Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

...aka: Mindwarp: An Infinity of Terror
...aka: Planet of Horrors
...aka: Quest

Directed by:
Bruce D. Clark

Clumsy, badly scripted, Roger Corman-produced space horror is often written off as an ALIEN clone when in fact it has much more in common with EVENT HORIZON, a film that wouldn't even be made until a decade and a half later. Hard to believe that this clunker would go on to be the primary influence behind one of the most popular and well-regarded sci-fi/ horror hybrids of the '90s, but there are way too many similarities between the two not to acknowledge it here. Ten space travelers (a commander, pilot, telepath, cook, etc.) head off to a distant planet to see what became of another crew who disappeared. There they find the first explorers dead in the wreckage of their ship and then make the mistake of entering an ancient structure, which somehow has the power to turn there's worst nightmares into reality. One by one, they latest batch of visitors are killed off in a variety of different ways (and a variety of different beings) until the strongest of the bunch faces his destiny as the building's red-glow faced "New Master."
Edward Albert (as the level-headed Cabren) leads a cast that includes Erin Moran (Happy Days) as a whiny "bio-sensor," Sid Haig as a crystal-obsessed, near-mute guy armed with throwing stars, Robert Englund, who gets to battle a mirror image of himself before mysteriously disappearing from the film, Ray Walston (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH's Mr. Hand and TV's My Favorite Martian), Zalman King (best known for his annoyingly "arty" soft core cable erotica - Red Shoes Diaries, etc.) and Grace Zabriskie, who apparently was being typecast as a nut even at this early stage in her career. Interesting cast, but every single one of them seems completely lost here. The characterization is nonexistent, the dialogue is bad, hilariously overwrought takes were accepted and the character interactions are awkwardly done.

Now this film does have a few very good things going for it. For starters, the art direction, sets and miniature work are all surprisingly solid. This does manages to adequately create that type of other-worldly feel crucial to a film like this. Cinematography is decent, if a bit overly dark at times. There are also some great old school special effects and a nice variety of creatures on display. Everyone's favorite bit seems to when the shapely blonde pilot (Taaffe O'Connell) gets sexually ravaged by a giant space slug. There's also a dismembered living hand, a black creature with large fangs and glowing eyes, some suction cup tentacles and an exploding head to keep you interested.

Quite a few "names" are in the credits. James Cameron (who'd go on to direct ALIENS five years later) was the second unit director and one of two credited production designers; his ALIENS co-star Bill Paxton also worked here as a set dresser. Production manage Aaron Lipstadt would make the great sci-fi sleep ANDROID (1982), which starred Don Opper, the production coordinator here. Future directors Tony Randel (HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II), David DeCoteau (CREEPOZOIDS), Donald Jackson (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN), Ernest D. Farino (STEEL AND LACE), Mary Ann Fisher (LORDS OF THE DEEP) and Rupert Harvey (CRITTERS 4) also worked on it.

Popular enough during its day to prompt a sequel: FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982).


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