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Galaxy Express
by New World Pictures



Out of all the stills from the film that one might have chosen for the cover, I've no idea in fuck why they picked this one. Note the excitingly futuristic font, which was so far out it got used for the very next Harlock dub, as well.

That's right. The first ever dub of a property containing Harlock was done by Roger Corman's production company, and for its particular treatment of Harlock it still remains infamous.

New World Pictures' dub of the original Galaxy Express 999 film, now renamed simply "Galaxy Express," was released in 1980. About thirty minutes' worth of footage ended up on the cutting-room floor, and even one who has never seen the film before wouldn't have too much difficulty spotting some of the amazingly clumsy edits. Several names got changed, including Captain Warlock for you-know-who and (I'm not kidding) Joey Hannakannabobbakamanda(sp??) Smith for Tetsuro Hoshino, plus most of the voices were pretty lousy--more on that later.

The basic story of the original film is still here; most of the lopping occurred with the secondary characters. However, the fact that these plot points weren't excised in their entirety creates more problems than it solves--while an American viewer wouldn't be expected to know the character of Captain Harlock, whom the Japanese audience would already have been familiar with from the Space Pirate series, he or she might stand a better chance of grasping who he is supposed to be if young Tetsuro's professed admiration of Harlock had been left in, and the ultimate fate of Tochiro Oyama would be understood quite clearly if the later scenes involving his embodiment in the Arcadia's computer were intact; as it is, he simply does something weird with a big flashy machine and then vanishes from the story in the New World cut. The role of Claire the waitress is also cut to its bare bones, resulting in a far less climactic ending than in the original. The shortening of Tetsuro's escape from the Time Castle also ruins a beautiful piece of direction, wherein he picks up the guitar of Ryuze and picks one string, which sounds the same note as the final note of the background theme as it breaks. In the American version, the string breaks well before the theme has finished, and no longer evokes the same powerful sense of melancholy. Maybe I'm being a pretentious bastard, but subtle effects like these are the result of talented artists at work, and it's a shame to see these efforts tossed out just to save a scant few seconds' worth of running time.

But what of those voices? Well, let's see. Tetsuro is high-pitched and whiny. Maeter (or Maetel, as she's called here and in most other English versions, despite the obvious implications of her name) sounds like she has a stick the size of a stick factory up her ass. The conductor sounds like Cap'n Crunch on helium. Antales-or "Olaf"-has an undecipherable accent that seems halfway between Swedish and Italian. Queen Promecium sounds like the typical wicked witch with a broom handle factory up her ass, though a relatively small one. Tochiro, or should I say "Sundown McMoon"--no, I really shouldn't--has a sort of gruff western kind of voice, somewhat cowboyish in nature, but all in all not that bad. Emeraldas actually sounds pretty darn good. She sounds dangerous when she should, concerned when she should, and overall gives off the strength her character needs to exude. But her Yin is not sufficient to counteract the Yang of Harlock's ridiculous faux John Wayne voice, which could reduce boulders to piles of hysterically laughing pebbles in milliseconds. Any drama inherent in this film is instantly blown away by the gale force wind of preposterosity (I just invented a word! Hooray for me!) that swells up out of the west every time Harlock, one of the coolest, most enigmatic characters ever to grace the screen, opens his damn fool yap and lets the sound of True Shit spill out into our ears. This is not How the Best is Done, not by a long shot. He Was Expendable. He makes every scene he's in a Big Joke by failing to be The Quiet Man, and it's sad to see Harlock become A Man Betrayed by The High and Mighty Roger Corman. In the annals of bad dubbing, this portrayal of Harlock remains The Undefeated, The Legend of the Lost opportunity, the...oh, hell, it's a mess. Tie a Yellow Ribbon around your eyes and ignore the horrors of The Lawless Eighties. Things would improve. But only very incrementally. There'd be Trouble Along the Way.
On the other hand, whoever wrote the back cover copy knew damn well that the Galaxy Express went into space, so there's no excusing that dimwit who did the front cover.
Most of the voice actors seem to have no other ties to this world, though a couple, credited as Tony Pope and Corey Burton, still seem active in doing anime voice-overs. Another one, Booker Bradshaw, appeared in Star Trek (the old one,) The Mod Squad (the old one,) and Coffy, no less. And one of the two editors (Skip Schoolnik-a pseudonym if I ever heard one) became editor for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if you'll believe it (and what do you want to bet that he left this incompetently chopped shambles off his resume?) One must wonder if he was the one on the anti-cat crusade. At least four shots containing cats got yanked out, sometimes obviously just to get rid of the cat.

The one curious addition to this film was the inclusion of an explanation for the fact that the body of Tetsuro's mother appears in two different places in the film: as Maeter's borrowed body, and as a trophy in Count Mecha's castle. New World's version claims the trophy was a replica given the Count by Maeter's mother; the Japanese version doesn't account for this discrepancy at all, really. Maeter merely gives a vague account of "traveling in unlimited time streams," possibly meaning that both bodies are real in two separate timelines. Or possibly not. Chalk it up to Matsumoto and his bugshit continuity. It's also somewhat interesting that while the film did do an English version of the "Taking Off" song that accompanies the train's departure from earth, it's altogether more depressing sounding despite having the same melody. At the risk of paying this hastily crapped out mess a compliment, it almost seems more appropriate in tone than the original. Still, it comes nowhere close to absolving New World for the crawling and betoothed horror that was Harlock's voice, possibly the worst example of miscasting in overdub history; the only real contender would have to be the voice given to Joe in the original Crusher Joe dub "Crushers," which sounds like Joe Pesci with his nads clenched firmly in the jaws of a goat.

Roger Corman once (or possibly many times; do you think I give a good goddamn?) claimed that he had never lost money on a picture. Despite what had to be a tiny budget here, one must still wonder how that could be possible.

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