Thursday, April 14, 2011

Galaxy of Terror: Crazy Shit in Space

Not a scene from "Star Wars."
As I write this, I find myself suffering from some sort of stomach bug.  Perhaps it's food poisioning.  I have no clue.  I'm not a doctor.  The pain I'm feeling brings to mind a movie I was once obsessed with seeing.  Galaxy of Terror.  If you've seen it, you understand why I thought of it when I was sick.
The reason I was obsessed with this 1981 sci-fi horror film was for one reason and one reason only: the movie poster.  The poster sold this movie.  It had everything a young boy could want to see in a movie.  Skull-faced monsters.  A strange planet.  A female in distress.  A title that dripped blood.  It was, quite simply, really freakin' cool.

It wasn't until the movie came out on VHS that I was lucky enough to see it.  At the time I found it pretty incomprehensible.  I was young.  I understood the worm rape scene that gets a lot of press, but the entire thing was a nightmare of half-baked ideas, special effects that are laughable now (but were pretty cool at the time), and a cast and crew that is memorable in its own right.  The plot involved a giant pyramid, experiments in fear, and pseudo-philosophical nonsense ... at least that's how I remember it.  Looking back at it now, though, shows that it makes a lot more sense than the Scream franchise.

How could I not like it?
The most noted member of the crew other than producer Roger Corman was none other than Mr. Titanic himself, James Cameron.  That's right, Avatar!  The guy behind the big smurf movie was Production Designer and Second Unit Director on this piece of cult cinema.  Wikipedia reports he even figured out a way to get maggots to wriggle on demand.  It involved a metal plate and electric current.  Genius.  But wait, there's more.

The cast reads like a wish list for any film you'd want to make but don't have the money to pay anyone.  Erin Moran! (You know her as Joanie on Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi).  She plays a woman with some kind of mental powers, and spends most of the film looking utterly apeshit insane.  I imagine if you ever need a film where a woman looks nuts all the time, she's your gal.  (Incidentally, I've met Moran and she's kind of a bitch.  I can understand that, though.  If you go from a highly rated sitcom with Opie and Henry Winkler and then wind up in Galaxy of Terror, you'd be kind of a bitch, too.)

Then there's Robert Englund.  Oh yeah, you know the name.  One, two, Freddy's coming for you.  Three, four, better lock the door.  Five, six, grab your crucifix.  Seven, eight, better stay up late.  Nine, ten, never sleep again.  Freddy Krueger himself.  Minus the glove and sweater, though. 

Sid Haig (Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects) rounds out the cast with My Favorite Martian Ray Walston and Laura Palmer's mother on Twin Peaks, Grace Zabriskie.  Pay dirt.

Forget the fact that the story is a hodge podge of ideas.  Ignore the dated special effects.  What I really want to know is: Why hasn't this been remade yet?  It seems absolutely ripe for the picking by Hollywood, the Land of Remakes and Sequels.  This is tailor-made for it, and quite honestly seems like it may have been ahead of its time.  I'm against remakes, but I'm sure if one were announced it would drive a whole new crowd to the original (with it's glowing red heads and raping worms), which I fully support.

With exploitation film enjoying a bit of a resurgence in a newer form, Galaxy of Terror could quite possibly bring in some real dough (especially if some enterprising director were to cast Lindsay Lohan, as she was quite enjoyable in Machete). 

Obviously, the poster may have been the coolest part of this film, but there is a part of me that thinks this is pure genius.  I found the clip below on YouTube.  You can really get a good feeling of what the film is like.  Over acting.  Erin Moran's crazy lady eyes.  Surreal sets.  Yeah, it has genius written all over it.

My stomach is still killing me, and I'm still thinking of how the film made me feel back in the day.  I imagine my young, bad self was mightly ticked off at the old bait-and-switch tactic.  I'm sure I didn't understand parts of it (something I'd still have issues with today, I imagine), and the worm scene probably made me uncomfortable at best.  Looking at this cast and crew and what they did and didn't go on to do makes me think that without this film, leads me to believe this movie was special in more ways than we can imagine.

I wonder if Cameron thinks about it anymore?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did NOT get this film to review.  I should probably thank someone for that, as I'm not sure I could really sit through it again.  Clicking on my affiliate links may earn me a commission, which I'm sure will be more than what this movie grossed it's opening 8 weeks ... if it lasted that long.

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