Galaxy of Terror  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Galaxy of Terror is a science fiction/horror film starring Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Robert Englund, Ray Walston, Zalman King, Grace Zabriskie and Sid Haig and directed by Bruce D. Clark. It was produced by New World Pictures, distributed by United Artists and released in 1981.



(Description of the first few minutes of the film) On a desolate, storm-lashed planet called Morganthus at the edge of the universe, the sole survivor of a crashed spaceship, apparently being pursued by some foe, seals himself into a section of the craft but is attacked and killed by an unseen force.

On another planet a very long distance away, two figures are seen playing a strange game. One, an old woman, is identified as the controller of the game while the other, his head replaced by a glowing red ball of light, turns out to be an all-powerful mystic called the Planet Master.

A military officer contacts the Master to inform him of the loss of the vessel. When he is informed of the location of the crash, the mystic becomes very interested and devises a secret plan, despite the protestations of the game controller who believes that it is dangerous and will cause suffering and death. He commands the officer to take command of a rescue craft and travel with a crew selected by the Master to rescue the survivors of the crash. The crew are not to be informed of the mystic’s connection with the mission. Shortly after the ship’s personnel have been assembled and preparations for lift-off made. The officer, now listed as mission commander, meets the captain of the vessel who immediately orders the ship into launch mode, even though the crew itself needs more time to organize. With only 30 seconds available, the team (most of whom had a history together) frantically scramble to their positions. The ship takes off and heads off into deep space, with the crew shaken but otherwise unharmed. The captain suggests that the mission commander is rather old for this type of mission. He agrees, saying that he has not been on an active mission for many years, whereas she has been on active duty now for over 25 years, since surviving a notorious disaster as a youth. The other crew members are unhappy to learn who their captain is, and even more so when she changes the preset co-ordinates for a hyper-space jump and immediately engages it. Within seconds they are hurtled across the universe to near the planet where their rescue target is located.

As the ship approaches the planet’s atmosphere, it suddenly veers out of control and plunges toward the surface. The captain is unable to regain control of the craft and is about to give up when it mysteriously begins to slow down enough for her to perform an emergency procedure, allowing her to crash-land on the surface of the world. After recovering from the landing, the crew prepare to leave the ship and search for survivors. The team have a psi-sensitive female among their number. The team leader is unimpressed by her presence or her inability to detect any lifesigns whatsoever. Making their away across the landscape of the planet, they eventually reach the other vessel. Entering, they find evidence of a massacre with the crew dying horribly. The rescue team split into two and explore the craft. They find further evidence of something catastrophic having happened and, after disposing of the rest, take one victim back for analysis. The highly-strung youngest member of the team, despite being reassured by his seniors, is traumatized by the atmosphere on the ship. It appears that his fears may be well founded as, out of sight, a grotesque creature kills him. (end description)

Galaxy of Terror's overall plot of a group of astronauts facing an ancient structure/intelligence which uses their fears to kill them would be copied years later by the much larger production film, Event Horizon.


New World Pictures was founded by movie producer Roger Corman, who is famous for making low-budget motion pictures. Galaxy of Terror was released following the huge success of the sci-fi/horror film Alien and has been accused many times over the years of being a direct "rip-off" of that film. However, this is overstated. The plot of the film bears little similarity to that of Alien. New World no doubt hurried and released the film to capitalize on the after-effect of Ridley Scott's famous film, and the sets do bear some similarity to the now-famous "Alien" look of designer/artist H. R. Giger. So, visually and chronologically, there are "Alien" ties, but plot and theme have only the most superficial of connections.

More direct and substantial connections can be made between Galaxy of Terror and the famous 1950s sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet. In that film, astronauts land on another world and are confronted by an invisible "id" monster, which uses their fears to kill several crew members. Even the strange sounding names of the characters in Galaxy sound reminiscent of the names of characters found in Forbidden Planet and numerous older science-fiction films.

Of course, as with most of Roger Corman's films, Galaxy shouldn't be over-analyzed. Its main aim is B-movie cinematic exploitation of violence and sex, of which Corman was perhaps the greatest of all movie producers. One can make a fairly easy connection between Galaxy's most famous scene, the "worm rape", and a scene from an older Corman film, a remake of H.P. Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror in which an unsuspecting Donna Baccala character is attacked and stripped naked by a multi-tentacled beast. That scene's implicit rape and death is played out explicitly in Galaxy.

Finally, Galaxy is part of a long science-fiction tradition of Bug-Eyed Monster (BEM) stories and films, with alien horrors, stoic male heroes and buxom female damsels in distress. This is certainly evident on the film's distinctive poster, which shows two monsters looming over a beautiful female, submissively lying on the ground with her uniform torn and tattered as if having been attacked, with one of the monsters extending claws and a phallic-shaped appendage toward her prone body.

