Monday, November 19, 2012

Galaxy of Terror (1981)


Galaxy of Terror (1981) - Movie review plus screencaps:
Galaxy of Terror

You Have Been Warned

"What the FUCK am I watching?"  This is a question I asked myself time and time again as I watched "Galaxy of Terror."  There are movies that are just plain bad.  There are movies that are so bad, they actually become kind of entertaining because of it.  And then there are movies that are so bad, you just sit there, with your mouth hanging open, and say, "what the FUCK am I watching?"
The Planet Xerxes
Now, granted, it's an Alien rip-off produced by Roger Corman.  It's got an "all-star" cast that includes Erin "Joanie from Happy Days" Moran, and Ray "My Favorite Martian" Walston.  So I didn't go into this flick expecting a cinematic classic.  But I had no idea it was going to be as bad as it was.  This movie is so bad, it's almost awe-inspiring.
Joanie Cunningham in Space
I'm basically going to recap the entire movie in this review, because there are just so many insane things in the movie, and I don't want to miss my chance to criticize any of them.  But if you haven't seen the movie yourself, you might want to skip this if you don't want the plot spoiled for you.
My Favorite Martian
The film begins on an alien planet, in what appears to be a crashed starship.  There is a terrified man running around on this ship in a blind panic, his jaw hanging open, his head constantly swiveling back and forth.  This guy's acting was so bad, that I honestly thought it was a joke.  I figured that the camera was going to pull back and reveal that the real characters were watching this on TV or something.  But after I stopped laughing, I realized the guy was still on the screen.  This was no joke, it's the actual movie.  I guess they blew their acting budget on "big name" stars like Joanie Cunningham, and just had to pull random people off the street for the smaller parts?  That's kind of the only explanation that makes sense, because there is NO WAY that the guy on the screen is any kind of professional actor.
Wide Open Mouth = "Acting"
The next scene brings us to another planet as a woman narrates, "Xerxes.  A small world on the fringes of occupied space.  I am Mitri, The Interpreter of the Signs, The Oracle of the Game.  I play at the bidding of the All-Powerful One, Planet Master of Xerxes."  It seems a bit corny, but it's important that we know who Mitri is, because:
  1. We never see her again, and 
  2. She doesn't narrate any other scene in the movie.
Umm, wait... that doesn't actually make any sense.  Never mind?
Atari Time
 Anyhoo, as the scene begins she is playing a video game with the Planet Master.  Yes, the "Game" in question that's she is the Oracle of is a TABLETOP ARCADE GAME.  Like the kind they used to have in bars and pizza places in the 1980s.  Mitri is a shriveled up old witch lady.  The Planet Master is a man in a black robe, with a glowing aura of red light that completely obscures his face, and a weird, modulated voice.  I guess he's, like, the Emperor of Xerxes or something, it's not entirely clear.  Now I'm confused, because I thought I was watching a rip-off of "Alien," but this guy seems more like a third rate "Darth Vader."
The Planet Master
Their video game play is interrupted by a message from one of the Planet Master's military commanders on his video phone (which makes sound effects stolen from the sick bay beds on Star Trek).  The military man, Commander Ilvar, informs the Planet Master that the spaceship has crashed on the planet Morganthus, and they have lost all contact with it.  "Morganthus," enthuses the Planet Master, "at last!"  The Planet Master than instructs Commander Ilvar to leave at once on a rescue mission, for which the Master himself will select the crew.  So mysterious!
Watching TV
Next, we come to the rescue ship, as the crew makes it's way on board.  Suddenly the ship's captain, Trantor (played by Twin Peak's Garce Zabriskie) announces over the intercom, "lift-off in thirty seconds."  Thirty seconds?  But no one is ready!  Now everyone is freaking out and running to strap themselves in before it's too late.  Then, as soon as the launch into space, the captain overrides the series of pre-programmed jump coordinates that would have eventually gotten them to Morganthus safely, and instead jumps directly to the planet, which I guess is super dangerous.  This is a way for the writers of this picture to let the audience know that Trantor is crazy.  Just in case it still wasn't clear, at various other points in the film, they have her abruptly stare off into space in mid conversation and whisper things like, "They're out there!"  Seems a bit over-the-top, but it's important that we know she is crazy because of the big effect it has on the plot, which is,,,  umm... actually it doesn't effect the story at all.  Never mind?
Commander Ilvar and Captain Trantor on the Starship Bridge
In addition to Commander Ilvar and Captain Trantor, the rest of the crew includes:

