Wolf’s Waste Of Space: 1. Galaxy Of Terror (1981)

Director: Bruce D Clarke

Starring: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston

Here we go, the first in a trilogy of space based shenanigans, beginning with a shocker (choose whichever connotation suits yer) from 1981. Generally, if I mention Galaxy Of Terror to anyone, I’ll get one of only two answers: (a) “Never heard of it – is it one of your shitty ‘80’s films?” or (b) “Is that the one where the woman gets raped by a giant maggot?” Yes. And, lord forgive us, yes.

Sometimes known as Planet Of Horrors, at others, Mindwarp: Infinity Of Terror. There have been a number of drafts where I did studiously avoid any mention of Alien or Forbidden Planet (or Planet Of The Vampires, for that matter) but it’s nigh on inescapable: the camera pans across a debris strewn landscape to settle on a crashed spacecraft. In the craft, a man is running around with a mollusc up his arse about something. Luckily, he gets himself locked snug and safe in… well, it looks like the ship’s morgue. Oh dear. Next thing you know, that ‘something’ gets him. Impossible, you say! How did it get in there? A rescue vessel arrives in due course and the intrepid crew go off to investigate, unaware that one of their team isn’t all he seems. Before you can say “monsters from the id” they’re being assailed from all angles. Safe to say the studious Alien-esque build-up shifts into Forbidden Planet territory as their subconscious fears take physical form. Gloop ensues.

It’s a Roger Corman production, but one with a decent budget, no doubt boosted by the relative success of Battle Beyond The Stars. Indeed, some of the design, matte and prosthetic work is of a very high standard (James Cameron, plus Robert & Dennis Skotak worked on it). Nifty set dressing turns the ‘Hadley’s Hope’ interior corridors of the wrecked ship Remus into the streamlined, Ron Cobb aesthetic of the rescue ship Quest. Also check out the doorways, a little nod to the Krell here. I do like the split-level design of the cockpit and the fact that while there is action in the foreground you see a crew member moving around on the upper level, not to mention personnel moving along an adjoining corridor in the background. I bet Clarke was proud of those shots. It just helps sell the idea of a working environment. Prop-wise, my favourite has to be the backpack. No one’s told the crew they’re actually wearing a vacuum cleaner with motorcycle headlights plonked on the top. Mind you, they need those headlights to penetrate the constant gloom outside the Quest. At least the dark serves to mask any budgetary shonkiness – though to be fair cinematographer Jacques Haitkin does generate a degree of atmosphere, so kudos to him.

The characters go off to explore the planet Morganthus (the soundtrack suggests the wind doth howl like disembodied voices – quite effective) and find a huge ‘Mayan’ pyramid. Now, you may recall a discarded Alien concept involved a pyramid and the reckless dangling of a crew member into an opening at the top. End result; one fucked up astronaut. I reckon Clarke just thought ‘I’m having that then’ and ran with it. Further interesting design elements are incorporated into the interior of the pyramid. Damp tunnels and tubeways appear almost organic, lined with ‘veins’ and you get the impression the crew could be exploring the inside of a living being. They wander onto a walkway spanning a vast nothingness and are humbly dwarfed by a huge structure of interlaced framework built over misshaped glowing panels. Deeper still, they find transparent walls and a neon triangular ‘door’ – sure this was part of Gary Numan’s stage set, circa-1979! – which deposits our heroes at random points in the maze-like confines. Speaking of triangles, there’s a lot of that tri-imagery going on in the movie…

So, it’s got okay production design and a halfway decent story going for it. Is that enough to float Galaxy Of Terror into the dizzying realms of above average? Sadly, no. The screenplay is all over the fookin place, featuring a wealth of abandoned plot threads and riddled with half-arsed poetry; “The human mind is as dark as Morganthus,” Kore (Ray Walston) intones without qualification. And Commander Ilvar (Bernard Behrens) goes all quasi-Biblical on us; “Doubt is brother demon to despair…” Come again, mate? There appears to be something going on with him and Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell) despite an apparent age gap but this character thread, as with many others, is never explored.

Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie – is she always unhinged?) is a mental case. She’s maybe the victim of a script determined to cram some gripping action into the mix before the spooky creeping about starts. Trantor whirls in and launches the Quest before the crew are even strapped in! They’ve barely survived that when she’s hitting the “ludicrous speed” button just as everybody’s getting unstrapped again! It’s grossly unprofessional. Having reached the planet Morganthus and the ship predictably decides to crash, she just gives up – “There’s nothing I can do.” No fighting to the last second to save the lives of her crew. Fortunately, fate intervenes. The script tells us she was the sole survivor of a massacre on her first mission 20-odd years ago. If you’re looking for an explanation for her behaviour, that’s all you’re getting. There are a couple of moments when you think there’s going to be a flashback but we’re left dangling each time.

It continues; we see that Cabren (Edward Albert) and Baelon (Zalman ‘Softcore’ King) don’t get along. Why not? What happened on a previous mission to drive a wedge between these two fine gentlemen? Did Cabren prankishly rub a whole tub of Maximum Hold Hair Mousse into Baelon’s perm while he was having a kip? And what the fuck is up with Baelon’s limp? Did he hurt his foot during the text book landing (understandable) or has he got a permanent raging stalk-on for Erin Moran? Then there’s Quuhod (Sid Haig), utterly distraught at the destruction of his 3-pointed throwing stars. We don’t know why it’s such a blow to him, except for the one and only mystical line he speaks; “I live and die by the crystals…” Not exactly informative, but blindingly prophetic. ‘Silent’ Sid is at least slightly interesting, unfortunately we are left to speculate on what appears to be a possible symbiosis with his throwing weapons.

There are one or two splatterific death scenes; Quuhod is mugged by his own throwing stars. It’s quality, one of them sticks in his arm and when he tries to pull it out, the point breaks off and begins to burrow under his skin. In desperation, he hacks his own arm off to stop the shard burrowing any further. The disgruntled arm responds by lobbing the other star at him. I’m not sure what happens to Trantor, she runs off with a big fuck-off laser cannon under her arm then – poof! – she’s gone up in a flash. Worth it though, for Ranger’s (Robert Englund) reaction – he screams like a big girl’s knickers and bites his fist. And poor old Joanie… sorry, Alluma (Erin Moran) winds up squeezed to death by the suddenly animated wall ‘veins’, all in fantastic, head-popping Goryscope™. I feel sorry for Erin, she spends the entire film with an expression on her face that says, ‘Is this all I’ve got to look forward to now my Happy Days career is over?’ In fact there’s one part when she screams “I hate it!” I don’t think she’s acting.

All of which inevitably brings us to the giant mutant maggot rape. Instead of simply getting chomped as originally scripted, Dameia is assaulted by several tentacles that rip her clothes off, cover her with, errr, slime and hump her to death. Now, if she survives and then later, I dunno, starts convulsing and is eaten from the inside out by mutant maggot spawn, there’s a point. Here, there is none; she’s found dead, lying naked in a puddle of sticky stuff. It’s purely exploitative. Clarke doesn’t even have Dameia kicking and screaming to get away, instead suggests borderline pleasure and she virtually dies in orgasm. Well dodgy, that. I say Clarke, but there is a rumour that a certain James Cameron directed this scene. I’ve always called bullshit on that – but just compare the composition of Dameia backing up and turning slowly as the giant maggot looms unseen behind her to the shot in Aliens, of Dietrich unknowingly backing into a xenomorph at the onset of the first battle. Come on, Jim, spill the beans…

I’ve just remembered something else; when they find a victim from the Remus, the crew incinerate them on the spot. Shouldn’t they be conducting autopsies on the bodies to establish what happened to them? There’s more illogical daft stuff with a rookie crewman. Clearly, this nervy kid needs a steadying influence beside him. Not according to the security chief, that limping, perm-headed nitwit Baelon. He sends the rookie off to search the bowels of the Remus alone. Not surprisingly, he starts coming apart faster than Don Murphy in a cake shop. That’s another thing, while I’m at it; Baelon, Cabren, Quuhod… There is a “human” reference in the script but these character names are anything but. They sound very 1950’s sf and may be a homage to that era.

