Galaxy of Terror (1981)
By: Mr Intolerance on August 23, 2010  | 
DVD
Shout Factory | Region 1, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 Mono | 81 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Bruce Clark
Starring: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Sid Haig, Robert Englund, Grace Zabriskie, Zalman King, Taafe O'Connell
Screenplay: Mark Siegler, Bruce Clark
Country: USA
External Links
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I guess one could look at this as being a rip-off of Alien, Forbidden Planet and Planet Of The Vampires combined, or maybe as a foreshadowing of Aliens or Event Horizon, and in both cases, you'd actually be correct. Particularly the Forbidden Planet meets Event Horizon vibe – very close there, let me tell you. And yet, this Roger Corman production really does hold its own, and despite the fact it's absolutely bug-shit crazy, it really somehow stands up after years of critical disapprobation and bad releases on VHS.

So, when you begin with a cast that includes Captain Spaulding, Laura Palmer's mum, Joanie Cunningham, Freddy Krueger, Uncle Martin, and Zalman Trip With The Teacher King – you know that things are going to be interesting, to say the least.

Beginning with the Planet Master, a dude in a white robe with a great big fruity orange glowing head, and some old woman playing chess, Galaxy Of Terror tells us the tale of the Quest, a space ship sent to the planet Morganthus to find out what the hell happened to the previous space ship sent in that direction, the Remus. We, the audience, know, but the Planet Master has some pretty crazy plans that lead to an ending that…well…needs to be seen to be fully appreciated for how frustrating it is.

The Planet Master has chosen a crew to head to Morganthus to the tune of bad sitar music, even though they're unaware of it – the mission, that is. And they're not exactly your dream team when it comes to interplanetary rescue, either – largely due to the fact that they mainly seem to hate each other, but also due to the fact that they're all pretty damaged goods. The actors all play their parts like they're doing Shakespearean tragedy (which only adds to the hilarity), acting with a febrile intensity that out-Shatners even the most B-grade performance you may have seen before. Erin Moran as Alluma, the team's barking mad empath, future soft-core porn director Zalman (Red Shoe Diaries) King as Baelon, the gun-happy security chief, and Grace Zabriskie as Trantor, the ship's utterly mental captain are possibly the worst offenders, with bug-eyed performances that make you wonder if the actors weren't off behind the sets in between takes snorting great big fat lines of cheap wizz.

Add to the mix Sid Haig as mainly mute spiritual warrior Quuhod, with his crystal throwing stars, sexpot technician Dameia (who gets a starring role in the film's most notorious scene), cook Kore (My Favourite Martian's Ray Walston), and Robert Englund in a pre-A Nightmare On Elm Street role as Ranger, probably the one and only point of audience sympathy in the entire film, and what you've got is the most misfit crew of space-bums this side of Dark Star, just without any of the comedy.

As the Quest enters Morganthus' air-space, it's a rough ride down to the surface, reminiscent of a certain film James Cameron directed about aliens, as opposed to his work here as production designer – oddly enough, Bill Paxton was on board that other film as one of the stars, and here, he worked alongside his future director on constructing the sets. In the Corman universe things like that tend to happen.

After ditching badly on Morganthus, an inhospitable windy blue-litten hell-hole (a little like that planet in that film Cameron was to direct about five years later), the crew happen upon the wreck of the Remus, the crew of that benighted ship having suffered a very nasty fate indeed – and the crew of the Quest start falling apart very quickly themselves, and at an accelerating rate. Why? Because of fear – and it is their fears that start to destroy the rest of the crew. Alluma the empath is no dummy, and she rapidly starts to piece together the fact that it's the crew themselves who are creating their own personal hells; this is the link to Event Horizon – you bring your own nightmares with you, and those nightmares will kill you.

