Retro Review: GALAXY OF TERROR (1981)

What lies beyond the cult sci-fi horror film? – Bleeding Dead

Glxy Terror - CoverWhen a rescue team travels to a desolate and distant planet called Morganthus they’re immediately tried with difficulties, their spaceship crash-landing due to an unexplained pull from the planet’s surface. The team composed of nine individuals is Captained by a famous space-disaster survivor and includes a psi-sensitive, who is intended to pick up on any non-human energies they may encounter in their search. In their mission to Morganthus the spaceship Quest was sent to recover a recently crashed ship and its remaining survivors, however, upon exploring the planet’s vague and seemingly deserted surface they find no one alive. Instead there’s evidence of a violent massacre that took place but again a lack of explanation of where it came from. Heading back to their ship paranoia and fear becomes instilled in one of the members and he is eventually killed by a mysterious creature. Soon enough the team begin to die in various different ways, reflecting their personal horrors. Eventually they realize that they are stuck on a planet that will make them experience their worst fears. Those who remain alive re-search the planet to stumble upon a pyramid and the true secret the planet’s deadly force.

If there’s one thing I may do its to trust my editor here at TD, Sam, to recommend a film as he’s never sent me astray and has a knack for recommending things I’m in the appropriate mood for. The Roger Corman-esque (produced by) sci-fi horror film THE GALAXY OF TERROR was exactly such, offering gore and obscurity to its inculpable viewer. With an almost Deep Space/Tron hybrid effect to it the ‘terror’ hits fast and promptly as the crew of the spaceship Quest wander about an alien planet, their deepest fears subjected to its ultimate evil, giving us a violent quick to the point opening. This is of course with all its heart a B-movie, so the actual terror is minimal (or really non existent if you like me to be honest) with the amusing experience prevailing the lack of jumps. In fault your never really get to see the actual creature that is lurking about the planet reigning hell on the crew members. Not to be mistaken as there are moments where you see it but it in general has a lack of presence in the film, leaving it a bit misplaced in the overall story.

These characters are hoot with their actor counterparts also suitably enjoyable. You’ll recognize Robert Englund (!) in a pre-Nightmare and V role, Sid Haig who Glxy Terror - Sceneregally gets killed by his own arm, and veteran actor Ray Walston. I didn’t care for Erin Moran or rather ‘Joanie loves Chachi’ as the psi-sensitive character who in turn renders useless, her ability not being remotely helpful and her character reflecting the same abhorrent tendencies from that of her TV alter ego. But it’s Taaffe O’Connel as Dameia who gets the infamous, brutal, and erotic sex scene with the worm, where she dies via orgasm. The scene is controversial for it’s explication and erotogenic hue, despite an editing of the heavy breathing shots, with a bare O’Connel doused in a lubricated slime while engulfed by a giant worm as she wails dulcet screams till her untimely death. If that isn’t quality Corman material then I don’t know what is. The set design and lighting for the film is creative and edgy. The planet’s exterior vast but often too dark too see anything, with the interior of the pyramid abstract and more fitting in the film’s uncontroversial plot.

Outside of the small cult following THE GALAXY OF TERROR is often noted for its epic monster movie poster and for its production designer/second unit director James Cameron, who’s influential impact from the film later becomes present in his directoral classic Aliens. An interesting fact as B.D. Clark’s film is reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s legendary first film in the series. Galaxy is both inspired by and understandably stealing a bit of the steam from the classic sci-fi horror film, having been released two years prior. Like with all B-films THE GALAXY OF TERROR is far from perfect but is lush with enjoyment. It isn’t going to give anyone nightmares but is great for a laid back watch.

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