Roger Corman had a knack for hopping on a major Hollywood trend with a low budget production. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the major studios didn’t release 4,000 prints of their blockbuster. Months would elapse before smaller towns could book the hot title. The citizens of Cowpoke, Wyoming had to be patient to see the film about a group of space travelers being tracked down and killed by an outer space creature. Instead of waiting for Alien, the drive-in could immediately book Galaxy of Terror. It had all the same elements without that pesky major budget. Corman’s production had a cast as famous as the stars of Alien. Maybe he didn’t have Ridley Scott directing, but Corman’s crew included “The King of the World.” Galaxy of Terror: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics shines up the intergalactic weirdness from the crash site.
A spaceship has wrecked on the planet Morganthus. Immediately the rescue ship Quest is launched to save the survivors. What they discover is far more frightening than a single alien with extended jaws. Although before they get to the planet, they live in fear of Captain Trantor (Big Love‘s Grace Zabriskie). She’s out of control when she launches the craft with a 30 second warming and then decides to redo the hyper jump programming. It’s hard to figure out how she was placed in charge of the controls. But it keeps things hopping instead of mired in procedural. Her ship’s crew is loaded with major talent including Erin Moran (Happy Days‘ Joanie), Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) and Zalman King (Red Shoe Diaries). There were more stars in that fake space ship than upon the fake sky shots.
When they arrive on the planet, there’s little doubt that there’s no hope of finding survivors. They quickly discover the menace that lurks on the bleak landscape. The crew find themselves getting picked off in grotesque and disgusting ways. Corman understood that one shocking moment got people excited about his brand of exploitation. The next day, they’d be telling their friends about the jolting scene. For Galaxy, a female member gets sexually assaulted by a giant worm. This is as bizarre to watch as it sounds. This would be terrifying to watch at a drive-in.
What is also shocking is the fact that James Cameron was a production designer on Galaxy of Terror. This was during his pre-Terminator time when he was busting his hump in low budget fare. In a strange way, this Corman production allowed Cameron a chance to understand how an Alien movie should look. This was his pre-production for Aliens. Bill Paxton worked on his crew. Together the duo would become cinema superstars. He also brought along visual effects artists Robert and Dennis Skotak on his journey to box office and Oscar glory. Galaxy of Terror is filled with as many stars as scares. It’s not quite Alien, but it’s worm attack will make you squirm.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The restored transfer really has been restored. You could eat off these frames. The audio is 2.0. The sci-fi score doesn’t step all over the lines of Erin Moran. This looks and sounds better than the budget allows.
Commentary Audio features Taaffe O’Connell, Allan Apone, Alec Gillis & David DeCoteau. They have plenty of stories from the rather brisk production.
Tales from the Lumber Yard: The Making of Galaxy of Terror (62:41) is a very detailed exploration of the film including interviews with Corman, Grace Zabriskie, Sid Haig and Robert Englund. Corman talks about how New World was set up after he broke with AIP. There’s no disguising this film being inspired by Alien. While James Cameron doesn’t appear, plenty of the crew talk about their experience with him. He even ran film for various physical effects. Several of his production staff went on to help him make Aliens so this was a dress rehearsal.
Extensive Photo Galleries Including Posters, Production Sketches And Designs gives a good insight on how the sci-fi film was made on a shoestring.
Trailers (5:58) include the English and German teasers along with the time it was released as Mind Warp. Hell has just been relocated to your nearby cinema.
TV Spots (1:05) focus on Erin Moran in the movie. Joanie meets the alien is the hype.
Original Screenplay (PDF) can be uploaded on your computer. Yes, they really did have a script on the set.
Galaxy of Terror: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics dares to place a galaxy of stars in a film influenced by Alien. There are plenty of creepy thrills as the spacemen fight off an unknown alien force. The massive documentary about the film gives a proper view of how Roger Corman made films at his studio complex.
Shout! Factory presents Galaxy of Terror: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics. Directed by Bruce Clark. Starring: Zalman King, Ray Walston and Sid Haig. Rated R. Running Time: 80 minutes. Released on DVD: July 20, 2010.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.