Monday, March 7, 2011

Rare Flix: Galaxy of Terror

When Roger Corman and James Cameron get together, strange things happen!  The pair only worked together in one way, shape or form on three occassions- all of them a bit different.  Their first work was Battle Beyond the Stars, a low-budget version of Seven Samurai...but in space.  The second time was today's film- Galaxy of Terror.  Cameron had been promoted from just a Special Effects Crew Member to Head of the Department & even filled in a bit as a Second-Unit Director.  The third time was Cameron's first real film that he directed- Piranha 2.  This experience is a bit more infamous, as an angered Producer- not Corman- literally locked Cameron out of the Editing Room, depriving him of 'his cut.'  Fortunately, the guy went on to make a few hit films like The Terminator, The Abyss and Aliens, so all ended well.  Let's jump back to Galaxy, however, since everyone and their mother has seen the three films mentioned before...but not this one.  According to my sources (read: Wikipedia), the film didn't even get a DVD release until 2010, having to make due with just a VHS and Laserdisc one.  I miss you, giant Laserdiscs.  The film is basically a horror film, but in space and it is somewhat inspired by Alien.  A more accurate comparison, however, is 1997's Event Horizon.  Keep any eye out for the random and eclectic cast too.  Get out your worm repellent, because we're about to head into the...
The film begins with a nameless guy running from something in a space ship.  We don't see what happens, but it's 99% likely to be bad.  Just to note- this film was released in 1981 and features the 'Pre-Credits Kill' that is common in modern horror films to this day.  Case in point: pretty much every Saw film or movie from the After Dark Horror Fest.  The death of these people and the loss of their ship upsets...a guy with an everlasting gobstopper for a head.  That's not who I was expecting!  He's called The Master, but he doesn't have a goatee or fight Time Lords...that I know of.  He sends out another ship to find them, leading to most of the Alien comparisons tossed at this movie.  Once things actually start happening, however, you'll stop thinking about Xenomorphs!  During the decent-looking effects that accompany the flight, we get to meet our cast of characters.  Amongst the future and/or past stars, we have Ray Walston- aka everyone's Favorite Martian- as the Cook, Robert Englund as a Crew Member of undefined role, famous writer/director Zalman King as another Crew Member and Sid Haig as...well, Sid Haig.  The creepy part: Haig has the same bald head and beard here in 1981 that had had in 2005!  I guess if you find a look you like, keep it.  They run into some vague turbulence during the landing, causing their ship to be damaged.  It looks like you get to walk!
The crew's journey eventually leads them to a mountain that they must climb.  The transparent nature of this set is giving me Call of Cthulu flashbacks!  Things turn bleak when one of the men is killed while hanging over a hole in the rock.  The culprit- a bat/dinosaur thingy.  The crew explore the area for a bit, padding out the run-time nicely.  Eventually, more of them get offed.  Sadly, this includes Haig, who has an hallucination of crystal glaive-looking things breaking off and going up his arm.  He cuts off the offending appendage, but gets killed by a bunch of worms on the ground.  In a surprisingly-good effect, one of the worms turns gigantic by way of trick photography.  You're doing Bert I. Gordon proud, James!  Things aren't any better on the ship either, as people there are starting to feel the twinge of something weird.  The lady in charge of the mission gets that feeling, causing her to start firing the ship's cannons into the air at an 'invisible' monster.  She finally freaks out and runs outside without a suit on, which is not a pleasant death.  Englund is a bit confused by the cook (Walston) taking all of this in stride.  He's even more confused when the guy knocks him out for no good reason.  Of course, the controversial moment is coming up next...
Worm rape.  That just happened.  Basically, one of the women in the crew has a fear of sex, so a giant worm attacks her, melts off her clothes and rapes her.  Anyways, the rest of the group move on from seeing the aftermath of this shocking event and moves further into the mountain, which is now a labyrinth of random, sharp angles.  One of the guys is killed by a flying alien monster, which gives us the thing on the DVD cover...even if it is in the wrong context.  The group is whittled down to only a few people, but that won't last long either.  Englund faces down the mirror image of himself and actually manages to do well.  He still dies though, don't worry.  The only female cast member left dies when she's grabbed into a tunnel and has her torso squeezed tendrils until she pops.  Our hero finally makes to the center and confronts the man behind it all- Ray Walston.  He's actually The Master, who did this all to...yeah, I couldn't really figure out why.  Our hero fights the zombie versions of his friends, all of the monsters (way to re-use the models!) and ultimately kills The Master...only to become him.  I'm sure what to say other than...The End.
This Galaxy ain't creepy enough for the two of us!  The plot of this movie is...well, odd.  The basic premise is right out of Alien, but that's where most of the comparisons end.  In fact, the comparisons between this and what would later become Aliens are actually more interesting.  Shooting aliens while surrounded by pipes and/or rocks.  Check.  A mix of horror and action in space.  Check.  A tiny alien that latches onto you and kills you with its teeth.  Big check!  The problem here is that it's hard to explain what exactly happened in the grand scheme of things.  The Master sent people to rescue people that he already sent to die...I think.  The Obelisk apparently causes your worst fears to come to life and kill you- that I'm sure of.  What if your worst fear is an abstract concept coming to life and killing you?  What would happen to you?  Nothing?  The film is not terrible by any means, but it really doesn't do a whole lot to make itself memorable.  Obviously, I'm not talking about the 'worm rape' scene.  This was so controversial that the Director nearly quit when Cameron suggested that they add it.  The film couldn't get released until the scene was Edited down and it still didn't get released in some countries after that!  Was it worth it?  I certainly remember the film and remember that scene.  I guess you won then, you giant-headed bastard!
Next up, I cover a film whose title alone makes me giggle.  Thankfully, this film is Japanese, so it only has a 60% chance of disappointing me.  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I loved this flick, especially because of all the kills, the atmospheric settings and (of course) Robert Englund :)