Galaxy of Terror 

It would be easy to dismiss 1981's "Galaxy Of Terror" as "Roger Corman rips off 'Alien.'" The project may have been born for that reason, but somewhere in the execution, grew into much more. Although the story doesn't make much sense, it's full of imagination, plus the behind-the-camera wherewithal to make it work.

An unhinged Grace Zabriskie captains the spaceship Quest, summoned to the outer reaches of the galaxy (of terror!) to investigate the downed ship Remus, which has no survivors. Quest's crew "? comprised of genre vets Eddie Albert, Sid Haig, Robert Englund, Ray Walston and Zalman King, plus Erin Moran (Joanie from "Happy Days") "? arrives to find a pyramid full of holes, tunnels, bridges, stairs and ... wait for it ... death!

Instead of the pyramid being haunted by one creature or even one type of creatures, it poses a greater challenge to the Quest crew by having each of them face his or her greatest fear. Thus, when busty technician Taaffe O'Connell voices her hatred of worms, you just know she's gonna get it by worm. (What you may not know is that she'll be violated to death by a giant worm, in the film's most infamous scene. It's not as exploitative as you'd expect, even though her character starts liking it.)

Although CGI effects have evolved to the near-seamless point of "Avatar," I prefer the days where filmmakers had to get creative, with matte paintings, opticals, in-camera effects and the like. "Galaxy of Terror" is full of these, both impressive for their time and impressive for Corman. Also noteworthy is the production design, done by future director James Cameron.

There's an entire segment dedicated to him on the DVD's lengthy "Tales from the Lumber Yard" making-of documentary. Cameron doesn't participate, but several others involved do, including Corman, Englund and Haig. Does "Galaxy" deserve such a detailed dissection? Probably not, but I had a hell of a time watching, anyway. Same goes for the flawed, fun feature.

Another entry in Shout! Factory's new, joyously packaged "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line, the disc also contains trailers for "Galaxy" and three others, plus a laugh-filled commentary by cast and crew. Once again, flipping the DVD sleeve will get you entirely new cover art, this time featuring one of the flick's alternate titles, "Mind Warp." "?Rod Lott

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