Reviewing schlock in my tenure here at Upcomingdiscs has reached a level of passion. When I was a much younger pup here, I abhorred the concept. Eventually, as I was fed some of the worst movies on record (and most of them weren’t even romantic comedies), I started to actually enjoy some of these and look forward to writing reviews. Then I got a most gracious gift in my review pile, my first Roger Corman flic. Like a new father, I gave out cigars, asked the doctor for the extra stitch, unwrapped Galaxy of Terror and went straight to work.
In a planet far far away called Morganthus, somebody runs through an unspecified desolate location. He sees dead people and is then attacked by some unknown creature. The space traveler is brutally murdered and we fade the black. The very next scene we move to another planet where two ancient people are playing some obscure game. One of these figures is simply known as the Master. They discuss the matter and the Master decides to send a ship to Morganthus.
The spaceship only known as Quest goes up into space. It makes the planet but doesn’t quite arrive in one piece as it crash lands. The crew decides to leave the Enterprise, I mean the Quest and try to find the previous vessel and see if anybody survived the mission. Perhaps we should stop at this point in the review and introduce you to the crew, a motley one indeed.
Leading the crew we have Captain Trantor (played by Grace Zabriskie) and Commander Ilvar (played by Bernard Behrens). In field command, we have Baelon (played by Zalman King followed by Mr. Ultra cool space veteran, Cabren (played by Edward Albert). In addition, we have a couple of other male crew members, Ranger (played by Robert Englund) and Quuhod (played by Sid Haig), a specialist in crystals.
The crew also wouldn’t be complete without some voluptuous females (this is a Roger Corman movie after all). We have Dameia (played by Taaffe O’Connell) who is the ship’s technical officer and Alluma (played by Erin Moran) who has a few special skills. Rounding out the staff, we have Kore (played by Ray Walston) who is the ship’s cook.
This group of people eventually find the vessel they are looking for. But of course this crew is up against something far more sinister than they could ever expect. It is not so much a single creature but an entity that plays on their fears and figures out the weakest point to attack. Crew members start dropping one by one and death waits every turn. Can anybody overcome the horrors of the planet and stop the mastermind behind it all before everybody’s belongings (their rotting flesh) are passed on to their next of kin?
I think the thing that strikes me in most positive way is how much they were able to do with the set on such a small budget. The spaceship is so intricate and many of the “creatures” used to seal the fate of the crew were not simple props. It’s hard for me to believe that this came from a lumber yard. Furthermore, many of the deaths were quite original (I think the infamous maggot scene started the craze of hentai personally) and the ending goes exactly where it should.
But at the same time, the cynic in me wonders who exactly wrote the dialog. This is Roger Corman grade A shlock at his very best (or worst) and includes some winners. I can’t emphasize enough that the film’s main draw (the maggot rape scene) isn’t all that brutal, just really really creepy. More creepy for the implication that Dameia actually begins to enjoy it. (Though you might not realize that if you had not read it here first).
It’s surprising that there are so many famous movie horror and thriller icons such as Sid Haig and Robert Englund. Throw in the fact that Erin Moran (of Happy Days fame) starred and the infamous James Cameron were part of the production (and wrote many scenes) and you start to wonder how come the acting wasn’t any better. But perhaps it is like they say when they call Aliens a remake of Galaxy of Terror with a bigger budget.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. It would be safe to say that this is the best the movie has ever looked but that would also be unfair competition. The remastered film has reached thirty years in age but the color isn’t as drab as you would think. The color has high points (the spaceship) and low points (anything that appears that it is outside) and some splotching throughout. None of these will keep you from watching though.
We get an English Mono track here to play around with. It is fairly decent, but the volume can waver in and out especially to the almighty dialogue. Since the effects are cornball at best (except for the authentic sucking sounds), dialog is important. Unfortunately for those not so keen in the ears, they will fiddle with the volume knob every so often. It is adequate, just not as special as we would hope. No subtitles are included.
