Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #266
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: 8 May 1985
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: William Malone
Screenplay: William Malone, Alan Reed
Producers: William G. Dunn, William Malone
Special Effects: Bruce Zahlava
Cinematography: Harry Mathias
Score: Thomas Chase, Steve Rucker
Editing: Bette Jane Cohen
Studio: Trans World Entertainment
Distributors: Trans World Entertainment, GoDigital Media Group
Stars: Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, Lyman Ward, Robert Jaffe, Diane Salinger, Annette McCarthy, Marie Laurin, Klaus Kinski, John Stinson, Jim McKeny
Suggested Audio Candy
Everybody knows by now that in space no one can hear you scream. After Ridley Scott bought us Alien every low-budget filmmaker this side of Jupiter decided that it was the perfect place to pitch their terror and that culminated in a slew of knock-offs all attempting to emulate Scott’s success. Some were pretty good, Bruce D. Clark”s Galaxy of Terror standing out as one such entity. Others, alas, weren’t. William Malone’s Titan Find aka Creature exists comfortably in the upper echelons and even enjoyed a limited theatrical run on its way to utter obscurity. Indeed, the special effects team responsible went on to work on James Cameron’s Aliens a year later. So has time been kind?
More so than you’d expect actually. Don’t get me wrong, the effects are crude, the premise a tad basic and the performances a touch hammy by today’s standards but it gets a lot else on the button. First off, it knows it isn’t ever likely to tread the boards alongside Scott’s classic, thus doesn’t over complicate matters and instead offers a far brisker pace. Its 97 minutes flash past without any concern and it never becomes convoluted or tries to explain itself. It keeps it simple, small crew being hunted down by a less than hospitable lifeforce. That’s all you ever need concern yourself with. No needlessly drawn-out plot or bogging itself down with detail. Malone chooses hyper speed all the way and his movie is much better for it.
Its director had always had a fascination with sci-fi, this being evident by his decision to deck the set out with props from old science fiction flick Forbidden Planet from his childhood . He has gone on to reasonably good things, sticking with horror to bring us The House on Haunted Hill and Feardotcom amongst others. Titan Find only afforded him a modest kitty and he uses it well, with plenty of grisly schlock and an interesting ensemble which included the great Klaus Kinski. This, in itself, must have been a challenge as Kinski was known as much for being difficult to work with as he was for his inspired performances. However, just having him present raises this a notch above its contemporaries.
His role is little more than a cameo in truth, an opportunity for him to chew the scenery while exhibiting just enough of that grizzled greatness to divert us from the main course of events for a few minutes. He crashes an expedition to a one of Jupiter’s desolate moons Titan to examine archaic artifacts which has gone awry as a less-than-docile creature has been unleashed and has commenced whittling numbers as it looks to outfox the survivors. It does so by using clever guises, assuming the identity of each last victim to ensnare the next. Barely twenty minutes have passed when it starts its skulduggery and the pace barely lets up for the film’s duration.
Another success for Malone comes from the casting. There are a few faces and voices in particular which should be more than familiar. Lyman Ward will be best known to y’all as Ferris’ father in John Hughes’ slacker masterpiece Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and has continued to work in the industry in a fairly large capacity since whereas, to this day, Wendy Schaal provides the vocal chords for Francine Smith from Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad. Stan Ivar gives a credible turn as Mike, the ship’s captain and Schaal’s love interest and Diane Salinger gives a curious performance as the largely mute Bryce. None of the actors have a great deal to do as the screenplay by Malone and Alan Reed doesn’t necessitate such.
The crunch generally came with how much of the creature in question you were willing to divulge and Malone wisely waited until the last act before releasing the kraken. When we do see it up close and personal, we’re actually thankful of the minimal lighting and it is shown just fleetingly enough to get away with it, despite the walls threatening to come crashing in around it at any given moment. By that point you’re having too much fun to really care and, for a movie with modest aspirations, that’s all you could realistically ask for.
Most pleasing is the fact that Titan Find has absolutely no pretense, doesn’t claim to be something it’s clearly not. It knows how to entertain and isn’t afraid to throw in some practical splatter when things begin to go off-kilter. If Alien is venison then it is wet-behind-the-ears fawn, complete with knocking knees and questionable posture. But that was always the intention. There is something to be said for a filmmaker who knows his limitations and, with a budget of under $1m at his disposal, Malone was only too aware of his. As a piece of enjoyable eighties hokum and under minor scrutiny it fares somewhat well. Dig any deeper and you’re simply missing the point.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: When in doubt, roll out the prosthetics. That’s what I say. Thankfully, this is the case here. Cue plentiful mastication, the odd beheading, a peeled-off face and a beheading for our troubles. In addition, Marie Laurin steps out of her space suit for long enough to offer a John Hurt moment in our breaches. All bases covered then.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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