:Movie Review: Galaxy of Terror (1981)


Galaxy of Terror
Theater Release Date:  October 1981 (USA)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:  July 10, 2010 (USA)
Studio:  New World Pictures / Shout! Factory (home media rerelease)
Starring:  Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, and Robert Englund
Music:  Barry Schrader
Director:  Bruce D. Clark
Rated R

Review by William Nesbitt
Professor of English
Beacon College, http://www.beaconcollege.edu

Galaxy of Terror begins with two characters playing a game. Mitri is the controller of the game and the other player is the Planet Master.  They put some unknown plan into motion by dispatching the Quest, a spaceship, to Morganthus to investigate the death of the last survivor of a crashed spaceship.  The crew of the Quest finds the crashed spaceship and explore it (at this point, one can see why some critics called the film a version of Alien).  One-by-one they confront antagonists that are the embodiment, the creation of their own fears.  The various death scenes are pretty gruesome.  They are dismembered, severed, burned, killed by grotesque creatures, and so on.  Only two members survive, Ranger and Cabren.  Cabren confronts The Master, kills him, and takes his place.  Those involved with the movie maintain that it’s a film about fear:  facing fear, overcoming fear, being overcome by fear.

And if that’s all there were to the story, it might not be notable.  But there’s more. 

In one of the more disturbing scenes Dameia ends up naked and crushed to death by a monstrous worm/maggot.  The implication is that sexual assault occurs.  Originally, the scene was not going to be so graphic but Roger Corman rewrote the scene and directed it himself after director Bruce Clark and Taaffe O’Connell (Dameia) expressed reservations.  The movie received an X rating for this scene and so editor R.J. Kizer made some cuts to slide it in as an R rating.  Whether one feels the scene is necessary or gratuitous, in good taste or poor taste, it raised questions and continues to provoke discussion about what is and what is not okay to put into a film.  

Also, the backstory of Roger Corman and New World Pictures is fascinating.  Essentially, he made movies very cheaply—but not cheap movies—that yielded fabulous financial returns and had either incredible luck or skill in hiring young talent that would go on to bigger and more well-known projects.  Robert Englund went on to play Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series.  Sid Haig appeared in a number of primetime television series and was in films such as House of a 1000 Corpses and Kill Bill:  Volume 2.  Grace Zabriskie has a long list of film and television appearances such as Twin Peaks.   Perhaps the most impressive name on the roster, that of second unit director James Cameron who went on to Titanic and Avatar, the number one and two, respectively, highest-grossing movies of all time.  Corman directed and produced numerous other films and continues to be a powerful force in Hollywood.

This becomes the real value of the reissue.  I don’t know how much work, if any, was done cleaning up the picture, but it’s got to be better than VHS by virtue of the medium if nothing else.  A second disc of extras come with the disc and helps fill out the story of the movie, Roger Corman, and New World Pictures.  Most of the extras are interviews with the aforementioned people involved with the film.  While everyone is respectful of Corman, there are a variety of critical and funny moments.  Englund, for example, tells a story he heard that in order to help generate budget, Corman rented the set of one of the spaceships to a German watch company.  Haig explains that, except for a single line, his character is mute because he looked at the script, didn’t feel the dialogue was on par with the character, and convinced Corman to let him play the part silently.  I would argue that because the process of making the movie is so unique and peculiar, we cannot separate the finished product from the process.  Therefore, the complete Galaxy of Terror is both the film on disc one and the extras on disc two.  Ultimately, taken as a whole, Galaxy of Terror, while reminiscent of Alien, stands as its own film.



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