Galaxy of Terror Poster

Galaxy of Terror (1981) Review

Galaxy of Terror was one of the more infamous films to come from the late Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. A knockoff of Alien disguised with some New Agey talk of crystals and oracles and populated with an impressive “B” movie cast, it would probably be remembered now for having future director of blockbusters James Cameron (Aliens, Avatar) pulling double duty as a set designer as well as second unit director and future actor Bill Paxton (Twister, Frailty) among the set decorators.

But a last minute decision by Corman himself to change the fate of Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell, New Year’s Evil, Dismembered) from being eaten by a giant worm to being terminally ravaged by it, probably due to the success of the previous year’s Humanoids From the Deep, secured the film an entirely different, and probably longer lasting, place in history.

Mitri, The Oracle of the Game (Mary Ellen O’Neill, Battle Creek Brawl, Van Nuys Blvd.) is in consultation with the strange being known as the Planet Master when Commander Ilvar (Bernard Behrens, The Changeling, Waking the Dead) appears on the video screen to tell them that the Remus has crashed on the planet Morganthus. This seems to please The Master, who orders him to get ready to lead a rescue mission.

Galaxy of Terror 2

The mission gets off to an ominous start when Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie, Servants of Twilight, The Grudge) suddenly announces they’re taking off in thirty seconds, sending the crew of The Quest scrambling to get safely strapped in.

And what a crew it is, there’s the token alien Quuhod (Sid Haig, Black Mama, White Mama, Abruptio), the rookie Cos (Jack Blessing, Spirit of ‘76, The Last of His Tribe), cook Kore (Ray Walston, My Favorite Martian, Blood Salvage) and Baelon, played by Zalman King who a few years later would trade acting in films like Blue Sunshine and Trip with Teacher for directing the likes of Wild Orchids and The Red Shoe Diaries.

There’s also Cabren (Edward Albert, Mimic 2, Midway) and Alluma (Erin Moran, Happy Days, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star), who have some history. Rounding it out is Ranger (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story) and the previously mentioned Dameia. That’s a great cast for a drive-in film like this.

Galaxy of Terror 3

The script, by Marc Siegler (Naked Angels, The Ski Bum) and director Bruce D. Clark (Naked Angels, Hammer) starts out with a lot of potential, a tractor beam forcing The Quest down to the planet’s surface. Now they not only have to find the Reemus, they have to find the source of the beam if they want to leave the planet. And that means investigating the pyramid they see off in the distance.

Unfortunately, once they send a team to check out the pyramid, Galaxy of Terror’s script gives up on concepts like logic and consistency and concentrates on finding nasty ways to dispatch the crew of The Quest. And it certainly succeeds at that as heads explode, people burst into flames, get killed by their own severed arm, and of course, run afoul of deviant worms. It certainly can’t be accused of not delivering what the audience for an “R” rated horror film was looking for.

It delivers those scenes with effects that were quite good for their time, too. Scenes of a shard of one of Quuhod’s crystals moving under somebody’d skin, a charred but still living body, assorted laser blasts, and the film’s multiple monsters have all held up surprisingly well.

Galaxy of Terror 1

It certainly aged better than the goofy, pseudo philosophical dialogue several of the characters spout when trying to explain what is going on. Most of the dialogue in Galaxy of Terror is pretty bad, Sid Haig allegedly only has one line of dialogue because he refused to say the rest of what was written for his character. But when the characters try being profound, it sounds like a bad attempt to imitate The Force, and Mitri feels like she wandered in from one of the weaker Dune sequels.

Thankfully, Galaxy of Terror’s cast throw themselves into their roles, which helps to take some of the edge off of the cheesy dialogue. And I’m most of the audience wasn’t showing up for that anyway. They wanted scares, blood and, after word go out, one of the more perverse excuses to put skin on the screen.

Watching that scene now, it comes off much less shocking as it did back then, indeed it’s more funny in its obviousness than anything else. What still remains off-putting is the way Dameia’s screams turn to moans about halfway through the scene, as though someone took the term “La Petite Mort” a bit too literally.

Galxy of Terror 7

If that isn’t a red flag for you, however, Galaxy of Terror is one of the better films of its kind. While still obviously a low budget film, it is a Roger Corman production after all, it looks much better than many similar films with mostly convincing sets and plenty of creatures and messy on screen deaths.

Galaxy of Terror has been released on DVD and Blu-ray several times over the years and is currently available on multiple streaming services, including free with ads on Tubi.

YouTube video
Where to watch Galaxy of Terror
Our Score

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top