The Plot: When a spacestation is picked up on the radar and is found to be entirely lifeless, another group of space pioneers are sent out to find any possible survivors and bring them back. As one could possibly guess at this point, things don’t run so smooth once the ship lands on this desolate landscape. In the midst of this giant rubble covered planet is a massive pyramid shaped object that has some form of mystic power. The group slowly starts to dwindle down as each and every member has their own nightmares and worst fears come to life. The group quickly splits in parts, as their squad leader goes on a power trip and all logic seems to be fleeting. Will this group learn to pair up and not let their fears get the better of them, or will these nightmarish creatures take them all?
Roger Corman, even if you’re unable to say a positive word about the man in general discussion, the least you can say is that the man knew how to spot talent. His low budget productions came about in a time where Hollywood executives, who of course still operate the same way, were more interested in hiring proven talent and dependable filmmakers with track records. Getting a break in the business in the age before the internet proved to be even more difficult, but Corman always proved to be open minded about the filmmakers he would bring in for his productions. There are numerous stories about the man going to film schools and hiring on young crew members fresh from college and sending them on their way into fabulous careers. James Cameron is only one of many young talents that he helped along the way. Galaxy of Terror illustrates just what was so great about Corman’s particular style of guerrilla filmmaking. Sure, Galaxy of Terror doesn’t prove to be much more than a ripoff of Alien but it has a couple of very distinct qualities that helps to separate it from the pack. First, there’s the cast! What a cast it is, a veritable who’s who of character actors, including the likes of Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Ray Walston, Grace Zabriskie and Erin Moran of all people! So, you take that cast and then you counter in the fact that this is also a surprisingly gory horror movie taking place in space… oh, and there’s also a little scene where a young woman is raped by a maggot.
Yes, you read that right. Your eyes have not deceived you. A maggot rapes a woman in this picture. This isn’t your regular household maggot mind you. The anatomy simply wouldn’t work! Being a Corman production we know that bigger is better, so imagine your garden variety maggot and then blow him up to roughly fifteen feet long and about six foot thick and you have a good start. Although I would like to think that I, as a film reviewer and commentator, would be far removed from the type of author who tries to sell a movie based solely on any kind of shock element… but I truly am not that mature. Having not seen Galaxy of Terror beforehand, I did not know going into this movie that it would A) be so violent and B) feature a maggot-rape scene. So imagine my shock, bewilderment and downright juvenile entertainment at these two discoveries when screening the movie! By all standards I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Galaxy of Terror is a fantastic piece of science fiction. The characters are paper thin even for a project like this, with much of the film dedicated to showing that these “astronauts” have the ability explain complicated sounding materials and machines to one another. So, the gore must have come from the fact that this movie obviously needed a little something special going for it. It shoots for the lowest common denominator in that respect, but for myself as a viewer I some times enjoy seeing how far the spiral can go. Galaxy of Terror is a throwback to a different time and a different element. There were many prudes still around, but Roger Corman didn’t care and he knew that people would have no other reaction to hearing about a maggot-rape scene than to say “where can I see this?” and that is part of what makes the man brilliant.
There’s no getting past it, Galaxy of Terror has ‘b-movie’ written on it from the jump. The dialogue is at times utterly atrocious and no matter the considerable talent level of this cast, they find it tough bringing much of it to life. Thankfully we as the audience can gather a few smirks from some of these gems. Shot on a shoe-string budget that is well covered on the documentary accompanying the Shout Factory DVD, that certain level of goofiness found in the film is understandable and with viewers like myself – it is actually enjoyed! The attempts at creating a gimmick for each character is cheesy enough in itself, but I still have a soft spot for that kind of cheap attempt at endearing a character to the audience. It doesn’t work for every film, but in older movies with a more naive tone I find that it can be charming to a degree. I particularly enjoyed Sid Haig whose character has the most gimmicks going for him. He plays his role entirely mute and has only one line during the course of the entire production, but he still manages to really stick out despite this. His use of two highly ineffective throwing stars, made out of crystal and over a foot long, is another great attribute that causes him to stick out like a sore thumb. Ridiculous? Sure! That is the name of the game however when you’re trying to appeal to this type of demographic. If it were not for the massive amounts of violence, Galaxy of Terror could very well play to children!
Yet that violence is what makes Galaxy of Terror the project that it is and it was. Featuring dismemberments, intestines, head explosions and an incredibly campy vibe – this movie proves itself as a horror movie despite its science fiction introduction. There is one scene involving a piece of glass being shoved beneath one character’s skin that even managed to make me hiss a little! While making the movie’s ‘monsters’ appear different to each character, the film finds a way to kill off many members of the crew in bizarre and highly different fashions. This idea would later be re-appropriated in the movie Sphere which one can’t help think of while watching. Although that movie attacked similar ideas in a different manner, I can’t help but wonder if the original author ever at one point stumbled upon some drive-in that featured a showing of Galaxy of Terror and later had visions dancing in his mind!
Many of the walls throughout the ship sequences are actually decorated with styrofoam cases from various McDonald’s burgers and products. Production members would actually raid the local McDonald’s dumpster when supplies were low.
James Cameron worked as second unit director for Galaxy of Terror and some of the crew later went on to work with him on Aliens.
Sid Haig came up with the idea to play the role mute, due mainly to the dialogue not fitting the character that he thought was established in the script.
While it may not be a classic in either the science fiction or horror genre, there are certain moments that immediately stand out in Galaxy of Terror. While I think many viewers will be surprised by the carnage, I hope that my ranting and raving over the gore hasn’t given off the wrong impression for the film. Believe me, if you are a horror fan you have likely seen far gorier than this. Still, for a Corman production and for a movie feature Joanie from Happy Days one can’t help but be stunned by the level of violence found here. I recommend it for horror or scifi junkies, especially those looking for a quick piece of escapist entertainment. The Shout Factory disc should prove very hard to pass up!