  • Baelon, the military team leader, played by Zalman King (star of the cult movie Blue Sunshine, and later a soft-core "erotica" director).  Baelon is a hot-headed, "shoot first and ask questions later" type.
  • Alluma, the ship's empath/telepath, played by Jonnie Cunnigham of Joannie Loves Chachi "fame."   The alien presence on this planet cancels out her powers, making her character completely useless, except as love interest for...
  • Cabren (in case you haven't noticed yet, every character in this movie has a "far-out" space name), the ship's random dude, played by Edward Albert Jr. (his dad, Eddie Albert, was the star of Green Acres).  Cabren stays cool in the face of danger, and he has a luxurious, "Magnum P.I." style mustache.
  • Quuhod, played by Sid Haig (he played the evil space villain "Dragos" on Jason of Star Command).  Quuhod is some kind of warrior-monk or something, it's not exactly clear.  Quuhon has a beard, and instead of the laser guns everyone else uses, he has a sweet pair of crystal ninja stars that he throws at everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING).
  • Dameia, the ship's hot-blonde-who-will-do-nude-scenes, played by Taaffe O'Connell.  She performs an autopsy, so maybe she's a medical officer?
  • Ranger, some other random guy.  He's played by Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger!).
  • Kore, the ship's cook, played by Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian, Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgmont High).
  • Cos, the frightened rookie, played by Jack Blessing (He's acted in other things, but he's not really famous for anything.  Look him up on the IMDB if you care).   Not to be confused with "The Cos'," played by Bill Cosby (although that would have been awesome).
The Crew
Once they arrive on the planet, some of the crew sets off for the previous ship that crashed to look for survivors.  Inside the ship, they find a dead body.  Acting quickly, Quuhod throws his crystal ninja stars at the dead body!   Next, Baelon shoots the dead body with his laser gun!  It's not clear what either one of these guys are thinking, because either the body is dead, in which case, you don't need to kill it more, or it's alive, in which case, that's one of the guys you are supposed to be rescuing.
Dead Body
At this point, Baelon splits the group up in to three teams to explore the ship.  Cabren and Quuhod (Team Facial Hair) go in one direction, Baelon and Joanie Cunningham go another, and the frighetned rookie kid?  You go off by yourself.  That sound perfectly logical, right?  The rookie kid encounters a giant space cockroach and freaks out and gets scared, the other two teams find nothing (except for some more dead bodies, which Baelon shoots with his laser gun), but they are disgusted by the rookie's fear, and so they leave him alone on the ship.  Then a giant space cockroach eats him.
Attacked By A Space Cockroach
The giant space cockroach is the first in a series of deaths.  One by one the crew starts to get picked off in different, but gruesome ways.  We later learn that the planet is manifesting the crew's own fears, and that this is what is killing them. 

The Rookie's Greatest Fear = Giant Space Cockroach
The Rookie Gets His Face Torn Off
The crew then return to their own ship.  Dameia (The Hot Blonde), and Ranger (aka Freddy Krueger) perform autopsies on the rookie and one of the bodies from the spaceship (the only one left that Baelon didn't disintegrate with his laser gun.  Seriously.), while the rest of the crew watches the autopsies on closed circuit TV.  My Favorite Martian shows up with a cold pitcher of lemonade for everyone to drink, because nothing works up a thirst like watching autopsy videos.
Who Wants Lemonade?
After this, the crew goes off to explore a mysterious spot on the planet and discover a creepy space pyramid.  Naturally, this needs exploring.  So they split into two teams with Comander Ilvar, Hot Blonde, and Cabren and his Mustache on one team, and Baelon, Joanie Cuningham, and Quuhod on another, to try and find an entrance in to the pyramid
Approaching the Pyramid
Commander Ilvar's team discovers a big hole in the pyramid, and Ilvar decides that it would be a good idea to lower him into the hole with a rope.  Once inside, he is eaten by giant space worms.

