Sunday, October 13, 2013

Horror Thoughts ‘13—Galaxy of Terror (1981) **½

R, 81 min.
Director: B.D. Clark
Writers: Marc Siegler, B.D. Clark
Starring: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Robert Englund, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, Jack Blessing

“Galaxy of Terror” is surprisingly good for an early 80s Roger Corman flick. That might be due to James Cameron’s involvement in the production design and as the second unit director. Cameron would skyrocket to success just a few years later with his first “Terminator” movie. You can see some of his design signatures that are prominent in the “Terminator” movies and “Aliens” in the design of the space ship here, interior and exterior, and the design of the alien pyramid.

Even the elements in which he’s not involved are better than expected for such a low budget endeavor in that day and age. Hollywood was going through a technical revolution with special effects that left many of the low budget indies in the dust production value wise. Yes, it is cheap looking in many ways, but when compared to other low budgets at the time, it’s impressive.

The acting of the two leads here is pretty terrible, but the supporting cast is recognizable and good. Robert Englund had yet to become Freddy Kruger and plays a pivotal role quite effectively. Ray Walston is a veteran master, who somehow ended up in a Corman b-flick and raises its level immensely. Grace Zabriskie might come off as a little too far over the top as an intense pilot, but I think that’s more the fault of the direction than the actor.

The story is good too. It involves a rescue mission to a remote planet, not unlike the one in the “Alien” franchise. What the crew finds when they get there, is terrifying. The dialogue is terrible. The character structure also seems like a product of Cameron, even though he didn’t write the script. The women are independent and strong. The men bicker like children. Rather than waste time developing the characters, they are all recognizable archetypes, which allows the filmmakers to get right to the story and the action. In the end it’s a little too much of a b-movie for me to fully recommend it, but it was better than I’d hoped.

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