GALAXY OF TERROR. Guilty pleasure Alien rip-off
We had the opportunity to see Inseminoids, Creepozoids, Parasite, Leviathan, and even the pretended sequel Alien 2: On Earth (of course, having nothing to do with the original). One of the most famous and unacknowledged titles of this kind is Galaxy of Terror. It turns out that the Z-grade nightmare and Alien share a common element… However, it is by no means the level of execution.
The sparse plot Galaxy of Terror tells the story of the crew of some spaceship sent to some planet for some purpose. The expository scene of a game between some old witch and some grandmaster introduces more confusion than explanations, but it doesn’t always have to be about a logical, ironclad script and well-developed storylines. So we have a crew consisting of a Luke Skywalker with a mustache, three women who could be replaced by lamps (more on sexy lamps here), Freddy Krueger from before A Nightmare on Elm Street, Sid Haig, and veteran Ray Walston, whose character carries trays of water and then turns out to be… I won’t reveal who – I’ll leave the satisfaction of discovering it to the potential viewer. With this motley crew, they board a jet aircraft and embark on an expedition, armed with rifles and backpacks resembling vacuum cleaners with attached car headlights. The brightest point of this entourage turns out to be the supporting character, played with nerve and charisma by Grace Zabriskie, although young Robert Englund tries as hard as he can to give his character a credible, human touch. The rest of the actors seem to be aware of their situation and try to act at a minimal level, so they can say if necessary: “I did it just for the money, I don’t even remember the shooting period well.”
The crew arrives at a place where their worst nightmares come to life. It turns out that the person of the future, familiar with space flight technology and interstellar travel, has the worst nightmares about disgusting bugs and monsters straight from Japanese porn, with tentacles dripping with slime. Galaxy of Terror (I think) documents the crew’s struggle for survival in such a hostile environment. An hour and twenty minutes of the movie passes quickly and painlessly – provided you don’t expect anything. Although it must be admitted that a few shots here are really good, the same cannot be said for the sounds, special effects, or monster designs, let alone the scriptwriters’ ideas. However, Sid Haig had a good idea, playing a character equipped with star-shaped shuriken. Haig asked Roger Corman, the producer, if his character could speak less. He admitted that it simply didn’t fit the character’s image. Corman agreed, so Haig has only one spoken line throughout the entire movie.
Edward Albert talks a bit more in the film, the son of Eddie Albert. I’m almost certain that he played the role that the producers wanted to give to Mark Hamill, who was at the height of his fame at the time. Cabren is the main character of the film and the voice of reason on this expedition. His character undergoes a messianic transformation after uttering a few phrases about power, destiny, and the like. In reality, for most of the movie, it’s not clear what’s going on. The characters wander aimlessly and are attacked by various monsters and, of course, die in gruesome ways. When the cast is finally reduced to two, a final showdown of words takes place, a special effect in the form of red light appears, and then the closing credits roll. The viewer is left with a simultaneous feeling of satiety and dissatisfaction, which is extraordinary and reserved only for science fiction movies made for seven thousand dollars.
Yet, in this mishmash, alongside the gruel and blood, there is some substance. The aforementioned link between Galaxy of Terror and Alien is… James Cameron himself. He worked on the film as a production manager. Thus, he may have had a hand in the design of the monsters (which is better not to admit to) as well as the set design and decoration designs, which are definitely the film’s strongest point. They are far from the designs in The Abyss, of course, but considering the minimal budget of the film, it doesn’t look too bad, and it certainly reveals the imagination and creativity of the creator. Before the huge success of Terminator, Cameron worked on several low-budget projects, and it must be admitted that each of them, despite the obvious shortcomings resulting from production limitations, contains elements of a fairly consistent and original vision. The same goes for Galaxy of Terror. As an interesting fact, Cameron also observed the director’s work closely and noticed that Clark wasn’t shooting a sufficient number of takes to cover the scenes. He asked the producers to cast him as an assistant director in addition. This way, he gained his first directing experience.
Galaxy of Terror is a treat for fans of campiness and a hidden gem for lovers of cheap, tacky science fiction cinema. It has everything you need in life: a terribly poor plot, unengaged actors, low-budget special effects, poorly crafted monsters, and inept editing. While the set design is relatively decent, there’s no mistaking that this is decidedly a guilty pleasure product. And most likely, it was created with that in mind.