Commander Ilvar's Greatest Fear = Giant Space Worms
Eaten Alive
Meanwhile Baelon's team discovers the body of one of the other ship's crew, and Baelon immediately starts shooting it with his laser beam.  Then a door starts to open up in the side of the pyramid.  Bear in mind, a door into the pyramid is pretty much exactly what they are looking for.  Acting quickly, Quuhod throws his crystal ninja stars at the door.  I guess this is just his default response to anything out of the ordinary, to throw some ninja stars at it.  Baelon then starts blasting his laser through the door opening, for no particular reason.  I guess maybe he thought there might be some dead bodies in there.
The Doorway
The door continues to open, breaking both of Quuhod's crystal ninja stars that are still embedded in it, and Quuhod is heartbroken, on the edge of tears.  It's important to understand, I'm not exaggerating.  The character is completely devastated, like the ninja stars were his kids or something.  At this point I am so baffled by what I am seeing on the screen.   I mean, it seems like the filmmakers really thought I was going to take this seriously!  That the guy is heartbroken over his ninja stars!  This is one of the moments were I was literally sitting in my chair, yelling at the screen, "what the FUCK am I watching?"
Quuhod Agonizes Over the Loss of His Ninja Stars
One of the characters tries to give him a gun but Quuhod will have none of it, tossing the gun on the ground and exclaiming, "I live and I die by the crystals!"  Quuhod is basically useless now, so the other characters leave him alone to "guard the door."  But, once the other characters are gone, something magical happens!  The pieces of  crystal ninja stars fly back together and reform!  Quuhod is so happy now!  He goes to pick one up, but, naturally, it comes to life and stabs him in the arm.  Then a piece breaks off, and starts burrowing under his skin up his arm.   In order to save himself, he is forced to cut off his own arm!  Ouch!  But then, his severed arm comes to life, picks up a ninja star and throws it into Quuhod's chest, killing him!  This was a hilarious bit of Evil Dead style horror comedy!  It's too bad this film is not supposed to be a comedy.  Oh, well.

Quuhod's Greatest Fear = Getting Ninja Starred to Death by His Own Severed Arm
The Severed Arm Reaches for a Ninja Star
Quuhod's body is then discovered by the Hot Blonde, his arm covered with maggots.  Space Maggots, I guess.  When she's not looking, one of the maggots grows to giant size.  Then, and honestly, I don't like to even type this, the giant maggot tears off her clothes and rapes her.  Even worse, as the scene goes on, there are many lingering shots of her nude body, and she starts moaning in pleasure, as if she is enjoying being raped by a giant maggot.  This was the next time I found myself yelling at the screen, "what the FUCK am I watching?"

Dameia's Greatest Fear = Being Raped by a Giant Space Maggot
Rapist Space Maggot
Meanwhile, back on the ship, Captain Trantor goes crazy and is imagining she is battling a fleet of spaceships that aren't really there.  The she runs into the airlock, and her skin is burnt off, or sucked off, or something.  I'm not really sure what happened to her, but the make-up job afterward looked awesome.

The Captain's Greatest Fear = Having Her Skin Torn Off
Skin Sucked Off
After this, the gang discover the nude body of Dameia, which is covered in maggot slime, or possibly semen.  There are several lingering shots of her naked body.  At this point, I was expecting one of the crew to bend down, check her pulse, or see if she was breathing or something.  Instead, Baelon shoots her with his laser gun.  I guess he figured, "Why take chances?  She's PROBABLY dead, and if there is one thing I'm good at, it's shooting dead bodies!" 

Again, I asked myself, "what the FUCK am I watching?"
Deep Inside the Pyramid
Turns out though, that Dameia's will be the last dead body that Baelon gets to shoot.  In the next scene he is thrown off a bridge by an alien half bug, half rabbit thing (not really sure what it was.  It kind of looked like a really, really, bad attempt at the Alien from the movie Alien).

Baelon's Greatest Fear = Being Thrown Off of a Bridge
Alien Monster
Ranger (aka Freddy Krueger) is forced to fight his own doppelganger.  Now, you might be thinking, "sure the dude is Freddy Krueger, he's one scary futhermucker," but, the thing is, this movie was made several years before Nightmare on Elm Street, and actor Robert Englund minus Freddy kind of seems like a sweet, likeable guy.  So, really not that scary.  Interestingly, Ranger actually survives his encounter, as he is one of the few who realized that the alien intelligence, or whatever it is, is just fucking with him, and stops playing along.

Ranger's Greatest Fear = Himself

Freddy Vs. Freddy
Throughout the movie, there are various moments when Joanie Cunningham is shown to be claustrophobic, so you'd probably think that would be her greatest fear that she has to fight, and it kind of is, I guess.  Towards the end of the movie, she encounters a narrow tunnel.  Naturally, since she is extremely afraid of narrow spaces, she decides it would be a good idea for her to crawl into it.  Umm, wait... that doesn't actually make any sense.  But, she does it anyway.  The tunnel is lined with little rubber insulation tubes, that look like they would contain wiring or something.  Suddenly, the tubes come to life, and strap her down and start constricting around her.  Now, if this happened in real life, the tubes would eventually crush her, and slice through her.  But since this is a crappy movie, her head explodes, like it was a water balloon full of guts.

