B-movie magnate Roger Corman may tend to get a bit too much credit for fashioning respectable exploitation fare — after all, how big of an achievement is that? But we can’t give him enough credit for the boldness, audacity and astuteness that enabled him to spot so many up-and-comers and give them first shots which led to bigger things.
In the case of Galaxy of Terror, new on DVD this week, that includes the director of the top two box office movies of all time (Titanic and Avatar), one James Cameron, who was second unit director and production designer on the Alien-wannabe starring Edward Albert (Butterflies Are Free), Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian, The Sting), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Grace Zabriskie (Twin Peaks) and Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses), among others.
I recall seeing the film originally at a seedy theater on lower Market Street in downtown San Francisco, which was the perfect setting — outside of a drive-in. Galaxy of Terror is violent, flashy, lurid entertainment with gratuitous nudity and big slimy monsters. One is a giant caterpiller who subjects one of the film’s females to a notorious ravaging. Any more questions?
Yet the film did have a semblance of a plot, with a crew of space enforcers sent to a strange and remote planet to seek crew members of a missing ship, and in the process being forced to face their own innermost fears. Think Forbidden Planet meets Alien and you get the picture.
Not only is this 1981 potboiler new on DVD, but so is companion film of sorts 1982’s Forbidden World (aka Mutant), which offers much the same in terms of a horror/sci-fi hybrid featuring ample exploitation (sex, violence, space hardware, monsters) and a fine, game cast including Jesse Vint (Macon County Line, Silent Running) and still more compliant actresses who are willing to disrobe for a steam bath even though terror lurks around the corner.
And not only are both films making DVD debuts on Shout! Factory discs, but each gets a lavish presentation, with lots of extras and a handsome illustrated booklet. Terror gets commentary, interviews, making-of materials, trailers, photo galleries, product designs, a PDF of the screenplay and more. The even cheaper World gets even more, with an unrated director’s cut running five minutes longer (Corman cut much of the humor after a test screening), a 34-minute making-of featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, including a now gray-haired Vint, a six-minute Corman interview, trailers, stills and more.
That’s the kind of thing you normally don’t associate with B movies, but these are special — first because they get the job done. I can’t recall how many times I’ve impatiently watched a horror or sci-fi film which clearly is in the exploitation genre yet doesn’t get busy and exploit. Hey, movie — we’re out here! Rolling, rolling, rolling — keep those monsters rolling. Heeyahh!
Corman gets it. Corman delivers. And his films, notably these two, are ambitious little cinematic creatures which, for all their budgetary limitations (and now hopelessly dated computer screens and spaceship technology) make a valiant effort to spruce things up and entertain. You could do far worst than these flicks in today’s movie marketplace. In fact, I’d venture to say their plots are as good as Avatar’s (though that’s not much of a compliment).
So thank you, Roger. You’ve done the movie business proud in your own way. One needn’t be allegedly artsy and high-brow to entertain, and entertainment — each year’s Oscar night pretentiousness aside — is what movies are all about, or should be.