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Galaxy Of Terror (Blu-ray)

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    Ian Jane
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  • Galaxy Of Terror (Blu-ray)

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    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 20, 2010.
    Director: Bruce D. Clark
    Cast: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Zalman King, Robert Englund, Taaffe O'Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie

    Year: 1981
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    The Movie:

    Uncannily similar to Ridley Scott's Alien, this Roger Corman produced low budget quickie exceeds Scott's film in the gore department and
    brings the science fiction/horror hybrid to new levels of goofiness.

    When a spaceship is overrun by an unseen menace and its crew disappears, a lone spaceship heads out to a strange planet to investigate. Upon arriving at a strange planet, the eclectic crew finds a giant pyramid that, oddly enough, looks to have been designed by H. R. Giger. As they head in to find out what happened, one by one they encounter a strange alien influence that starts killing them off in increasingly bizarre ways. That's about all there is to the plot, really, though bookends do give the whole thing an almost supernatural twist that does manage to set it apart from the various other Alien knock-offs that were being churned out at the time (Inseminoid being a prime example).


    Filled with a few stand out scenes (seeing a woman raped by a slimy giant space monster is something that doesn't happen too often) and gore set pieces, Galaxy of Terror is a moderately amusing b-movie more notable for its cast and crew than for its story or effects. With a cast made up of Zalman King (Blue Sunshine), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm St.), Sid Haig (Spider Baby, House Of A Thousand Corpses), Erin Moran (Joannie Cunningham on Happy Days) and Ray Walston (Paint Your Wagon, My Favorite Martian) there's more ham on display in this movie than in the butcher shop at your local Safeway. Everyone in this movie overacts, particularly Zalman (whose character is only too happy to obliterate anything and everything) and Haig (as a silent Zen warrior who throws around crystal ninja stars!), and it's pretty hard to take any of it very seriously.


    The effects are fun and while not always that effective, they are at least creative. Some of the gore is pretty strong and while it might be a bit obvious that the giant space worm rapist is really a bunch of guys in a suit, that infamous scene, in which the creature sucks the clothes off of poor Taaffe OConnell, is bizarre enough that you won't soon forget it. The sets look like leftovers from a bad sci-fi TV show and the computer effects are laughingly bad by today's standards but there's a lot of creativity on display here that gives the film some atmosphere. It doesn't always work, but if nothing else, the movie is certainly entertaining and interesting.


    Worth noting is that James Cameron of Terminator and Aliens fame was one of the unit directors on the film. Rumor has it that he was responsible for rigging the severed arm with an electrical current and thus getting the maggots to wiggle, which impressed the producers enough to get him his next job, directing Piranha II. According to the supplements, however, he actually only used a mild current to get them to move faster and actually made them wiggle by shining light on them. Bill Paxton also worked on the film as a carpenter and set decorator - interestingly enough, he'd go on to work with Cameron on Aliens, the sequel to the film that this one cribs from.


    Watching the movie today, it seems obvious that the film inspired Event Horizon. There are a few similarities there that can't really be overlooked. While it's hardly going to win any awards for acting or originality, Galaxy of Terror is a fun (and oft times unintentionally funny) schlocker that should provide enough sleaze and gore to satisfy most exploitation aficionados.


    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Shout! Factory presents Galaxy Of Terror in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition transfer for the first time in North America. Those familiar with the fullframe PAL DVD that came out in the UK or the anamorphic widescreen Italian DVD (which had forced English subtitles during playback) will be very impressed with how good the film looks here. The Blu-ray release improves on things quite a bit by offering up more detail and better texture. You'll notice this a lot in facial close ups but also in medium and long distance shots as well. Colors look a bit brighter and more natural and the higher bit rate seems to have helped the darker scenes look a bit less compressed. Skin tones look more natural and lifelike and while there's still some heavy grain in spots, that's not really a problem as for the most part the picture is clean and clear and about as good as anyone could probably realistically expect from this film.

    The English language 48 kHz 1.5 Mbps DTS 2.0 track is pretty decent, though there are a few spots where the sound effects are a fair bit louder in the mix than the dialogue is. The track definitely has more punch and more power behind it than the one on the standard definition disc and this results in a fuller sounding mix with improved dialogue and a stronger low end.


    Shout! Factory continues to go the extra mile with the supplements on their Corman reissues. Galaxy Of Terror starts off with an all new commentary track Taaffe O'Connell, Allan Apone, Alec Gillis and David DeCoteau, all of whom discuss their involvement in the picture. This is a pretty active talk, with each participant getting their shot and sharing their memories of the shoot and it makes for a pretty enjoyable listen. It's all done with a good sense of humor, no one has any false pretenses as to the kind of movie this is, but they take it just seriously enough that it's actually interesting to listen to. The track moves at a good pace and never lets up, it's actually pretty packed with good information.


    The best of the extras on the disc, however, is Tales From the Lumber Yard, a sixty two minute long feautrette that covers the film and its history. The documentary has been broken up into five parts, the first of which is New Worlds and it lets Producer Roger Corman, screenwriter Marc Siegler and director Bruce D. Clark talk about how and why they wanted to make this film. From there we move on The Crew Of The Quest which gather ups actors Robert Englund, Sid Haig, Taaffe O Connell and Grace Zabriskie, all of whom talk about how they got the parts in the film, what it was like working on the picture and how they feel about it in hindsight. The Planet Of Horrors section gives us a look at how the sets were created and how Corman's production team worked to make the alien world that the movie takes place in, while Future King is a segment in which the various participants share their memories of working with co-production designer James Cameron, who would obviously go on to much, much bigger projects not long after this film was made.

    Old School is an interesting look at the mechanical and makeup effects that features interviews with make-up artists Allan A. Apone, Douglas J. White, and Alec Gillis while Launch Sequence allows co-editor R.J. Kizer to discuss what was done with the film in postproduction before we learn about the involvement of composer Barry Schrader. This is a pretty damn impressive documentary that leaves no stone unturned. It does cover some of the same ground as the commentary track does, but there's enough differentiation between the two supplements that fans will want to take the time to enjoy both of them. All of the extras on this disc are presented in high definition.


    Rounding out the extras are three trailers for the feature, a few trailers for other Corman titles, a massive still gallery of production photos, promotional art and more, animated menus, chapter stops, and for those with a DVD-Rom, the film's script in PDF format. Inside the disc is some reversible cover art and a full color booklet of liner notes from former Rue Morgue Editor-In-Chief, Jovanka Vuckovic.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory's special edition of Galaxy Of Terror is a true thing of beauty. It gives the film its best home video presentation to date and loads the disc to the gills with extra features that are all killer, no filler. Anyone even remotely interested in this film needs this release and the Blu-ray release offers up enough of an upgrade in picture and sound quality that it's absolutely worth spending the few extras dollars on.
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