Alluma's Greatest Fear = Rubber Tubes Squeezing Her Until Her Head Explodes 
The Tunnel
At this point in the movie, there are only three people left:  Freddy Krueger (Ranger), Mustache Chachi (Cabren), and My Favorite Martian/Mr. Hand (Kore).  Freddy Krueger is the only one showing any sense, since he has decided just to kick back and relax, and not fight.  Freddy and Mustache Chachi are kicking back, wondering what happened to Mr. Hand, when he appears on a platform, taunting them.  This pisses off Mustache Chachi, and he goes after him to kick his ass.  Freddy's just like, "good luck with that," and continues to hang out and chill.
Mr. Hand Taunts the Survivors
Mustache Chachi climbs the platform, where he comes face to face with the Planet Master himself!  It was all part of his (planet) master plan!  Suddenly the room is lit up with red light, and Mustache Chachi is forced to face all the monsters that had previously appeared in the movie, like the Rapist Maggot and the Half Bug/Half Rabbit Thing.  However, it turns out that he is some sort of acrobatic kung-fu master, and he wins the fight while doing all kinds of crazy backflips and somersaults and stuff.  His acrobatic kung-fu had me once again exclaiming, "what the FUCK am I watching," although at this point in the movie, it was in between bouts of laughter.
Next, the room is lit by blue light, and he has to face off against zombie versions of of all the dead crew members.  After he dispatches all of them, a bug eyed Joanie Cunningham appears and moves in to kiss him, but it's a trap!  She starts choking him.  But she hadn't counted on his amazing ability to:
  1. Pick up a gun.
  2. Shoot her with it.
 Thus Joanie Cunnigham is also defeated!

Cabren's Greatest Fear = Zombies, and/or Joanie Cunningham

Joanie in Blue
Now, Mustache Chachi is back with the Master and he is pissed, so he SHOOTS LASER BEAMS OUT OF HIS STOMACH, delivering a fatal blow to the Master.  Then he lights up and turns into a cartoon for a second.  Then the Master starts gloating, because (plot twist!) this was all part of his (planet) master plan!  He wanted Mustache Chachi to shoot him! Mustache Chachi is the new Planet Master now!  Boo-Wah-hah-hah-ha!  So Evil!  The End!
Mustache Chachi Shoots Lasers Out of His Stomach
This is, without a doubt, one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen.  It actually could have been made into a ridiculous, over-the top comedy with a few tweaks. Instead, it plays everything as deadly serious, so you end up laughing at it, not with it.  For a rip-off of Alien, they missed the most important feature of Alien.  The reason Alien worked so well, was even though it involved sci-fi and monsters, it grounded everything in reality.  All of the characters were down-to-earth, regular joes, the spaceship looked lived-in and used.  In Galaxy of Terror, everything is so far removed from reality it borders on psychotic.  In it's own way, though, it's kind of a masterpiece.  The truth is, I kind of really love weird, bad, cheesy, sci-fi and horror movies, and they don't get any weirder or worse than this.  If you're a fan of bad movies, too, then I heartily endorse this picture.

Rating: 4 Robots (out of 5)

More screencaps after the jump...

Panic in Space

Exposed Brain

Fingering Buttons

Space Invaders

Player Vs. Player

Mitri, The Oracle of the Game

Warning! Launch Imminent

Commander Ilvar

Run, Freddy, Run!

Cabren, a.k.a. Mustache Chachi

Magnum P.I. in Space

Joanie Loves E.T.

Spaceship Corridor

The Starship "Quest" leaves Xerxes

Starship in Space

Switches, Bitches


Planet, Janet

Spaceship Interior

Mo' Switches

A Thoughtful Mustache

Screenie Weenie

Wide Open Eyes = "Acting"

Descending on Morganthus


Unknown Pleasures

Leaving the Spacecraft

Scanning the Surface

Joanie Loves Mustache Chachi

Pyramid Scanner

Scaling the Pyramid

An Opening

Peering Into the Abyss

Under His Skin

Space Maggots

Laser Turret Control Room

Freddy Krueger is on the Alert

Enter the Triangle

A Gruesome End

No Way Up

Mustache Chachi Turns Into a Cartoon

The Master Vanishes

Electric Pyramid

Academy Award Winner James Cameron, Folks

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