This time out… perhaps the oddest choice for a “Lil’ Kitten Classics” review, Roger Corman’s New World Pictures 1981 scifi exploitation film “Galaxy of Terror”. Oh yeah… you all remember this one…. the one with the giant worm raping a female space cadet to death… Definitely a movie not for the kiddies. So why is it a “Lil’ Kitten Classic”?
Our synopsis for it reads: “At the orders of the mysterious “Planet Master”, the rescue vessel “Quest” journeys to the eerie planet Morganthus on a mission to discover the fate of another starship, the “Remus” and her crew that have crash landed on it’s forbidding surface. The hastily chosen crew of “Quest” is ill prepared for the unearthly terrors that await them on Morganthus… Horrors that may only be their in imaginations, or perhaps they are all too real…. and deadly.”
I think I must have been 13 or 14 the year it ran on late night cable TV, but….. well… this one was one of those films lil’ Miyuki wasn’t supposed to see back in the early 80’s… not by any way, shape, or means. Too nasty… too “sexually explicit”…. just not the sort of movie for a child my age. However… I’ve always been a bit of a willful girl, and telling me I wasn’t to watch it only made me want to see it all that much more. One thing about me that neither of my parents ever quite grasped…. With that in mind, I waited patiently until it was being shown on cable, either HBO or Cinemax, I don’t remember which, and promptly set my alarm clock to whatever ungodly hour it was on that night. Hidden away under my pillow, that alarm always managed to wake me, but was never audible even a few feet beyond my bed… Hehehehe!! Sneaky lil’ kitten, wasn’t I?
A quick ninja like scamper downstairs to my dad’s study and his portable TV and I was all set to watch this forbidden piece of cinema fruit. And see it I did… every low budget, creepy, space opera horrific, freaky worm raping minute of it. It was the perfect bit of pre-teen rebellion… That is, until I got caught by my Dad on the way back up to my room at 3 in the morning. D’ohhh!!!
He knew me pretty well…. and also exactly what I’d been up to, and after that day, his study door remained locked at night and I got a stern lecture about how “No really means no, Miyuki…” and was also grounded for a whole month… So, after all that fuss, was the movie even at least worth it?
Only one way to know, Gentle Readers….
This one was available early on on VHS back in the day, but I never saw a copy (and after sneaking around to see it, I was lucky to ever watch TV again….), and it’s been out on DVD in a Region 2 release under it’s other title, “Mind Warp: An Infinity of Terror”, but finally…. after all these years it’s made it’s way back to a brand new Region 1 collector’s edition DVD by Shout Factory. Being a thoroughly grown up woman now, how could I miss picking up a copy for my very own, especially when I found it on sale for a scant 6$ at the Mall? Nope… not bloody likely!!
Now… it has to be said from the start, this one really isn’t the greatest film ever made. Instead, it is fair to say, you get to see absolutely every penny spent to make it right up there on the screen in glorious color where it belongs…. Roger Corman certainly knew how to give you every bit of production value possible on a budget and this one especially benefits from having been produced by him at the peak of the early 80’s exploitation film boom.
Coming as it did, in the wake of Corman’s other big Scifi epic the “Star Wars” inspired clone, “Battle Beyond the Stars” from 1980, this one uses a lot of stock footage from that earlier film but benefits from a slightly bigger budget and the added expertise of a lot of fairly creative people in the early stages of their Hollywood careers, like the young James Cameron as well as future “Nightmare on Elm Street” star Robert Englund. Throw in “Happy Days” star Erin Moran, veteran actor Ray Walston, genre great Sid Haig, along with the then actor, and later director and producer, Zalman King and you’ve got one strange group of talented people to do a film with.
Our story… unfortunately, is perhaps a bit tooooo ambitious for a production of this caliber, and if “Galaxy of Terror” has one overall flaw, this would be it. Right from the start…. we get a great scene involving the last surviving crewman of the doomed Starship “Remus” being hunted through the darkened corridors of his wrecked ship. It’s only a matter of minutes before he meets his grisly end at the hands of some unknown terror….. and then... the plot gets incomprehensible and weird as we flash to another planet where a goofy mystic witch is playing some freaky board game with a guy with a glowing head who’s named the “Planet Master”. Ummmm? Huh?
Well, ol’ “Planet Master” ominously announces “It’s Time”… and promptly orders his minions to throw together a rescue mission to go to Morganthus and search for survivors from the “Remus” made up of his very own hand picked crew. Why? Because… apparently…. that’s just what a guy called “Planet Master” has the job of doing. Yep…. Your Favorite Catgirl can definitely see a big ol’ cosmic screw job coming….. Those poor guys.