The "Worm Rape"

In a movie with a number of gratuitously violent scenes, including Happy Days' own "Joanie", Erin Moran, having her head crushed and being disemboweled, and cult movie favorite Sid Haig chopping his own arm off before being killed, in turn, by the severed limb, one scene in particular has stood out and made this movie a controversial cult hit the world over. Taaffe O'Connell's character "Dameia," a beautiful, extremely competent tech officer, becomes completely unglued when she finds the body of Haig's character covered with maggots. Expressing an intense dislike (and fear) of worms of any kind, she incinerates the body.

The characters in the film are unaware of the power of the building they're trapped in to read their darker fears and use those fears against them, so Dameia is unaware she is being set up for the kill. One maggot survives her blast and is turned by the building into a massive, lumbering worm, complete with tentacles and loads of slime. This creature then stalks the now terrified Dameia, who is stumbling around lost in the darkness, captures her, strips her suit off, slimes and rapes her to death.

The scene was shot using a giant constructed model of the worm, which was operated by 3 technicians. The maggot model, approximately 12 feet in length, is complete with a vast number of tentacles, which are used to grab O'Connell's character, lifting her off the ground at one point. Her uniform stripping is done through a combination of quick shots, showing her suspended while her uniform is gradually removed. She is then thrown to the floor underneath the worm, her pants torn off, and her top ripped away. The rape segment then begins.

Collectively, the shots from this sequence last around 45 seconds, with many quick shots that maintain a frenzied, hurried feel. The rape itself is one of the more graphic and sexualized rape scenes found in any film, especially R-rated ones such as Galaxy of Terror. The Dameia character's naked body is lifted and slammed into the underside of the worm repeatedly, giving the appearance of intercourse. The giant worm's many tentacles sexually molest her body while this is going on, particularly her breasts, and cover her completely with slime. O'Connell is obviously nude for the shot, although full nudity is not seen on-screen. However, there are lingering, slime-covered shots of her topless, and clear views of her waist, stomach and legs, enough to indicate full nudity throughout.

As if the scene wouldn't be notorious enough had it stopped there, the coup de grace occurs when the Dameia character becomes sexually aroused during the attack, as evidenced by the quite audible moaning O'Connell does as her character is raped. As her moaning becomes more lusty, it is juxtaposed against her terrified and humiliated facial expressions, indicating her character is a very unwilling participant, but also one who is helpless to stop the assault or her own body's embarrasing reaction to it. The scene, and Dameia, both literally climax as she is driven to a body-wrenching involuntary orgasm by her relentless assailant. Physically wracked and exhausted, overwhelmed with the fear and shame of sexual domination, O'Connell's character gasps her final breath, wrapped up in the tentacles of the giant worm as its body grinds to a halt on top of her.

This scene was deleted due to its extreme sexual content in several countries in Europe and elsewhere, although it is fully restored in VHS and DVD versions. It has been mimicked in a number of Japanese adult anime movies, as well as having dozens of on-line reviews and a long-running (now defunct) adult website dedicated to it and similar movies. It is seen as something of a fore-runner to tentacle erotica, particularly the Japanese adult hentai and anime film explosion of the 1990s.

Originally her character was to be "simply" eaten by the worm, until Bruce D. Clark changed the script to the great displeasure of Taaffe: for shooting the scene, she had to be naked to make the rape appear "real" and more exploitative. Shooting was done in the morning of a cold winter day -- on top of that, the slime used had to be cold for viscosity reasons. In an interview with Femme Fatales magazine in the 1990s, O'Connell fondly reminisced about the scene. She even re-created some scantily clad shots of her character, nearly nude and covered with slime, for the magazine.

While the actress said in the interview that the nudity for this scene had to be negotiated, O'Connell has had nude scenes in several other films, and her other comments would indicate that the nudity itself wasn't what she objected to as much as how much nudity for how long under difficult and even dangerous conditions. (The giant worm was, after all, suspended directly above her and could have collapsed on top of her.) Nothing she stated in the interview about the scene itself indicated she was resentful of being exploited, nor that she viewed it as embarrassing or regrettable. In being asked to describe the character's aroused response to the violent scene, O'Connell stated she viewed the Dameia character as one that was sexually repressed and, like many women, of having a more submissive, sexual nature than they would care to admit. She also joked as to how the tentacles actually had a soft, "cushy" feel on her body that wasn't unpleasant.

There has been mention of additional, even more graphic shots from the scene that were deleted to avoid earning the film an "X" rating (which still existed at the time). However, these have never been confirmed to actually exist. The clip did show up in another Corman film from 1988 entitled Not of This Earth. The shortened shots in that film show up in the initial credits during a montage of previous Corman films. No new shots are seen here, but the film is much brighter and easier to see than the original "Galaxy" version. There's also a canned sound-over with a woman's voice (not O'Connell's) screaming and moaning in time with the sequence.

Home video

It was originally released on VHS and Laserdisc by Nelson Entertainment. It has not been released on region 1 DVD, although there is a remastered Region 2, Italian disc available from Mondo Home Entertainment. There are several unauthorized copies of this film on DVD currently sold on the Internet. The remastered Region 2 Italian disc, probably the best copy of the film to date, is now out-of-print, but copies can frequently be found on-line.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Galaxy of Terror" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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