When Shout! Factory announced its initial roster of releases under the “Roger Corman Cult Classics” banner, many Corman cultists were pleasantly surprised to see Galaxy Of Terror in the lineup. It had never gotten much love in video formats despite a decent following amongst fans of vintage exploitation. Many viewers (Your Humble Reviewer included) became familiar with it via the old Embassy Home Video cassette, which had a hazy, smeary look to it. A good Italian DVD was released a few years back but most had to rely on DVD-R dupes of that old VHS tape.
Thankfully, Galaxy Of Terror gets a revelatory redux on the new Shout! Factory disc. It boasts a new high-definition, anamorphic transfer that easily surpasses any prior presentation of this film: Jacques Haitkin’s shadowy cinematography takes on a new clarity and the primary-colored lighting used in key sequences really pops off the screen. The soundtrack is presented in its original mono mix: the dialogue and effects come through just fine and throbbing synth score by Barry Schrader makes itself felt.
This new presentation also includes some top-shelf special features. Things get started with a commentary track that includes actress Taaffe O’Connell (victim of the film’s infamous, amorous giant maggot), makeup effects designers Allan Apone and Alec Gillis and moderator David DeCoteau — who also served as a production assistant on the film. It’s not a scene-specific track but it does offer a tremendous amount of information about how the different effects were achieved, including a highly detailed discussion from both effects and acting perspectives about the film’s legendary maggot-humping scene.
It’s a very lively track so it’s a breeze to listen to and DeCoteau peppers it with enough questions and guidance to keep it from rolling out of control. Fave tidbits from this track include the revelation that the gore in the infamous exploding-head scene was Dinty Moore stew and a great tale from DeCoteau about how his crush on Edward Albert (thanks to his then-recent appearance in When Time Ran Out) led to him being cast as the film’s lead.
Even better is an epic, six-section featurette called Tales From The Lumberyard, which spends just over an hour chronicling the making of Galaxy Of Terror. It is composed primarily of interviews with cast and crew: in addition to the commentary participants, there are appearances from Roger Corman, stars Robert Englund, Grace Zabriskie and Sid Haig and other effects men who worked on the shoot like Douglas White and Robert Skotak. Best of all, director/co-writer Bruce Clark and his co-writer Marc Seigler get a generous amount of screen time.
Said featurette was helmed by Michael Felsher and he does a fine job of weaving the different anecdotes into a skillfully organized narrative. Each section deals with a different aspect of the production and all six offer a wealth of intriguing behind-the-scenes information. The two segments dealing with special effects have a bit of overlap with the commentary track but each still offers worthwhile new information and will leave viewers impressed over how many tricky effects were achieved via practical, in-camera techniques.
It’s also worth noting that Clark and Seigler are very open about their mixed feelings regarding the project, which stem from having to make the compromises inherent in doing a commercially-minded b-movie. Other highlights from this featurette include Robert Englund’s memories (he closes the piece with a hilarious anecdote) and a fascinating description of the unusual technology and approach used to create the film’s shivery musical score. However, the most interesting part may be a segment where the participants testify to the hard work a young James Cameron put in on the film — and the extreme amount of influence he had on its visual design and effects.
And that’s not all: also included are extensive image galleries that included on-set candid photos and tons of dazzling production design sketches, theatrical trailers for Galaxy Of Terror and other Corman/New World productions (including a trailer for the film under its first release title, Mindwarp: An Infinity Of Terror) and even a PDF-file of the shooting script. Between these supplements and the sharp transfer, Shout! Factory has assembled an impressive and lovingly-crafted disc for this neglected exploitation gem. Fans of space-schlock can buy with confidence: this is a keeper.