Directed by: Bruce D. Clark
Starring: Erin Moran, Edward Albert, Sid Haig, Ray Walston, Robert Englund, Taffee O’Connell, Zalman King, Grace Zabriskie
So you’re the King of the B’s. You’ve been busy carving out a niche making genre and exploitation movies but you’ve been just a little too successful. Hollywood has noticed. Now the big studios are cranking out movies like Jaws, Aliens, and Star Wars, moving in and making a grab for your audience. What do you do? If you’re Roger Corman you take them on. Galaxy of Terror is one of Corman’s responses.
The movie opens up as the last crewmember of the Xerxes, a crashed spaceship runs for his life and is mysteriously killed. Back on the home world The Master is informed of the fate of the Xerxes. He commands a rescue mission to be launched immediately and that he personally will pick the members of the rescue team. Oh yeah I almost forgot, The Master’s head is a big glowing orb and he appears to control the galaxy by playing some weird video game with an old crone that would have been right at home in the Weird Sisters from MacBeth.
As the team members assemble on the rescue ship Quest old attachments and rivalries make themselves known. Cabran and Alluma, played by Edward Albert and Erin Moran, fresh from Happy Days, are obviously happy to see each other again. They are not so happy when Baelon, Zalmon King, limps onto the ship and takes command of the rescue team. Maybe it has something to do with his limp. Rounding out the rescue team is a mute Quuhod, portrayed by Sid Haig, and Cos who may as well be wearing a red shirt. The ship’s crew consists of Ranger and Dameia, played by a pre-Nightmare Robert Englund and Taaffe O’Connell. The Quest is captained by Trantor, Grace Zabriskie, the damaged sole survivor of the Hesperes Massacre, whatever the Hesperes Massacre was it was bad, so bad that nobody wants to talk about it. And then there is the cook, everybody’s favorite Martian, Ray Walston. Everyone barely has time to buckle up before Trantor blasts the ship out of port like it’s a hot rodded Corellian freighter busting out of Mos Eisley. Before anyone can catch their breathe Trantor plunges them into hyperdrive and in seconds the ship is in orbit of Morgantus. Immediately something starts to pull the ship into an uncontrolled descent and he crew is only saved by the quick thinking of Trantor as she manages to crash the ship gracefully enough that no one is hurt.
It appears likely that whatever caused them to crash is the also the culprit for the loss of Xerxes as it’s crashed hulk is only three kilometers away. The rescue team head out to search for survivors on the Xerxes as the Quest’s crew try to fix the damage to their ship. When the rescue team arrives at the wreck of the Xerxes they find nothing but horribly mangled bodies which they immediately incinerate. After frustratingly not finding anything to explain the crash or what mangled and killed the crew the rescue team prepare to leave the Xerxes and return to the Quest. Everyone has left the ship but Cos who tarries for just a moment, a moment that costs him his life. Back at the Quest nothing can be learned from an analysis of Cos’s body about what killed him. However they have discovered that all of their sensors go dead when pointed at a particular compass heading. Believing that they will find whatever caused them and the Xerxes to crash they head off in that direction. Before long they come across a strange and gargantuan pyramidal structure. As they begin to investigate the pyramid, things begin to get really weird.
It’s amazing how well this movie holds up. Sure the effects are dated and the sets don’t hold up well to scrutiny, you can make out the Styrofoam burger clamshells if you look closely, but the way it is lit and shot it looks great. There is a moody, creepy atmosphere that just pours from every frame of film. James Cameron was credited with Production Designer for Galaxy of Terror and he had a lot of talented help from people like the Skotak brothers, legends in the special effects field. Of course that wouldn’t have made any difference if the story was awful. It’s not. at the core is a taunt psychological exploration of fear. The eighty one minutes running time helps keep the story tight and fast moving. The only real problem I had with the movie was the first twenty minutes or so are choppy and hard to follow, which is explained in the bonus features. The editing duties were split between three editors each taking a third of the movie. Trust me it does start to make more sense if you just stick with it.
The video is presented in widescreen format from a beautiful print. I never noticed any issues with the print. This is a dark and moody film, but there is still an amazing amount of detail visible in the shadows. There is not any aliasing or moiré or blooming that I could see.
The audio is presented in the original mono. The mix is excellent, the great electronic score and the creative sound design never overstep the dialog. There are no subtitles and it’s presented in English only.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The fantastic cover art is pulled from the original movie poster and has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. Still it’s a great example of pulpy sci-fi art and representative of how the movie was originally promoted. The Amaray case is clear so the artwork on the double sided insert is visible when you open the case. On the reverse of the insert is more original promotional artwork. There is a fair amount of bonus features. There is one commentary, a great in depth featurette about the making of the movie, with interviews with the Stotak brothers, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Robert Englund, Robert Corman, Marc Siegler, the screenwriter, Bruce D.Clark, the director, and several of the effects and design people. There is no Cameron interview but there are plenty of anecdotes him. There are trailers and artwork galleries and what I found very cool a PDF of the screenplay if you pop the DVD into your PC.
This isn’t a great movie but I can honestly say without qualification it is a good movie, which is no small feat. If you make allowances for the budget and speed in which it was put together it’s an amazing achievement. If your any kind of sci-fi nut you need this movie on your shelf.
Overall (Not an average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 6/10
The Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an average) 7/10