The crew of the space ship Quest are sent to find and recover a ship that
has disappeared there. What they find is the stuff of nightmares.
Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Directed by Bruce D. Clark
Written by Marc Siegler and Bruce D. Clark
Starring Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Sid Haig,
Robert Englund, Grace Zabriskie, Taaffe O’Connell,
Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Jack Blessing
“Your countdown to hell is about to begin!”
That is the tagline to what many consider a rip-off of Ridley Scott’s Alien which was written by Dan O’Bannon and originally titled Starbeast. There are quite a few similarities that one cannot shake as there is a crew going to a seemingly desolate planet on a mission to find and recover either the crew or the story behind what happened to them. Both of them feature aliens that attack the crew but only one of them has a sex scene between a one ton rubber maggot and a naked lady, I will let you guess which one legendary producer Roger Corman had his influence on.
We start on the planet Xerxes, an Earth-like planet where two individuals are engaged in some weird ass game of chess with asteroid level graphics. One of them is Mitri, an old witch looking woman who is playing against The Master whose identity is covered by a floating red ball of light. The Master instructs one of his military commanders to send a ship out on a rescue mission to the planet Morganthus for a ship that has disappeared. Sounds familiar right? Well, without the weird ball of light head puppet master dude calling the shots but this does sound a lot like Alien right out of the gate. Where Galaxy of Terror goes is much, much weirder than Ridley Scott’s exercise is claustrophobia and fear could ever hope to go. In this version of space, no one can hear you scream as you die from a fatal orgasm. I’m not making this shit up, I promise! We meet the crew of the space ship Quest: Commander Ilvar (Behrens) leads the expedition under The Master’s direction. Captain Trantor (Zabriskie), a tough as nails pilot who was the lone survivor a terrible crash a few years prior, Cabren (Albert), our dashing hero and love interest of Alluma (Moran), the ship’s empathy because you need a psychic in space. Then we have Ranger (Englund) who is a technical officer which means he flips lots of switches and pushes buttons to make the ship do stuff (and there are A LOT of switches and buttons, it instantly ups the science factor in your low budget sci-fi flick) and his partnet is the alluring Dameia (O’Connell) who eventually succumbs to the sexiness of a slimy space maggot. There is Quuhod (Haig) the muscular stoic who ‘lives and dies by the crystal’ which are two shurikens he wields in lieu of fancy space laser guns. Baelon (King) is supposed to be the leader but almost instantly loses his cool when shit hits the fan for the crew. There is Kore (Walston) who is there as the cook but seems to have something else going on with those piercing stares he gives Capt Trantor and, finally, we have Cos (Blessing) the typical scaredy cat of the bunch who is one of the first to get killed. As with most Corman/New World Pictures flicks, there is also among the production crew at least one name of future stardom and this time around it is none other than James Cameron. His second film with Corman after Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and these early gigs would later serve Cameron well when he goes on to direct Aliens in 1986, which also has similarities to this movie and some of the world building techniques on display in this flick. As the crew sets out to uncover what happened on Morganthus they come across a massive pyramid structure and, foolishly, decide that’s where we will find our answers. Ilvar decides he is the one to go first and repels down a tunnel only to find out that there are worm-like critters waiting to try and suck him dry as he descends further into the pyramid. What you don’t realize until the end is that this place is using the individual fears of the crew against them to manifest their own means of demise which is how we get the massive, horny space maggot that humps Dameia to death. This scene came about because Corman promised the backers of the film a sex scene involving O’Connell and decided to rewrite her death so that she would be confronted by a monster created by her own subconscious (complete with grabby tentacles) that strips her before humping her to death. At first, I was confused as to why her clothes were being torn off in jump cuts and her screams became moans until I saw the thrust of the maggot, then it all came together and I had to admire Corman for his work. The guy knows what keeps asses in seats and a rape scene by a space maggot will definitely get folks talking and earned the movie an initial X rating.
Galaxy of Terror is one of those movies that you know what you’re getting when you see the poster as that was a common strategy for Corman to employ. He would start with an image and say, “I want to make THAT movie.” and the result is an entertaining ride with some ingenious camera work (credit to Cameron as he was 2nd unit director) and a movie that you will not forget. I mean, you’ve got Sid Haig brooding in the background and Robert Englund among the cast! What’s not to love? And c’mon, let’s be honest, someone says this movie has a horny space maggot, you’re gonna want to check it out.