October Horrorshow: Galaxy of Terror

Roger Corman is a Hollywood legend. Some of the biggest names in the business went through his gristmill. Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and more, all spent early portions of their careers under Corman. But, I’m not convinced that Corman is a visionary. His flicks represent the basest elements of filmmaking, crafted to make a quick buck, and not much else. Because of that, I would say that I find more Corman influence in films by The Asylum and their ilk, rather than Oscar winners like The Godfather.

Today’s film is a case in point. Corman didn’t direct Galaxy of Terror, the sci-fi/horror shitfest from 1981, but he did produce it. Meanwhile, the fellow who did direct it, Bruce D. Clark, appears to have fallen off the face of the planet after this flick was in the can, if his IMDb page is any indication. This is one of the most inept films I’ve ever seen, so it’s no wonder the work dried up after Clark was done, but his direction was no worse, and no better, than any random Corman flick a viewer could find. The pacing is somnambulistic; the plot is derivative of other works, to the point of outright thievery; the cast is low-rent and awful (although even Meryl Streep couldn’t weave gold thread from this turd); and the entire package looks like it took about five bucks to film.

Galaxy of Terror is a dreadful film, conceived in the bosom of a filmmaker who only rarely tried to make a movie of lasting importance. There is art in film. There is a craft to master, as well. Corman couldn’t be bothered with any of that. Galaxy of Terror is little more than a response to Alien, which was released a couple of years beforehand. It tries to fulfill the public’s wont for more of the same, but does so cheaply and shamelessly.

Sometime in the future, a spaceship carrying some affordable actors in matching beige uniforms is dispatched to an alien planet by the mysterious Master. They end up crashing on the planet. Afterwards, they wander around wearing backpacks with spotlights attached to them, obviously because there was no room in the budget for helmets, and get picked off one by one by an alien monster. There really isn’t much more to it than that. Except for one of the most egregious examples of gratuitous nudity I’ve ever seen in a film.

About halfway through, one of the cast members, Taaffe O’Connell, wanders off and gets attacked by a gigantic maggot. There’s no sugarcoating this. It rips off her clothes and fucks her. Before it smothers her to death, it had her moaning in ecstasy, her slime-covered tits bared for all viewers to see. According to the internet, so it must be true, Corman had promised the film’s backers that there would be a sex scene. There wasn’t one in the screenplay, but the film’s sole buxom blonde was scheduled to die, so Corman inserted some very weird sexuality in the scene. It was tits by opportunity. Knowing its supposed origins makes the scene disgusting. But, at the same time, it’s the most interesting scene in the film, and has to be seen to be believed.

There is a place in film for movies like this. Connoisseurs of shitty cinema, such as myself, don’t shy away from them. We seek them out. Sometimes, as in the case of The Keep, we are pleasantly surprised. Other times, we want to turn away and vomit. I didn’t puke over this flick, but I didn’t find it particularly interesting. I also found it somewhat insulting that Corman and company felt no need to make a better movie, although I am positive they could have. This was just good enough for Clark to pay his rent, Corman to pick up a new Jag, and poor O’Connell to become a presence on the sci-fi convention circuit. Corman never intended his films to have any lasting presence, so I say we should grant him that wish. Stay away from this one. The five minutes of laughs aren’t worth the hour-plus of shit.

Alien: Resurrection is a better film than Galaxy of Terror, by miles. Funny enough, though, James Cameron was the production designer of this flick, and his style becomes apparent in comparison to the future scenes in The Terminator, and the overall look and feel of Aliens. It also drew just as heavily from Alien as the plot. It’s almost as if his work here was an audition for the job directing Aliens. So, as it’s an artifact of cinematic history, maybe this movie does deserve to be preserved…in the back of the movie museum, far away from anyone who could find it by accident.