Anyway, it all becomes fairly incomprehensible. The pyramid is some kind of training ground of the mind for the children of an alien species (fookin hell, Paul WS Anderson – is AvP a loose remake of this?), overseen by The Master. What is The Master’s relationship to the crew and the planet Morganthus? I could try, but I can’t be bothered. Cabren, irritated by the loss of his crew mates, takes the entity on. His dead crewmates (and their manifestations) show their appreciation by tag-teaming against him. It’s really quite nonsensical; they completely overpower him, but then disappear – so he gets up again! Besides, Ranger is the first to work out what’s going on, how come it isn’t him up there challenging The Master?

Worst of all, Galaxy Of Terror is devoid of humour and I think it’s because Clarke wanted to make a serious psychological horror movie. But those lofty ambitions tend to get scuppered when one includes an unnecessary tentacular assault. The cast don’t look like they’re having any kind of fun at all so crap acting might be a product of disenchantment. One or two other worthy names in the credits, as well as Cameron and the Skotaks, you’ve also got Aaron Lipstadt and Don Opper who went on to make the superb Android. Bill Paxton is rumoured to have been an uncredited set dresser.

So, despite them trying to make it about the horror of the mind, Galaxy Of Terror will always be ‘that movie where the woman gets raped by a giant maggot’.

Tune in next time (somebody, please) for another entirely coincidental Corman production that bears no resemblance to Alien whatsoever…

See the stunning Galaxy Of Terror trailer here – http://tinyurl.com/39umuek

Or watch in full here http://tinyurl.com/34uk6op

Cheers, folk.

ThereWolf,  May 2010

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About ThereWolf

I only come out at night... mostly...

40 responses to “Wolf’s Waste Of Space: 1. Galaxy Of Terror (1981)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Oh fuck. I think I’ve seen this.

    And it is terrible

  2. Jarv says :

    I didn’t know that about the pyramid. That explains where that fucking hack PWSA nicked it from for the AvP abomination.

  3. xiphos0311 says :

    Mark me down as a never heard of it. Also mark me down as not going to see it. Thanks for taking one for the team.

  4. xiphos0311 says :

    BTW it reads just fine.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Thanks, Xi.

      I think it’s the ‘maggot rape’ paragraph that’s bugging me. I seem to be implying there’s a “point” to rape if we see a result.

      That’s not what I’m saying. The scene shouldn’t exist; she should’ve been offed like the others.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I just reread the paragraph and it doesn’t read like the rape has a point. from the outset you say it doesn’t.

        one thing that struck me on second reading was the Cameron reference. The tell tale sign of Cameron’s involvement would have been if everything looked blue.

      • Jarv says :

        Well, erm, from a narrative point of view there can be a point to rape- Straw Dogs etc.

        The paragraph reads like the rape is completely gratuitous and pointless, which is I think what you were going for.

      • ThereWolf says :

        I was going for that. I’m overthinking the paragraph.

        Overthinking a Corman production… deary me.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Sure Jarv from a narrative point of view rape can have point, to further a story, but in the specific case of Wolf’s paragraph he made it clear that this particular one didn’t serve to further the narrative and it was entirely gratuitous.

  5. lordbronco says :

    I will also chime in on the piece reading quite well. Of Course sometimes I zone out on Jarv and Droid talking about cricket as a sort of transcendental meditation tape wordtrack. So soothing…

    • ThereWolf says :

      Cheers, Lb.

      Cricket – I was once supposed to turn out for an open day at Lancashire CCC to show off me bowling skills. I didn’t get off the bus, carried on into town instead and hung around record shops.

