Galaxy Of Terror (1981)

DVD Cover (Shout! Factory)
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Ranked #4,122
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Review by Chad
Added: October 17, 2010
Galaxy of Terror is one of those movies that should have went over well in my household. I mean, let's break it down, shall we? It's a movie heavily inspired by Alien, and by "inspired", I mean that our buddy Roger Corman saw that film at his local theater and thought that redoing it in his own style would make a couple of bucks. You know what that means: we're getting Alien, but with worse effects, more blood, and yes, a maggot rape scene. Let's dig a little deeper, shall we? James Cameron was one of the men behind the camera, serving as both production designer as well as assistant director. We all know that Cameron knows a thing or two about making a movie, so catching a glimpse at one of his early offerings? Yes, please. In an ironic twist, Bill Paxton (who would eventually star in the Alien sequel) was also behind the scenes here as a set decorator.

This is saying nothing of the cast, which features a mighty impressive lineup: Robert Englund is here just three years prior to donning the hat and glove as Freddy Krueger, Sid Haig is here a few years after terrorizing Pam Grier in countless blaxploitation flicks, Erin Moran shows up while on break from her run as Joanie in Happy Days, and even Ray Walston shows up to show the young kids how it's done. With all of that said, let me repeat myself: Galaxy of Terror is one of those movies that should have went over well in my household. Sadly, it didn't.

As for the storyline, there isn't much to speak of. A spaceship lands on a remote planet, they lose contact with the outside world (thanks to being slaughtered off, but our heroes don't know that), and another ship is sent out to rescue them. Led by Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie) and Commander Ilvar (Bernard Behrens), our crew of eight - badass Cabren (Edward Albert), doe-eyed Alluma (Erin Moran), psychic Dameia (Taaffe O'Connell), cook Kore (Ray Walston), scientist Ranger (Robert Englund), mystical man Quuhod (Sid Haig), tough guy Baelon (Zalman King), and the weak-willed Cos (Jack Blessing) - set out on this barren planet to rescue their buddies. Unfortunately, it doesn't go well: their ship crashes, something is causing massive interference, and the only sign of anything resembling life or activity comes from inside a huge pyramid. What's inside the pyramid, you may ask? Aliens. Lots of aliens.

To be fair, there is an additional piece of storyline that shows up later in the film, but I'm not going to spoil it and viewers will have made up their minds on the film by that point anyway - you'll either see it and think "Wow, that makes an already awesome movie even better!" or "Well, at least this piece of shit has one original idea going for it" ("original" if you ignore early drafts of the Alien script, that is). Of course, if you spend more than ten seconds thinking about that grand revelation, you'll realize that everything we've witnessed over the course of the last hour made no sense whatsoever, but that is to be expected of a Corman classic. Personally, I leaned more towards the latter option, as I simply didn't care for the film all that much.

The main issue is the editing and the weak script. I group these two items together because honestly, they went hand-in-hand at draining my interest as the minutes ticked by. As for the editing bit, it's impossible to get involved with the film when we're constantly lost: our heroes will be in one situation, and then we'll simply cut away to find them somewhere completely different. What the hell did we miss, how did they get there, and how did they get out of the previous situation? As for the script, well... most of said "situations" involve the survivors standing around and arguing with one another with a quick kill thrown in every once in a while to spice things up. I realize that Corman is not known for award-winning scripts, but this isn't even enjoyable in a campy sort of way like a lot of his other films are. This is just bad, folks.

The cast does do a great job with what they're given, I will give the film that much. Robert Englund shows that he can actually do more than crack jokes and play in slasher flicks, and seeing him do that this early in his career was pretty surprising. Why he didn't get to do more of it in his latter years is beyond me. Erin Moran is also pretty good, much better than I expected, and Ray Walston is... well, he's Ray Walston, what more can I say? The only real downer in the casting department is Sid Haig. I'm not saying that Haig's acting was bad here, it's just that he only gets one line in the entire movie. You see, Haig didn't like the way that his character was written, so instead of delivering silly lines, he asked if his character could be a mute. The powers that be agreed, and what we got was a semi-important character who speaks a grand total of eight words throughout the entire movie. Being a Haig fan, I was disappointed by this, but your mileage may vary.

Overall, Galaxy of Terror is a forgotten film that probably should have stayed that way. I'll give the filmmakers credit for putting together an amusing maggot rape sequence (in case you're wondering, it's more over-the-top goofy than shocking) and the acting was leagues better than it had any right to be, but regardless, the film just didn't do much for me. 3/10.
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