Friday, October 12, 2012

B-Movie Appraisal: Galaxy of Terror (1981)

In taking some time to research this movie I found that a clip of this film is on a DVD entitled "The 50 Worst Films Ever Made." This is so untrue that I don't even know how to take that seriously at all. Roger Corman certainly has a stigma for his movies, but this Roger Corman directed space horror film is not even a slightly bad film. It is a very good film. Yes, there is some roughness around the edges, the acting isn't always stellar, the sets and creatures are kind of ridiculous looking at times, and the plot leaves a lot to be desired, but this movie works very well for what it is.

And what it is is B-movie schlock. Or that's what it should be. That's what people think it is. That's what it's promoted as. That's where this movie's heart lies. But in reality it works really well as something other than just a crappy horror film. It has a heart to it, and that really makes all the difference in the world. It seems like the people involved actually cared about this film, obviously to varying degrees, but the attention to characters and details and just the quality that came out of this movie shows the quality of care put into it. I don't usually talk about stuff like this with movies, but it's impossible not to with this one. It works in so many more ways than I would have expected, being both subtle and different than many other things I have seen. It has visceral imagery and scenes (and gore effects in those scenes) that work a heck of a lot better than I would have ever thought they could. The movie even looks better (with a few obvious exceptions) than a lot of CGI effects from newer movies. I find that fascinating how something like this can actually look better than newer movies too. It's pretty neat. The worst effect in the movie is arguably the one that should have looked better, the Master's glowing face. I have no idea what a master is and why he has a red lightbulb for a head, but there it is, and it isn't a good effect.

As for characters, most of them are well done. Each has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and the acting of each and every character carries some emotional depth if not the stellar acting capabilities of a Grade A film. Special mention goes out to Robert Englund as Ranger, Grace Zabriskie as the ship's captain, Trantor, and Taaffe O'Connell as Dameia. Robert Englund shows his acting chops before becoming famous for portraying Freddy Krueger in the Friday the 13th series of movies. He comes off as intelligent and willing to do anything to survive. He's the first character who survives his fear. Grace Zabriskie is fantastic as a captain who has clearly lost whatever sense she had. She very definitely has PTSD,and her acting may very well be the best in the movie. Taaffe O'Connell is an honorable mention because of the famous scene she has, the worm rape scene, which may in fact be the sole reason that the movie was so badly received. The other actors all do a fine job with Edward Albert, Erin Moran from Happy Days fame, and Ray Walston as the lead characters, but they don't go over and above in their acting like the three I mentioned previously do.

The movie's premise is basically that the ship Quest is sent to the planet Morganthus for the purpose of rescuing a crew stranded on the planet. The crew is found to be dead, but the Quest is stranded on the planet until all the bodies are recovered... or something. Anyway, the planet has a weird effect of showing the characters their worst fears and then killing them with those fears. That's the main premise of the film, and each character has to either survive their fears, mastering their own mind, or succumb to their fears. Later it is learned that the entire planet is a trial and a test to find the next Master. The story is pretty simple, but works quite well.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. The famous worm rape scene was probably the hardest part to watch, but most of the film has some great effects. The gore is well done. The costumes are pretty good. The ship looks good. The environments look good. The actors are good. Hell, there is little about this movie that I would say is bad. I have no idea how this movie found its way on a list of the worst of all time. I'm sure I can name way too many movies that I've seen even semi-recently that are so much worse than this one. I can't even think of negative things to really even point out. Most of the movie is quality inside and out. I have to recommend this film, especially if you like the B-movie styled films, but even if you don't it's a pretty good movie to watch. Not too many scares really, but the gore and the effects will certainly be enough to show a pretty good adventure.

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