      I disappointed a few folk that day. But that’s me – disappointing. I really didn’t want to play cricket. I’m a silly cunt, I should’ve gone – but I was young and headstrong, I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do! I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody…

  6. Tom_Bando says :

    This has Erin Moran and a big alien bug rape scene….Oookayyyyy. Wolfey here took one for the team-he’s been learning from Jarv here of late I see.

    Egads.

    I wouldn’t watch this one. Sounds lousy. I would however watch ‘Ape’ which is a sad commentary on my bereft place in life. Wind up cows are your friends.

    • ThereWolf says :

      ‘Ape’ – man in a gorilla suit wrestling a shark, that one?

      If you can watch that, Tom, you can make it through ‘Galaxy’ unscathed – just to see Joanie get squished.

      But I would take ‘Ape’ over ‘Galaxy’ any day of the week.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Ape has Joanna Kerns too-don’t forget. You get your sit-com starlet boost right there.

        Ape also has the infamous battering ram scene(TM), the miniature city set that was made too well so the Ape couldn’t Kaiju his way thru’em, only poke out the windows-and of course, that there little shark rasslin’ session, too.

        Toy boats are your friends.

  7. MORBIUS says :

    Wassail Wolf…

    Can’t seem to place this one, thought I’d seen it ages ago but…

    Is there a scene with 2 chicks in a steam room and some alien ooze dripping down on them…?

    What are the other two titles in your trilogy?

    No to worry mate, nice article, reads well.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Yo, Morbius! Thanks, fella.

      The one you’re thinking of is ‘Forbidden World’ – which just so happens to be next!

      The other one will be ‘Inseminoid’… I know, I know, it’s all alien rape with me!

  8. Continentalop says :

    ThereWolf, regarding James Cameron directing parts of this. I heard that he did second units on the maggot scene.

    Supposedly he was trying to get the maggots to squirm and couldn’t, so he hooked up a battery to where the maggots where. Right before they started shooting Roger Corman and some other “execs” from New World Pictures came around to see how everything was doing and came just in time to see Cameron yell out “action” and watch the worms wiggle on cue.

    Roger thought that any man who can get worms to act on cue has what it takes to be a directing. Thus eventually unleashing Piranha 2: The Shittening on the world.

  9. Droid says :

    Sweet jesus this movie sounds awful. So I will amuse myself with a quote from one of my favourite comedies which you so nicely referenced…

    Colonel Sandurz: Prepare ship for light speed.
    Dark Helmet: No, no, no, light speed is too slow.
    Colonel Sandurz: Light speed, too slow?
    Dark Helmet: Yes, we’re gonna have to go right to ludicrous speed.

    Dark Helmet: My brains are going into my feet!

    • ThereWolf says :

      Cheers for that quote, Droid…

      It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! I laughed so hard I couldn’t draw breath, thought I was going to asphyxiate and die. What a way to go…

    • Tom_Bando says :

      And I, of course, will have to supply my own humourous quotes:

      [after the asteroid landing goes wrong]
      Rockhound: We’re in segment 202, lateral grid nine, site 15H32-give or take a few yards. Captain America here blew the landing by 26 miles!
      Col. Sharp: How the hell do you know that?
      Rockhound: Because I’m a genius.
      Watts: The gauges will not read. They’re all peaked like we’re plugged into some magnetic field.
      Rockhound: [sarcastically] Who on this spaceship wants to know why?
      Gruber: By all means.
      Rockhound: The reason we were shooting for grid eight was because thermographics indicated that grid nine was compressed iron ferrite…which means you’ve landed us on a goddamn iron plate!

    • Tom_Bando says :

      Oh and I like this one, too…

      Rockhound: “Hey, Harry.” Harry: “Yeah, Rock?” Rockhound: “You know we’re sitting on 4 million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon, and a thing that has two hundred and seventy thousand moving parts, built by the lowest bidder…makes ya feel good, doesn’t it-“

      • ThereWolf says :

        “No nukes, no nukes, no nukes…”

        “Got any more bullets in that gun, Sharp?”

