Galaxy of Terror (1981) – Directed by Bruce D. Clark – Starring Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Robert Englund, Ray Walston, Sid Haig, Zalman King, Taafe O’Connell, Jack Blessing, and Grace Zabriskie.
The quote in the title of this review does not come from the movie itself, but from the engaging “making of” documentary included as a special feature on the GALAXY OF TERROR DVD release. Robert Englund was talking about being at a release party for some other film when he was approached by someone he thought my be a high-and-mighty East Coast critic. “Are you Robert England?” the man asked in what I think was Englund’s attempt at doing a British accent.
“Yes, yes, I’m Robert Englund.”
“You were marvelous in that film where the giant maggot f*cked that girl.”
And that’s kind of how GALAXY OF TERROR has come to be known – that film where Taafe O’Connell gets raped by a giant maggot … and likes it. I’m not saying that’s a dumb way to remember GALAXY because, let’s face it, when a giant maggot gets freaky with a cute blonde girl, you might not be into it, but you ain’t gonna forget it. I’m not asking people to not think about the maggot-f*cking scene, but I am saying that if that’s the only people think about GALAXY, that’s a shame because this is a pretty darn good, serious B-movie. Yeah, there’s some cheesy special effects, and yes, the script and the acting isn’t what you’d find in a major studio picture with a massive budget, but for a Roger Corman B-movie made on the relative fly, GALAXY OF TERROR is a darn good film.
In fact, the way I think about GALAXY is ALIEN 1.5, and perhaps the bulk of the credit for that goes to Production Designer James Cameron. One of the best parts of the “making of” doc is that Roger Corman is such a great interview, coming clean about what kind of movie he was making and where his films sit in the industry. He fully admits that GALAXY was made to capitalize on Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, and thanks to Cameron’s involvement, the film also resonates strongly with ALIENS.
That makes GALAXY a rather unique B-movie, I think, in that it’s a riff on one movie and points the direction for that movie’s sequel. Sure, that’s largely because of Cameron, but that doesn’t change what it is.
Like ALIENS, GALAXY is a rescue mission. On the planet Morganthus, a crashed spaceship is attacked by the unseen bad guy. Back on the main planet, two weird people are playing electronic chess or something. One of them is an old woman who says spooky things and then disappears from the narrative. The other is “the Master,” but he’s not this Master or this Master, but a dude with a glowing red ball of light for his face. The Master decides to send a rescue ship out to Morganthus, which brings us to the crew of the Quest.
The ship is led by Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie), who was the captain of a previous ship that suffered some huge disaster. It’s hard to see why anyone could think this was, in any way, her fault, since she’s high-strung, a bit crazy, sexually strokes the ship’s computer, and says things like, “The Master sends meat but the Devil sends chefs.” GALAXY isn’t a movie where the captain is the main protagonist, however, and while the crew goes out to do their investigation, Captain Trantor stays behind to go a little crazy.
GALAXY benefits from having a really solid cast: Edward Albert plays Cabren, who emerges as the protagonist; Erin Moran plays Alluma, the ship’s empath; Ray Walston plays Kore, the ship’s cook; Robert Englund is Ranger, an unimaginatively named crewman; Zalman King, as Baelon, the rescue team’s leader; Sid Haig as Quuod, another crewman with a name so awkward that you can see why they just called Englund’s character, “Ranger,”; Taafie O’Connell is Dameia, the tech officer who goes on the rescue mission just so the maggot has someone to f*ck; and Jack Blessing as Cos, the rookie.
Everyone goes on the mission just so they can face their biggest fears and get killed. Well, Cabren survives, but the rest of them get killed. Their fears are mostly just an excuse to show gross things happening, but there is a real psychological foundation for all of their fears, which is a step the film didn’t have to take.
And no, Dameia’s fear isn’t to get f*cked by a giant maggot. Instead, she has a double fear of worms and sex, and the film just takes it from there. What caused a bit of trouble with the MPAA was that, by the end of the scene, Dameia is enjoying what starts as rape, and dies because her orgasm was just that powerful.
What’s impressive about GALAXY is that, for a B-movie, it looks phenomenal. If you get the DVD, you have to watch the “Tales from the Lumberyard” feature to hear all the stories of how the film was made (and try to figure out whether everyone thought James Cameron was a bigger talent or a bigger assh*le). The impressive hallways are actually partially constructed out of Styrofoam containers from Burger King that the crew stole out of the trash after the fast food joint closed for the night. One of the hallways was so impressive that it was allegedly rented out to a foreign watch manufacturer for an ad that allowed Corman to recoup his financial investment.
The sets are great, the effects are really good, and the feel of GALAXY is totally right. Yeah, there’s some missteps (especially with the dialogue), and the ending is a bit of unnecessary psycho-babble, but at least there’s some psycho-babble here to serve as a foundation for all the dismemberment and maggot-f*cking.
If you’re in the mood for a B-movie that’s actually a solid movie in its own right, check out GALAXY OF TERROR. If you just want to see something lurid and crazy, then check out GALAXY for the maggot f*cking, and stick around for a decent movie.