The crew find a kind of ziggurat (and It's certainly got a bit of an H.R. Giger vibe to it, to keep the Alien theme going) that appears native to the world they've landed on (Alluma is disturbed by how empty and hollow it feels – the audience really should pay more attention to her; certainly more than Baelon does anyway), and this is the point where the body count really starts to get going. Something is in the ziggurat with them, and it's not friendly whatever it is. Bloody violence is in everyone's immediate future, and it's all based on the fears everyone brings with them.

"I live…and I die…by the crystals."

Sid Haig's one hilarious line ushers in a very bad time for everyone – in the grand tradition set down in films as old as House On Haunted Hill or Thirteen Ghosts, or even Agatha Christie thrillers such as Ten Little Indians or horror-thrillers like the Amicus schlock-buster The Beast Must Die!, our cast start getting knocked off one-by-one in ways that are increasingly nasty, inventive and equally inexorable. Galaxy Of Terror met an equally nasty fate at the hands of the MPAA, with some scenes cut to ensure an R rating (the mind-buggeringly sleazy alien slug rape of Dameia to begin with), with an irate Corman ordering the cut footage destroyed, sadly, so that what we get here is the pre-cut MPAA-friendly version, with no hope of the original cut ever likely to surface. Boooo!

What's truly hilarious is the fact that everyone goes towards their deaths like Hamlet. There is no tongue-in-cheek here, this is played deadly straight as is the rest of the film – the kind of camp knowingness that informed some of the other Corman productions of the time like Battle Beyond The Stars, Piranha or Star Crash simply isn't present here. A harsher critic might see the last third of the film as leaden for that very reason – an absolute absence of any sense of the ridiculous. To me, that's the film's strength. If it'd been played for laffs, the whole thing would've collapsed around its own ears under its own weight. Playing the horror card as straight as possible was the best thing that the director could have ordered. And it makes Galaxy Of Terror work so much better for it.

The final act of the film I'll leave for you to figure out, because apart from some memorable death scenes (and believe me when I say memorable, I mean memorable), there are some totally crazed moments that really let you know that you're watching a Corman flick. Galaxy of Terror is a film you'll know you've watched once you've seen it, let me tell you.
Video

A pretty damned good picture presented anamorphically in the OAR, if a little on the dark side.

Audio
Good, if not anything special. Certainly it's loud and clear, and that's really what you're after. The electronic score is annoying as all hell and very much a product of its time, but that's the early 80s for you.
Extra Features

Shout Factory put a lot into their recent releases of these Corman flicks, and this is no exception – you get the following:

A commentary with the cast and crew – well some of them, anyway – Taafe O'Conell, Allan Apone, Alec Gillis and David DeCoteu – not an encyclopaedic view of the film, but the best possible given the circumstances.

A feature-length "Making Of" documentary, including new interviews with some of the cast and crew, including producer Roger Corman, director Bruce Clark, actors Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, Robert Englund and special effects folks like Allan A Apone, Douglas J White, Alec Gillis, and others, including composer Barry Schrader.

A photo gallery, including production stills and international artwork.

The original screenplay as a PDF file.

TV spots for Galaxy Of Terror.

Trailers for Galaxy Of Terror, Humanoids From The Deep, Piranha and Forbidden World.

Reversible cover – either the comic book artwork for Galaxy Of Terror, or the more horror-centric artwork for its alternate release as Mindwarp: An Infinity Of Terror.

An eight-page booklet with some interesting factoids about the film itself.

It's a pretty comprehensive package, and as complete as you're likely to get.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A wildly entertaining sci-fi horror flick, Galaxy Of Terror is not one of the greatest films to come out of Roger Corman's New World Pictures, but it certainly is one of the nuttiest, and it's that very bizarrerie that makes it a film that you need to see at least once. Is it fun? Sure thing! Does it make any sense? Not even close. I'm glad that Shout Factory have released Galaxy Of Terror, and I'm equally glad that I've seen it, but if you asked me what the whole thing was about, I'd be drawing a blank. Still, it was a whale of a time, and that's all that matters. Next Corman production released by Shout Factory, please!

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