      • Droid says :

        A.J.: You know what I was thinkin’?
        Grace Stamper: What?
        A.J.: I-I really don’t think that the animal cracker qualifies as a cracker.
        Grace Stamper: Why?
        A.J.: Well cause it’s sweet, which to me suggests cookie, and, you know, I mean putting cheese on something is sort of the defining characteristic of what makes a cracker a cracker. I don’t know why I thought of that, I just…
        Grace Stamper: Baby, you have such sweet pillow talk.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      [The team are listing their conditions for going on the mission]
      Truman: So what’s the verdict?
      Harry Stamper: They’ll do it. They’ve made a few requests though.
      Truman: Such as?
      Harry Stamper: [riffles through sheets of paper] Well, there’s uh, few things here, uh… nothin’ really big, uh, just- Well, as an example, uh, uh, Oscar here, he’s got some outstanding parking tickets. Wants them wiped off his record.
      Oscar: [shouting from balcony] Fifty-six tickets in seven states…
      Harry Stamper: [to Oscar] I’ll-I’ll tell ’em Oscar, you got it.
      Oscar: Okay.
      Harry Stamper: Uh, Noonan’s got two women friends that he’d like to see made American citizens no questions asked. Max would like you to…bring back eight-track tapes. Not sure if that’s gonna work, but, uh, let’s see what else. Um, Chick wants a full week’s Emperor’s Package at Caesar’s Palace. Um – hey, you guys wouldn’t be able to tell us who actually killed Kennedy, would ya? [Truman and the General look at him, Harry turns and shakes his head] Um, Bear would like to stay at the… [tries to read writing] “White horse”? [looks up at Bear]
      Bear: White. House. White House.
      Harry Stamper: White House. Yeah, he’d like to stay in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House for the summer. Stuff like that.
      Truman: Sure, I think we can, uh, take care of… some of that.
      Rockhound: [shouting from balcony] Harry!
      Harry Stamper: [motions back at Rockhound] Yeah one more thing, um…none of them wanna pay taxes again. Ever.

      • ThereWolf says :

        “For God’s sake think about what you’re doing. Why are you listening to someone that’s a hundred thousand miles away? Nobody down there can help us. So if we don’t get this job done then everybody’s gone. I have been drilling holes in the earth for 30 years and I have never, never missed a depth that I aimed for. And by God I ain’t gonna miss this one. I will make 800 feet.”

        “You swear on your daughter’s life, on my family’s, that you can hit that mark?”

        “I will make 800 feet.”

        “Then let’s turn this bomb off.”

  10. Droid says :

    That fist biting at the bottom is classic. Is that a gif?

    • ThereWolf says :

      It is. I’ve forgotten where I found it now – should we give a credit for stuff like that?

      It didn’t work in Word so I was pleasantly surprised to see it work here.

      • Jarv says :

        Don’t bother. I don’t if I steal something.

        If anyone complains, we can always take it down.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Fair enough. I feel quite guilty when tracking down movie stills. I’d like to do my own screen grabs and stuff but I’ve neither the software nor the talent.

      • Jarv says :

        The easiest piece of software to use is classic media player- it’s free as well. I then use photoshop to fix them up- that isn’t free.

      • ThereWolf says :

        My PC won’t play DVD’s, not since it carked & got repaired.

        Tried putting a VCL player on it but that wouldn’t play multiregion discs, plus it wasn’t very intuitive.

        I’ve got something called ‘photostudio’, not photoshop, and you may have noticed I’ve discovered how to put captions on the pictures. How long did it take me to work that one simple thing out…

        No talent.

  11. just pillow talk says :

    I’ve never seen/heard of this either, so…

    “Before you die there is something you should know about us, Lone Star. ”

    “What?”

    “I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.”

    “What’s that make us?”

    “Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.”

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