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  Galaxy of Terror Fear Is The Key
Year: 1981
Director: Bruce D. Clark
Stars: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Robert Englund, Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Grace Zabriskie, Taaffe O'Connell, Sid Haig, Jack Blessing, Mary Ellen O'Neill
Genre: Horror, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A previous expedition to the planet of Morganthus has mysteriously disappeared, so the Master has ordered another one out to the barren world to take its place. The crew of the spacecraft Remus assemble and their Captain (Grace Zabriskie) is eager to set off, so gives them a thirty second countdown to get to their seats and strap themselves in. They just make it, the ship blasts off into space, and that's not all, as the Captain almost immediately sends the Remus into hyper-jump to reach the planet all the faster. The crew grumble, but are aware of her past experiences as the only survivor of a disaster in space and put up with her behaviour. Soon they are close to Morganthus and ready to attempt a landing...

Written by the director Bruce D. Clark and Mark Siegler, Galaxy of Terror was one of the last productions from producer Roger Corman's New World which had been so successful throughout the nineteen-seventies. But now the era of home video had dawned, and most of the future Corman presentations were to be found there. This film was obviously inspired by the success of Alien, but where that had just the one creature wandering around picking off the crew, this film has a whole host of ways for its crew to die, not just the more traditional threat of rubber monsters so it's in no way a rip-off, perish the thought.

That crew don't get much in the way of characterisation to handle, so can be broken down into the tough ones, the scared ones, the one who just might know what the hell is going on, and so forth. The Rebus crash-lands on the planet's inhospitable surface and they spot the wreckage of the previous ship through the gloom, so go off to investigate - the budget evidently didn't stretch to spacesuits, so presumably the atmosphere is just fine on Morganthus if you're thinking of holidaying there. Once on board, they find what crew there is dead and no clue as to how they died; they also have a habit of blowing up any bodies they stumble across - haven't they heard of post-mortems?

Whatever killed the last crew is still around, as we see when a jittery individual is eaten by something in the shadows. Quite a lot of this film takes place in the shadows, either to step up the creepy ambience or to hide the cheapness of the sets, as the actors walk down the same corridor for the umpteenth time, pretending that it's a different one. The sensible thing to do would be to leave as soon as possible, but with some people unaccounted for, they must stick around to be killed off in increasingly unlikely ways. Then they discover the huge pyramid nearby and realise that whatever the secret of Morganthus is, it must be housed there. But will it be revealed before they're all dead?

Will it be revealed at all, for that matter? Galaxy of Terror aims for a mysticism it doesn't earn, as it's plainly a showcase for special effects. Some of the cast have cult status such as Robert Englund (who, amazingly, doesn't die here) or Sid Haig which gives the film points of interest, along with featuring early work by James Cameron, and a few of the deaths are unusual enough to be memorable, including flying tentacles, Joanie from Happy Days exploding or a rape courtesy of a giant maggot, but the overall gloom offers no reaction but "So what?" It turns out that it's the crew's own fears that are their downfall, a development that wouldn't have been out of place in an episode of Star Trek, but here simply demonstrates the paucity of imagination. And what the significance of the final sequence is, could be anybody's guess, it looks as if there was a scene missing. Music by Barry Schrader.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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