Color, 1985, 94 mins. 53 secs. / 100 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by William Malone
Starring Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, Lyman Ward, Robert Jaffe, Klaus Kinski, Diane Salinger, Annette McCarthy, Marie Laurin
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
After Roger Corman immediately started mining the public's appetite for hard R-rated, post-Alien monster movies in space with Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World (not to mention other one-offs like Inseminoid and Xtro), you'd be forgiven for thinking the craze had run its course by '83 or so. However, that was hardly the case; in fact, the year before James Cameron turned Fox's big hit into a still-enduring series with Aliens in 1986, Trans World Entertainment delivered Creature, also known in a longer version as The Titan Find (or informally as just Titan Find). This was the second and last theatrical feature of the '80s for UCLA grad William Malone, who had proven his genre credentials with the low budget 1980 sci-fi / horror hybrid Scared to Death (which spawned a belated sequel, Syngenor); weirdly, Malone then switched to TV until he delivered his biggest hit in 1999 with House on Haunted Hill, not to mention upstaging virtually all of his peers in the first season of Masters of Horror.
If you ever wondered what it would look like to see Klaus Kinski and the dad from Ferris Bueller's Day Off in space, well, here's your dream movie. As the opening informs us, American company NTI and the German RIchter Dynamics are having a race to become the dominant resource hoarders in outer space, with an NTI geological research team positioned off of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Unfortunately the team gets attacked when the excavation of a gigantic cannister turns them into bloody goo, which results in their ship eventually smashing into a space station orbiting the Earth's moon. Another NTI ship, the Shenandoah, is sent to investigate under the guidance of Captain Davison (Ivar), with a crew including moody security officer Melanie (Salinger), horror novel aficianado Beth (Joe Dante regular Schaal), slimy bureaucrat David Perkins (Ward), and several other team members. Unfortunately their mission takes a nosedive very quickly when their attempt to answer a distress call leads them to a West German ship where survivor Hans (Kinski) warns them about a deadly alien presence that wiped out the rest of the passengers. As it turns out, there's a malicious alien nearby that uses parasites to control other lifeforms, an ability that comes in handy as it takes over the crew one by one to do its homicidal bidding.
As derivative as it may sound, Creature also anticipates a few later films -- most notably Ridley Scott's Prometheus with its controlling parasites; it also has an odd parallel with the same year's Lifeforce thanks to a scene with an unearthly nude predator played by Marie Laurin among the threats. Despite the very low budget, Malone keeps things hopping along nicely with plenty of gore, nice moody photography, and a very amusing way of working around the fact that Kinski probably wasn't on set longer than it would take to eat lunch. (Probably a good thing given that, according to Salinger elsewhere, he was in his usual inappropriate form here.) The last half hour is particularly enjoyable once things turn into a full-on creature feature with the beast chomping its way across the ship, resulting in some nice squishy effects along the way.
Given a modest theatrical release at the time, Creature got much wider exposure on home video (including European editions on VHS as Titan Find) with a videotape edition in the U.S. from Media. That early presentation did the film no favors with its scope compositions chopped to bits and the darker scenes turning to mud, as well as a very desaturated color scheme. After that the film was presumed to be in the public domain (it wasn't) with that cruddy master recycled from a number of bargain companies, while Malone briefly issued a widescreen transfer of his original Titan Find cut on DVD via the Burbank horror store Dark Delicacies (not far from where this was shot!) in 2013. Anyone who snagged that disc will definitely want to hang on to it as it does feature some exclusive bonuses like a director commentary, a 14m2 featurette with Malone, Ivar, and Salinger, and a gallery of production art.
In 2021, Vinegar Syndrome finally did this film justice with a Blu-ray special edition featuring both the theatrical cut and the Titan Find version; the latter obviously looks significantly inferior, with a note at the outset explaining that it was "sourced from an extremely dense 35mm vault print, as no pre-print elements for this version of Creature are believed to survive. While extensive color correction was performed to ensure the best possible presentation, some inherent flaws in the element, such as color based flicker and light image damage, remain." It's quite watchable and better than the DVD, though there's only so much you can do with the print as it gets quite dark and sludgy at times. On the other hand, it's also presented here with the original Dolby Stereo mix (as with the theatrical verison, both DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English SDH subtitles), and it sounds surprisingly nice. The theatrical cut looks excellent as it comes from a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, and it easily blows away any version you've seen before. It simply looks gorgeous throughout, wringing far more detail out of the film than you'd likely think possible. As for the differences between the two, it's worth noting that the director's cut (bearing The Titan Find as its title) can't really be termed "uncut" as there is also some exclusive footage in the theatrical version, the latter also featuring some slicker editing and sound mixing. The differences throughout are fairly minor with some scene extensions here and there, as well as two extremely quick extra bits of carange in the director's cut (which is also the only place you can clearly see the film's best joke).
The theatrical version also comes with a new audio commentary by the gang at The Hysteria Continues, and anyone who follows their podcast knows they've dabbled in the sci-fi body count pool before with films like Alien, The Terminator, and Predator. They get to have a lot of fun here covering trivia about the production, noting the slasher-style elements, charting the film's weird video history, and extrapolating how much it goes all the way back to '50s sci-fi monster movies at times. Unfortunately there are some very lengthy silent gaps scattered throughout, indicating MGM's lawyers busted out the scissors as usual. The making-of featurette "Finding Titan: The Making of Creature" (21m21s) is a very entertaining compilation of new interviews (some shot via Zoom given pandemic conditions, etc.), with Salinger, Ivar, Ward, and Laurin covering the audition process, their acting backgrounds, the cathertic joy of making horror movies, and the process of making the film itself without going into too much unsavory detail about the "interesting" Kinski, who had to be hired by telegram since he didn't use a phone. Then Malone turns up separately in "Space on a Budget" (16m28s), explaining how he pitched the film with a poster, derived the script from a treatment he'd written inspired by It! The Terror from Beyond Space, and evolved the concepts behind the look of the creature in its various versions, plus dishing out some funny little stories from the financially-constrained shoot and explaining why the U.S. distributor changed the title.
THE TITAN FIND
Reviewed on November 25, 2021.