Monday, November 3, 2014

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

I have read that Galaxy of Terror was the Roger Corman production on which James Cameron got his first experience working as a film director. That would explain the early atmosphere in this movie being reminiscent of early scenes in Aliens, which would come out five years later. But though this movie starts out feeling like another Alien clone, unlike Creature it seems intent on ultimately telling its own, original story, much to its credit.

Rather than simply being a space exploration horror like Alien was, Galaxy of Terror brings in some decidedly sci-fi/fantasy elements, like psychic powers and laser blasters. These seem almost thrown in just for the hell of it, until you find out at the end that they actually play an important role in the plot. Still, though this movie has a pretty compelling story to tell, it seems largely wasted on too much time wandering about dark tunnels, and not enough time constructing the world and its rules.

As such, it feels kind of stuck between being a horror and a sci-fi movie, as if it couldn't decide which to go with, or wanted the best of both worlds but wasn't certain how to combine them. Nevertheless - and in spite of still feeling like a b movie - it's much better than Creature was. The monsters are varied and creepy, and the sets are very engrossing - much of the movie consists of exploring a large and seemingly abandoned alien infrastructure.

Being a Roger Corman production, a little bit of nudity is expected, though it's curious (and not a little bit concerning) that it appears during what amounts to a rape scene involving a giant space worm. I can dig kinky stuff, though, and if you can get past the disturbing implications of the scene, it's actually filmed pretty erotically. Obviously it's not explicit, and it's not a very long scene, but as far as twisted fantasy sex scenes in movies go, it's worth seeing if you're into that kind of thing.

The cast also features some memorable names, including a young Robert Englund (who would become the face of Freddy Krueger in just a few short years), Ray Walston (who had a long career in acting, going back to the 1950s), and Grace Zabriskie (who played Mrs. Ross, the mother of George's girlfriend, on Seinfeld). Galaxy of Terror doesn't have the polish or the sophistication of an 'a' movie, but if you don't mind 'b' fare, you could do a lot worse than this.

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