Archive for April 5, 2011

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Directed By: Bruce D Clark

Produced By: Roger Corman

Starring: Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Taaffe O’Connell, Zalman King

Sub-genre: Science Fiction - Horror

You know what I like most about Roger Corman?  He makes no qualms about what he sets out to do.  He readily admits that Galaxy of Terror sought to cash in on the success of Alien, just like he did with Jaws and Piranha.  He brought his own metaphysical spin to it, but none the less, the storyline mirrored Alien in more ways than one.

We start with a rather cryptic beginning as an old woman and mysterious man with a glowing head playing some game and speaking of putting “something” into motion.  The guy with the glowing head is referred to as the Planet Master and instructs a minion to send a ship to Morganthus, where we just witnessed a sole survivor get attacked and killed by some unseen force.

We get to meet the crew of Quest as they speed towards Morganthus, and quite a crew it is.  Corman has assembled quite the rogue’s gallery here, including pre-Freddy Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Erin Moran (Happy Days), Ray Walston, and Zalman King (who would go on to create The Red Shoe Diaries).  Most of the characters are pretty ridiculous, as you would expect, but I thought they did a pretty good job here.  On a side note, Sid Haig looks the same as he does today.  Apparently he doesn’t age.  At all.

The crew of Quest makes it to the distant planet and discovers the aftermath of a massacre aboard the crashed starship.  They soon make another discovery, a gigantic pyramid, rather alien in nature, and devoid of any life, according to their psi-sensitive crew member.  Of course, when the begin to investigate, they get attacked by all sorts of nastiness, including Sid Haig getting killed by his own crystal throwing stars and Robert Englund fighting and evil doppelganger  Easily the most offensive and memorable scene from the entire movie is the death scene of Taaffe O’Connell.  She is attacked and raped by a giant worm like creature.  Not only is she raped by it, but she dies at the apex of her orgasm.  Needless to say, the editors had to get creative here to achieve an R rating.  The first trip to the MPAA earned them the dreaded X rating.

The twist here is that all of the horrors that are witnessed are actually manifestations of the crew members’ greatest fears.  I just think it is a damn good thing that Corman didn’t get Dan Akroyd for the movie, because ol’ Stay Puft would have looked a little odd in outer space.  If you watch the extras on the Shout! Factory DVD, Corman talks quite a bit about this and about the worm rape in particular. 

Eventually, we come to find out that the pyramid is actually a test for the crew members, as the Planet Master is looking for someone to pass his mantle down to.  Only one survives, and he eventually becomes the new master.

It is amazing to see what was accomplished with a micro-budget.  Do yourself a favor and watch the making of featurette to learn how they used discarded McDonalds Styrofoam containers to make a spaceship.  On a side note, the Production Designer and Second Unit Director for Galaxy of Terror happened to be one James Cameron, who would go on to direct just a few major movies.

This was a fun watch, especially with the connections the movie has.  Do yourself a favor and settle in for a Roger Corman Cult Classic.