So what sort of crew does ol’ “Planet Master” have in mind? Leading things, he chooses Commander Ilvar (played by Bernard Behrens), a guy soooo darn old and worn out I wouldn’t pick him to lead me to the bathroom let alone on a dangerous rescue mission to the edge of Known Space. Our trusty pilot? How about the infamous Captain Trantor (played by Grace Zabriskie), sole survivor from the famous space massacre aboard the “Hesperus” that has left her psychologically traumatized and unstable… and definitely a danger to herself and others. Throw in hunky space hero Cabren (played by Edward Albert), our only stable looking possibility for a hero here, and his old girlfriend, the esper sensitive Alluma (played by Erin Moran), a couple of Tech people Crew chief Dameia (played by Taaffe O’Connell) and her junior sidekick, Ranger (played by Rober Englund), along with the super pain in the butt gung-ho Baelon, the rescue unit’s team leader (played by Zalman King) and the enigmatic mute mystic warrior Quuhod (played by Sid Haig) as well as an over-the-hill ship’s cook, Kore (played by Ray Walston) and you’ll soon wonder what the heck ol’ “Planet Master” was smoking when he put this crewlist together!! Oh…. yeah…. There is one more guy aboard….. Cos (played by Jack Blessing), but if this were an episode of “Star Trek” well…. let’s just say Neko knew right from the start who was wearing the “Red Shirt” on this team.
Captain Trantor gets all crazy… right from the start, doing this nutty seat-of-her-pants Hyperjump and getting all that boring space travel out of the way in… oh.. say, about 2 minutes before the prerequisite “mysterious force” pulls their ship down to the foggy forbidden surface of Morganthus and a big ol’ crash landing. Oops. Her bad. After this, the dynamic of the story shifts to the big pissing match between Baelon and Cabren with Alluma caught in the middle. Luckily… most everybody likes level headed Cabren and can’t stand Baelon, so the mission can proceed for the most part without problems. The wreck of the Remus gets located amid a field of other crashed ships nearby and soon our heroes are hip deep in the investigation of what the heck managed to kill them all. Ah…. and it’s here that poor cowardly rookie Cos runs afoul of some creepy alien beastie that promptly jumps on his back the first moment he’s alone and rips his face off. Bye-Bye Cos….. (Alas poor Cos, we hardly knew ye….)
This just gets everybody’s knickers in a bunch and convinces them they just ought to fix the ship, and then get the heck outta there, but there’s the wee problem of that “mysterious force’…. Doesn’t take long to find that it emanates from a crazy “gigeresque” alien pyramid in the distance, so our trusty spacemen decide to hike over, blasters at the ready, to knock out it’s source and free them to leave. Yeah… that ought to go well, right?
Here the story starts ladling on the gore as our crew all get wiped out, one by one, in a manner most befitting their greatest fear come horribly to life. Commander Ilvar… eaten by slimy vampire tentacles while climbing down a dark tunnel by himself. Stoic Quuhod killed by his own silly crystal shuriken thingees thrown by his very own severed arm. Captain Trantor falling victim to the unknown alien menace that killed the crew of the “Hesperus” all those years before. Alluma being crushed to death in a narrow tunnel by more tentacles. (Whoops! So much for Cabren’s love interest, eh?) Baelon wiped out by some giant alien menace his weapons couldn’t save him from. Ah…. and most infamously…. Dameia raped to orgasmic death by a giant maggot. Probably the single most notable scene in the film, and the one that has kept it in perpetual cult status ever since.
So what the hell is going on? Well… in true Corman fashion, he’s not only ripping off “Alien” in this one… he’s got notions of borrowing from “Forbidden Planet” as well. Seems the big ol’ pyramid is the ancient “toy” of one of those impossibly ancient (and extinct as all hell) alien super races from the dawn of the universe that was used to train their children to overcome fear by making their worst fears become real for them to face and, Neko’s assuming, defeat. What the hell does this have to do with “Planet Master”? Ummmm? Well… apparently you become “Planet Master” by “winning” this goofy and deadly contest just so you can use you new super mental abilities to kill the old “Planet Master” and then take his job till you get bored enough to send some boobs to Morganthus to do the same thing. Errr?? Yeah…. Whatever. At least then your noggin’ glows…. I guess that’s something.
OK, OK…. stupid space opera plot aside… how does this one rate? Well… waaaaaay back when, lil Miyuki was suitably entertained (and just a little embarrassed about having actually watched the worm rape….) but…. by that time I’d already seen some really good films that made this one look silly and cheap by comparison. Getting grounded for watching it didn’t help much, and I remember thinking I’d wished it was better for all the fuss I went through. Still… all these years later, and having watched the truly entertaining “Making of” feature included on the DVD, I’m inclined to be a bit more impressed. There’s a lot about the behind the scenes stuff here that gives you one heck of an appreciation of the craft and hard work it takes to make one of these films on a shoestring of a budget. Also…. with a more seasoned look at it all these years later, I’m actually impressed with the generally quality “look” of the film. These were, after all, the days before digital effects and the stuff we sometimes take for granted in the polished look of a modern film. Even today… over 25 tears later, it still looks surprisingly good for it’s age. Shows you what people can do with sheer talent on their side……. and a whole lot of crap, Hehehehe.
With this in mind, Neko can give “Galaxy of Terror” 3 “Meows” out of 5. Not the best of films, certainly not the worst…. Ahhh, but the memories……. priceless. Silly as it is, it’s still sorta fun….. and that’s what I look for in a movie. So… if your very own favorite frisky lil’ kitten someday sneaks a peek at this film one dark evening when she ought to be snuggled in her little bed, why not cut her some slack… Trust me, she’ll probably be as embarrassed to ever admit she saw the horny maggot monster as I was…..Hehehehe!!
Naturally… there’s a Trailer… and I’d never miss a chance to pounce on it and bring on home for your viewing pleasure, now would I?