After making fifty-plus films since 1955, Roger Corman was tired of directing and stepped down as a producer. The guy is now 97 years old and is still working in the business. Salute! With his company, New World Pictures, he hired young talents who would later work in big Hollywood films. And Galaxy of Terror is more or less his trademark film with the ingredients Corman got notoriously known for: schlock and awe with tons of entertainment value. Galaxy of Terror had a budget of 1.8 million dollars and was filmed in Roger Corman’s backyard in Venice, California.
The film starts with a space guy who runs from someone, or something, in a spaceship which has crashlanded on the mysterious planet Morganthus. He gets brutally killed by an unseen force which we soon learn comes from a huge, futuristic-looking pyramid not so far from the crashing site.
We’re not on Earth, however, but on planet Xerxes where an obscure ruler called Planet Master whose face is covered with a red, gloving dot is ordering the crew of the spaceship Quest to go on a mission on the same planet we saw in the beginning. Why? That’s a good question. We meet our crew of ten: Cabren, Alluma, Kore, Baelon, Ranger, Dameia, Quuhold, Cos, Captain Trantor and Commander Ilvar. The two most familiar faces we see here are Sid Haig, 22 years before he became a more household name as the killer clown Spalding. The other one is Robert Englund, three years before he wrote film history with his killer glove.
As the crew lands on the planet, they are quick to discover the pyramid, which they decide to investigate. And what they encounter as soon as they even touch the pyramid are not scary aliens, but a manifestation of their own deepest fears which are ready to kill them in the most brutal ways.
Visually, the film takes a lot of inspiration from Alien and copies the style of H.R. Giger with some mixture of 1950s sci-fi. So it’s no wonder it’s been called a rip-off of that film. But that’s only on the surface. Plot-wise, Galaxy of Terror goes in its own unique direction whereas Event Horizon took the concept to the more extreme.
The most remarkable thing here is the set-design and overall look of the planet, which was constructed by a young workaholic by the name James Cameron. He worked day and night on the set, also as a second-unit director, to prove himself, and so he did. Much of the visual style was also used some years later in Aliens which explains some of the similarities. The spaceship hallways were set up in Roger Corman’s own house.
And with that being said, the film has enough of schlock and fun B-movie moments to get entertained by. There’s some very wonky and eye-rolling dialogue here and no one can blame Sid Haig for demanding to play his character as a mute. That was only until he had to say his one line “I live and I die by the crystals.” And sure he did. RIP. The acting is overall decent and they do the very best of what they had to work with. We have some great and fun death scenes that include a victim getting sucked by some tentacles with the most cartoonish slurping sound effect. Robert Englund fights an apparition of his dark self (an early glimpse of Freddy, perhaps?) while the others among the crew get burned alive and blown to pieces.
And, of course, what is Galaxy of Terror without its classic rape scene? And not just any rape scene, but with a huge, slimy maggot! Director Bruce Clark refused to film it, so Roger Corman had to step in and do it instead. He’d already gotten some flak for filming a rape scene in Humanoids From the Deep the year before where a fish monster fucks one of the victims. So this was clearly right up his alley. The blonde actress Taaffe O’Connell got the pleasure of almost getting killed when the thing almost squeezed her to death, completely naked and covered in slime, during filming. Luckily, she survived and looks back at the incident with a great sense of humor. This scene had to go through the editing process three times before it got an R rating instead of an X. This was originally meant to be a morbid love scene where Taaffe moans like a porn star and literally dies of an orgasm overdose. Anyway, it became the film’s big money shot, which Robert Englund can tell when a film critic in a suit and tie once came to him shortly after the release and said: “You were MARVELOUS in that film where the giant maggot FUCKED THE GIRL!”
Director: Bruce D. Clark
Writers: Marc Siegler, Bruce D. Clark
Country & year: US, 1981
Actors: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Robert Englund, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, Jack Blessing, Mary Ellen O’Neill