- Commentary with Taaffe O’Connell, Allan Apone, Alec Gillis and David DeCoteau : We all know who Taaffe is but Allan and Alec are makeup effect guys and David is the production assistant. He also serves as the moderator for the commentary and dictates the pace. This is one of the liveliest commentaries I have ever listened to but they hardly ever stay on subject or with what is going on screen wise. It’s hilarious and informative just don’t expect any sort of order to it.
- Tales from the Lumber Yard: The Making of Galaxy of Terror 62:42: There are six parts to Lumber Yard. New Worlds is the first part and here we are introduced to the one and only Roger Corman who served as produced on the film. He talks about how he started New World Pictures and then we get some time with Bruce Clark, the director of the film. The movie was actually called Quest at one point as well as Planet of Terror. This part of the feature also takes a lot of time to talk to Robert Englund, Sid Haig and others.
- The second part is called Planet of Horrors. This deals with the set and how it was made in a lumber yard. Supposedly, employees of the production went through McDonald’s trashbins to find Styrofoam which was used to construct the spaceship. They discuss various other challenges and how they used miniatures. This was the last gasp on in-camera effects with No CGI and shows how well they were able to do it.
- Third part is the Future King which spends some time talking about James Cameron. Most recognize his name from famous blockbuster but here he was the production designer on the film. Apparently, he was very opinionated on the set and wanted everything to be done his way. They also make the comparison to his film Aliens which some describe as Galaxy of Terror on a bigger budget.
- Fourth is Old School. This goes into detail about how they would build up the death scenes. This goes over blood, makeup and how they created the various creatures. It takes a good amount of time to go over the maggot death scene and how people wanted to walk off the set when it was announced. Finally, they decided to go on with it and make it so over the top that nobody could really complain.
- The next to last featurette is Launch Sequence. This deals with post production and how Roger Corman didn’t want to see the movie until it was cut a couple of times. Unfortunately, the film received an X rating the first time it was submitted the film to the MPAA board. The maggot scene was the main issue and they tried to take all of the sex they could out of it. Corman wasn’t happy with what was cut but decided to live with it. The last part deals with the many titles it went through before they decided on Galaxy of Terror.
- Last section is Mission Review where they discuss the cult success of the film. It is interesting that the directors tend to apologize for the film while the stars (in particular, Englund and Haig) were very enthusiastic. Scarcity of the film early on contributed to the cult status. The concept of forbidden fruit. We finish this long and informative feature talking about Roger Corman and how he trained the stars of tomorrow.
- Extensive Photo Galleries : One hundred and seventy seven pictures from a variety of topics including: Behind the Scenes, Background Plates, Storyboard and Sketches, Lobby Card and Posters, and Scrapbook Pictures.
- Original Screenplay : This is provided in PDF form if you are willing to go explore the disc. However, I would suggest that you make whoever is going to play the Dameia part to sign a waiver. Not sure how much maggot insurance goes for these days.
- Trailers: Galaxy of Terror, Humanoids from the Deep, Piranha, Forbidden World and some TV Spots.
As I mentioned, this is the first Roger Corman film I have reviewed but this is not my first trip at the Corman rodeo. I have certainly enjoyed Death Race 2000, Grand Theft Auto and so forth. But I felt that Galaxy of Terror should have turned out better. No, I wasn’t looking for a happy ending. I just honestly expected a little more credible acting from the acting middleweights involved. The most impressive thing about the movie was not the acting but rather the set that was built and the creative scares.
The dvd however was excellent. We received the best video and audio we have seen yet and more extras than any reasonable fan could ask for. A recommendation really depends on what type of movie watcher you are. If you like your shlock with violence, some nudity and a maggot with more pimp moves than Shaft, then this is probably right up your alley. However, if you are looking for the next great horror movie, you might want to look elsewhere. It’s enjoyable but please leave your brain at the door.