by Steve Habrat
You’d think that a film that has Robert Englund, Sid Haig, and Erin Moran starring in it would be this stuff that cult movie dreams are made of. Well, then you need to see the atrocious 1981 Alien rip-off Galaxy of Terror, a Z-grade lemon from legendary producer Roger Corman, the man who churned out countless cult movie classics. Galaxy of Terror, or Mind Warp, as it is sometimes called, is a trippy glow-in-the-dark poser that scrambles the viewer’s brain with vague dialogue, musty storyline, rickety sets, and bland acting. The three things that Galaxy of Terror has going for it is some fairly decent gore for those who are simply looking for that, Tron-like lighting, and a scene in which a gigantic maggot rapes a curvy blonde. Yes, you read that correctly, a rape scene actually acts as a highlight moment for this piece of junk. I was pretty surprised too when the film ended and I found THAT one of the most interesting aspects of the whole experience.
Galaxy of Terror follows a group of space explorers who are sent to the desolate planet of Morganthus to locate another space crew who have all been killed by a mysterious unseen force. The newly landed crew consists of the troubled Captain Trantor (Played by Grace Zabriskie), Commander Ilvar (Played by Bernard Behrens), empath Alluma (Played by Erin Moran), cocky team leader Baelon (Played by Zalman King), the ship’s cook Kore (Played by Ray Walston), the wise space veteran Cabren (Played by Edward Albert), the ship’s technical officer Dameia (Played by Taaffe O’Connell), crewmember Ranger (Played by Robert Englund), and crystal thrower Quuhod (Played by Sid Haig). When the crew arrives, they discover a strange pyramid and slimy alien creatures that begin attack them one by one. Soon, they realize that the aliens are not the only things that they need to fear on this strange planet.
First, lets discuss the rotten aspects of Galaxy of Terror. Director Bruce D. Clark realizes there isn’t much meat to his storyline, a problem that he covers up with colorful lighting, special effects, forced depth from his characters, and lots of gruesome violence. He also doesn’t offer up anything in the way of likeable characters, allowing none of them to fully develop so we start rooting for them. All of the crew members walk around sulking and complaining about shaky events in their past, but it is all so hazily illustrated that you will find yourself not caring in the slightest. Half way through the film, Clark also sloppily establishes that Cabren is going to be the main protagonist. Everyone else that consists of the space crew is there simply to die in some off beat way; the most outrageous is the maggot rape, which just acts as an excuse for Clark to show off O’Connell’s body.
As far as the good aspects are concerned, it’s basically everything that Clark used to cover up his weak storyline. The film contains several scenes that will drive the gore audiences wild. There is death by constricting wires, an alien ripping one crew members stomach open with its claws, that certain rape scene, and more. I will say that the filmmakers did a good job with all of these effects; obviously more care was put into the gross stuff rather than anything truly substantial. The filmmakers also effectively light the sets, which are clearly cheap in their construction, making the planet itself fairly unsettling and surprisingly expansive. The film also benefits from having a few neat monsters lurking about, even if they are uninspired. These monsters are wisely kept largely in the dark or lit in extreme reds or blues, but it is anyone’s guess if they did that purposely because they’d be creepier or if they are really that cheap. Another layer of gross is added to the monsters by Clark’s use of nasty sound effects which accompany their icky attacks.
As far as twisty science fiction horror is concerned, you can do a hell of a lot better than Galaxy of Terror. The only other real reason to see this film is to see a familiar name in the opening credits department. That name would be James Cameron, director of such little films like Avatar and Titanic. Here, he is listed as Production Designer and Second Unit Director. It has been said that he was the one who designed the maggoty severed arm and designed it so the fake maggots would slither around the arm. There have been stories passed around about how Roger Corman used to make bets about how quickly he could shoot a film, the shortest being two days and one night, a rumor that seems to confirm the idea that Corman really didn’t care about the quality of the products he was producing. I could very easily see Galaxy of Terror being a film that was shot quickly, with no real artistic vision or care poured into the craft. Fun only as a did-you-know experience, make Galaxy of Terror a double feature with Alien and make sure Galaxy of Terror is played first. That way, Alien will make up for how letdown you are in Galaxy of Terror.
Galaxy of Terror is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.