Review: Galaxy of Terror DVD

STUDIO: Shout! Factory | DIRECTOR: Bruce D. Clark | CAST: Grace Zabriskie, Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Robert Englund, Zalman King
RELEASE DATE: 7/20/2010 | PRICE: DVD $19.93, Blu-ray $26.97
BONUSES: cast and crew commentary, six featurettes, souvenir booklet, original screenplay PDF via Internet
SPECS: R | 81 min. | Science-fiction / horror | 1.85:1 widescreen | 2.0 stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

According to the bonus interviews in this DVD, the “terror” on 1981’s Galaxy of Terror shoot came in the form of co-production designer James Cameron, (Avatar) who is described as a smug know-it-all who was leaps and bounds more talented than the other kids producer Roger Corman had working on this science-fiction/horror film. More than one describes how they nearly came to blows upon first meeting Cameron thanks to instant personality clashes.

But Cameron clearly learned much working on these quickie B-movies for Corman, and in this one, a risible romp with an impressive B-list cast, Cameron experimented with the design, lighting and costumes that would later show up in Aliens (dangling wires in a spaceship, headlights on backpack tanks, oozing monsters) and the Terminator series (pans of eerie futuristic landscapes; burned out, post-battle scenery). Too bad he was a schmuck to everyone, but that’s the impression we got in the featurette entitled “Future King.”

Galaxy of Terror is part of Shout! Factory’s “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series, but the cult seems limited. Even the writer, Marc Siegler, says he lost track of the film in his memory 25 years ago. But it’s a worthwhile film if for nothing other than the famous “maggot rapes the nude blonde” sequence, in which Taaffe O’Connell is unceremoniously defiled by a gigantic multi-legged worm. It’s the manifestation of her most primal fear, and on this remote planet, where this team of astronauts has landed, your dreaded nightmares become real.

Hey, that sounds like A Nightmare on Elm Street. Wait, who is that young astronaut running down that spaceship corridor? Is that . . . why it IS! Robert Englund himself, looking all earnest until he has to fight an invincible, laughing double of himself, and then he’s not laughing any more. Englund is generous in the bonus material in an interview where he describes smoking a doobie in the lumber yard where Corman hid his studio. Englund also talks about how the spaceship corridor was given a futuristic look with painted styrofoam Whopper boxes. (Happily, the remark is illustrated with a clip.)

Edward Albert (Guarding Tess) is the film’s nominal star, but does little besides sport a post-1970s ‘do and ‘stache that reminds us why we stopped wearing same. Erin Moran, in what was supposed to be her Happy Days breakout, is similarly unimpressive as a would-be scream queen. Ray Walston (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) is wasted by the script, Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) begged to play his role as a mute because the character was so poorly written (and still winces when he recalls the one line he was required to recite), and future soft-core king Zalman King (TV’s Red Shoes Diaries) is his usual uptight self.

The cast member who acquits herself the best, and perhaps the one who has the most riding on a good showing, is Grace Zabriskie, who until Galaxy of Terror had done a few Wonderful World of Disney episodes. She turns in a commanding performance as the firm, risk-taking, heroic ship’s captain and comes off like — hey, wait a minute — the template for a certain Ellen Ripley in a certain 1986 sequel. Englund confesses that the men in the cast and crew were uniquely hot for the bra-less Zabriskie, who, he says “was a cougar before there were cougars.” It can’t be said that Galaxy launched her career, but she has certainly had one since then.


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About Buzz

Buzz McClain reviews DVDs for Playboy magazine and is a former critic for Video Business magazine. But what he really wants to do is direct.