions. I can handle it....

  14. A couple other random thoughts...

    Hopefully the entire series makes its way onto blu-ray. I own the original Cylon head DVD set, and many of the discs have rotted. It's a common issue with both the Galactica and the Buck Rogers DVDs - the dual-sided discs separate, and the discs become unplayable. I had Universal replace several of the discs, but I'm afraid those too are probably deteriorating as I type this. The new single-sided discs of Buck Rogers don't have this issue. It would be nice if the whole series were put onto blu-ray, since the dual-sided DVD's will not stand the test of time.

    Somebody else mentioned above that they would welcome new CGI effects, as long as they were respectfully done. Personally, I would not welcome the idea. This show was clearly shot in the 70's - there's no hiding it. I see no point in trying to make it look new and improved - we have the new Galactica for that. The original Star Trek on blu did benefit from some very nice CGI enhancements, but it helped because honestly the original Star Trek effects were never that convincing. The effects for Galactica are far more advanced, and can still be appreciated today. I really see no reason for CGI, and I'd be surprised if Universal were interested enough to put any great amount of time and money into something like that. Star Trek on the other hand has legions of fans and Paramount rightly figured that there will be a ton of blu-ray sales, making the cost of the new CGI enhancements worth it.

    As was mentioned above, the lack of an anamorphic DVD of the film version is reason enough alone to upgrade to the blu-ray.

    Also, if this does well, maybe Buck Rogers might get considered next for blu. I can always hope...

  15. I just preordered the Battlestar galactica original movie on blu ray on four $14.99. Its to be released on 5/14/13.