|Oct 1 2023
Erin Moran and co-stars have some unhappy days in outer space.
Galaxy of Terror, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1981, was produced by New World Pictures and Roger Corman, and you know what that means—no budget. Corman must have really licked his chops when he heard this pitch. In his genius, he probably realized immediately that he could avoid millions of dollars in costs by making his sets extra cheap and simply bathing them in darkness in order to save on production design. He also went cheap on script, direction, sound, music, special effects, and costuming. The result was one of many terrible outer space movies to hit multiplexes in the wake of Star Wars and Alien. This one is distinct in being influenced by both of those classics while sharing none of their advantages.
The plot deals with an intrepid crew of nine who embark on a military style rescue mission, seeking a ship lost in a distant star system on a planet called Organthus. After various travails, they land on the accursed world, find the lost ship, and make the mistake of entering it. Giant leeches, deadly shuriken, and other horrors bloodily whittle the crew down to an unfortunate few, at which point comes the infamous moment—which may be the only reason Galaxy of Terror is remembered—when poor Taaffe O'Connell is raped and killed by a giant maggot. The mission only goes farther downhill from there as Corman digs deep into the New World prop department for a couple of mothballed monsters to terrorize the survivors.
The thing about science fiction movies back then is that it was impossible to have an inkling of what the end result might be. Basically, the producers said, “Trust us, it'll look good.” The cast of Stars Wars took a leap of faith and were rewarded. The casts of imitator movies hoped to capture the same magic and failed over and over. Galaxy of Terror's budget of five million dollars probably sounded okay, considering Stars Wars cost eleven. The heady desire to roll the dice and hope for the best is probably what enticed co-star Erin Moran into taking a little moonlight ride from her hit television show Happy Days to appear in this turkey. Afterward, she may have considered a lobotomy to help her forget the entire ordeal.
There are, however, a few plusses to Galaxy of Terror. First, young production designer James Cameron probably learned that in sci-fi there's a budgetary floor beneath which disaster is assured, and would later make three of the best and most successful science fiction movies of all time (no, we're not counting Avatar). Second, co-star Zalman King probably realized sci-fi was for suckers, went softcore as a producer and director, and churned out such memorable (and now anachronistic) erotica as Red Shoe Diaries, Two Moon Junction, and Wild Orchid. And third, the poster art by Charo (not the singer) is nice. Also, the movie brought our special consulting critic Angela the Sunbear out of her cave. Watching Galaxy of Terror with her was really fun.
I think the crew should have stayed in hibernation.
New World PicturesGalaxy of TerrorHappy DaysEdward AlbertErin MoranRobert EnglundZalman KingSid HaigGrace ZabriskieTaaffe O'ConnellBernard BehrensRay WalstonRoger CormanJames CameronCharoposter artcinema movie reviewsci-fihorror