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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Galaxy of Terror

July 18th, 2010

Galaxy of Terror - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Galaxy of Terror is part of the next wave of Roger Corman releases put out bu Shout! Factory. Roger Corman produced literally hundreds of movies over his career, one that has spanned more than five decades. Among these many, many, many films, there are some very high quality movies, like The Intruder, as well as excellent B-movie films like Death Race 2000. Further down the list are cult status genre films, and worse. So where does this movie fit in his filmography?

The Movie

The film starts with the loan survivor of a crashed spaceship, the Remus, running for his life. After sealing himself in, he momentarily thinks he's safe, only to be killed by an unseen force that throws him around.

We then cut to two people, the Master and the Oracle. When the Master learns the ship crashed on Organthus, she is quite excited and quickly sends a rescue ship, the Quest, to investigate, even though the Oracle warns him of the dangers. Among the Master's handpicked crew are Commander Ilvar, who hasn't been on an active mission in a number of years, but is to lead this crew. His pilot is Captain Trantor, who was the only survivor of The Hesperus, a disaster that happened 25 years ago and that the mere mention of it now causes her look off in the distance and space out. Other crew members include Erin Moran as Alluma, an empath sent to detect any possible survivors. Robert Englund as Ranger, in one of his few pre-Freddy roles. Sid Haig as Quuhod, as the muscle and expert in these crystal throwing stars. Ray Walston as Kore, the ship's cook with an oddly familiar voice. And others.

Once they reach their destination, something pulls them out of the sky and they nearly crash. Finding no survivors on the Remus, their investigation reveals that a strange pyramid near the two ships is responsible for their predicament and they need to figure our what it is and how it works if they are ever to leave. However, when the crew splits up, they begin to see their worst nightmares come true and get killed one-by-one in increasingly gruesome ways.

At least one death scene will cause you to shake your head. And if you've seen the movie, you know what one I'm talking about.

So how is the movie? Well, before I get into that, there are two points I need to make. Firstly, according to Roger Corman, it only cost $700,000 to make, while others estimate it cost between $1 million and $2 million. Even if we take the highest of those three numbers, and factor in 30 years of inflation, we get about $10 million. Factor in improvements in technology, and this film looks great, given all of that. Secondly, it was made in 1980, the year after Alien was released, and yes, there are some similarities between the two films. However, there were probably hundreds of low-budget Alien rip-offs that came out, and a few high-budget ones as well. And quite frankly, 30 years later it actually reminds me more of Event Horizon than Alien anyway.

It does build an atmosphere of suspension and dread better than I was expecting, although it does have a lot of jump scares as well. Some of the acting is also better than you would expect given the genre. Perhaps the ending was a little anti-climactic, but overall it is a solid B-movie picture. Not exactly good, even when compared to Death Race 2000, but it works within its limitations.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with actress Taaffe O'Connell, creature and make-up crew members Allan Apone and Alec Gillis, and production assistant David DeCoteau, who acts as a moderator on the track. The film is 30 years old, but they have a lot of stories to tell and clearly loved their time on the movie. The only other extra on the DVD is a six-part making-of / retrospective featurette that features a lot of the cast and crew. A lot. It runs over an hour long and it is a lot more in-depth than I was anticipating. They spend a lot of time talking about James Cameron, who was the second unit director here and did a lot of the special effects. The DVD also comes with a pamphlet with an essay on the film.

I do not have the Blu-ray, yet, but it does not appear to have an exclusive extras. It also only costs about $5 more, so it's not a bad additional cost. If its technical presentation is solid, then it could be the better deal.

The Verdict

There's no denying that Galaxy of Terror is a low-budget B-movie horror / Sci-fi film. If you are not a fan of these films as a genre, then Galaxy of Terror will probably not change your mind. It's a better than average example of the genre, but it doesn't transcend its limitations. On the other hand, if you are a fan of these movies, then the DVD and Blu-ray are worth checking out, but until the Blu-ray arrives, I can't say for sure which format is worth picking up over the other.

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