Sunday, September 5, 2010
Galaxy of Terror
Over the course of a very long career, Roger Corman served as producer on a huge number of low budget movies. Some of them turned out to be classics in spite of their budget (Piranha), and some turned out to be campy fun (Humanoids from the Deep). Most of them, unfortunately, turned out like Galaxy of Terror.
Released in 1981, this sci-fi horror film features a fairly recognizable cast. There’s Erin Moran (Joanie from Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, beginning a downward career cycle), Edward Albert (sporting quite the pornstache), Ray Walston, and genre mainstays Robert Englund and Sid Haig. I doubt that anyone of them puts it on their résumé in bold print. Reportedly, Sid Haig was so disgusted with the dialogue he asked permission to play his character as a more-or-less mute (he has one line.). If you’ve seen a lot of Sid’s movies, you know dialogue that shocks him has to be a high level of bad.
The movie is mostly a rip-off of Alien, with a bit of Star Wars’ New Age bull thrown in for good measure. In the future, a distress call from a crashed ship is received by The Master, the leader of the world. We know he’s special because his head is a glowing red light. He spends his time playing a future version of checkers with an old woman, but pauses long enough to dispatch a rescue expedition, whose crew is carefully chosen because they all hate each other to various degrees and for various reasons. They also all come completely apart under the slightest pressure, a great trait for their jobs, no doubt. Moran plays a psychic, but if she was any good at it, she would have seen how the movie would turn out, and gone to work at Waffle House instead.
After a harrowing 45 second trip through space, the hapless crew arrives on the Planet of the Bad Matte Paintings. There, they are killed one by one by their worst fears. Sid Haig declares “I live and die for crystals” and before you can figure out what the hell he’s talking about, a crystal kills him. The blonde crew member mentions she hates worms, and gets raped to death by a giant maggot. You might want to read that sentence again, just in case you didn’t want to grasp it. A woman gets fairly graphically raped by a giant maggot. It is possible this was intended to be titillating, but it is a woman being forcibly sexually penetrated by a giant worm, and I don’t want to meet the person who is turned on by that.
Some terrible special effects and listless acting later, and the movie comes to an early and much appreciated end. Along the way, we are treated to some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard, so I think Sid was on to something. My favorite line is probably “I’m too scared to be afraid” but there are plenty of howlers.
The most interesting fact about the movie is it served as the debut of James Cameron, who was the production designer and second unit director. Reportedly, he got the job by demonstrating how to get maggots to move on a fake severed arm (he ran electric current through it). Bill Paxton, who would become better known as an actor and frequent collaborator of Cameron, was a set dresser on the production.
Probably the best thing to say about this film is that most of the cast and crew had better things in their future. If you take my advice, you’ll give this one a miss. You probably won’t.