Galaxy of Terror Blu-ray Review
When you couple Galaxy Of Terror alongside Forbidden World - which, really, I think you have to - you will find that the bigger budgeted Galaxy looks the best as far as hi-def transfers go. Print damage on this 1.78:1 image (encoded via AVC MPEG-4) is much less, with the picture holding up quite well in terms of stability and offering a relatively flicker 'n' fleck free viewing experience.
Grain is intact throughout. It does tend to fluctuate during some scenes and even from shot-to-shot in some cases, but this is down to the inherent film-stock and the photography and not at all a problem encountered during its transfer. Some darker portions of the image that have light infiltrating them tend to exhibit the grain in a fuzzier, noisier manner, but this is part and parcel of the film's vintage. Detail is soft around the edges, but still reasonably good. Nothing particularly finite is on show, although eyes, computer readouts, insignia, gore and the rubbery elements of the monster-maggot can look appreciably more defined than they have ever seemed before on the various versions of the film that I have come across. Some of the primitive laser-effect work is bold and bright and cleanly delineated, but this is still a soft, hazy-looking image.
The blacks are adequate, nothing more. They do the job, but they are not profound, or all that deep. Occasionally they can veer towards the grey side of things, but once again, I put this inherently down to the film itself. The murky blues and purples that compose the landscape are a difficult thing to fully appreciate - the very style of the imagery and the hues that were chosen to depict this hostile planet don't exactly make for hi-def gold. But the transfer copes admirably with them, despite a couple of instances of vague banding, and the foggy bleakness of the palette is not a result of the encode screwing anything up. In fact, this general murk and shadow aids the image's impression of depth. We're not talking about anything here even approaching a fine level of three-dimensionality - indeed the film can look as flat as Forbidden World in this respect - but the picture's depth of field is aided quite effectively as a result of the gloom masking the miniature work. Contrast is perfectly serviceable, with only a few waverings on show, that are more than likely down to the age of the film.
With all this vintage texture on show, it is clear that the transfer is unmolested by DNR or has suffered any artificial sharpening. Clarity is actually quite good, general murk and subdued lighting or not. The film cannot avoid its rather muddy TV-style stock, and colours will not bounce with anything approaching liveliness. But this is still a pretty pleasing and obviously faithful-to-the-source transfer. It is not going to grace the top-tier lists of hi-def presentations, of course, but then you really can't complain about a low-budget film from 1981, that was only meant to make enough money back to help fund the next picture, looking as true to its original theatrical presentation as this despite not having been lavished a full-on frame by frame restoration.
For what it is, Galaxy Of Terror looks great.
As with Forbidden World, Shout! Factory provide Galaxy Of Terror's original soundtrack with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 makeover that is eagerly central and appropriately in-yer-face when required. Again, there is virtually nothing to discuss in terms of separation, width or dimensionality. The film, although stuffed to the gills with scenes that would benefit from full surround use of echoes, whispers, screams and creepy ambience, just doesn't have much of a bite to it. The score Barry Schrader is, like Susan Justin's for Forbidden World, electronic, and this comes over well enough. There is some depth and clarity to the weird effects and a fair bit of oomph to the more dynamic elements of his programmed compositions. The storms that rage across the surface of Morganthus only have a modicum of presence in the track - some scuttling blasts of wind - and the various encounters with critters and mind-games elicit some sizzling laser-blasts that have that vintage “closed-in” sound, more Doctor Who and Blake's 7 than Star Trek or Star Wars, but they still sound lively enough in this lossless incarnation.
Dialogue is not as muffled nor as flat as that heard in Forbidden World, although there is precious little in the way of positioning or depth to any of the shouting or the screaming that goes on. When Quuhod flings his crystal stars around we are treated to some high glimmering effects even if there is no steerage involved. The audio track is, therefore, perfectly functional and certainly doesn't make any mistakes. Nor does it sound as old or as tired as the soundtrack for Forbidden World, which would actually come later. Therefore, this is a fine and faithful audio transfer as far as I am concerned that has, thankfully, not been the recipient of any unnecessary bells and whistles.
First up we get a garrulous and rousing ensemble commentary from some of the cast and crew, including Taaffe O' Connell, who is quick to point out the frames that include her body-double during the alien-molestation scene. The track is fast and fun, and filled with trivia and anecdote. Everyone gets along fine and there is hardly a dull moment. The Corman style is dutifully covered, with everyone sharing their opinions and experiences about working under his umbrella, and the technical aspects of what they attempted to bring to the screen is ably addressed by Alec Gillis (who would go on to create monsters for some great movies) and makeup man Allan Apone. Jim Cameron is mentioned a few times, as are the rest of the cast, and although much of this is repeated in the 6-part making of, there is a fresh and candid appeal to this track that is infectious.
We also get a pop-up trivia track that plays along with the film and features playful and informative notes by Brian Albright about the production.
As well as the pretty exhaustive selection of photo galleries that cover pre-conceptual artwork, posters, sketches, matte-paintings, plates, behind the scenes and scrapbook stills, we can enjoy the vast making of documentary entitled Tales From The Lumberyard: The Making Of “Galaxy Of Terror”. With a play all option, this terrific documentary runs for just over an hour and brings in a lot of participants, from the writers and director, a little piece from Roger Corman, and cast members Taaffe O' Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie and Robert Englund to the technicians involved in planet and creature creation - Allan Apone, Alec Gillis, Douglas J. White and the Skotak Brothers - and seems to cover everything that you could ever wish to know. There are lots of humorous and honest moments regarding the screenplay and things that people wish they could have changed. An entire section is devoted to James Cameron, with the egotistical nature of the technical wunderkind coming under some scrutiny, although all agree that he was a brilliant and dedicated craftsman and a strong leader who had a clear vision that he would not deviate from. Everyone, it seems, knew that he was destined for great things. We also hear from the co-editor who discusses the troubles that the film ran into with the MPAA and the trims that consequently had to be made in order to avoid the NC-17 rating, and mourns the fact that some of those snippets of film - mostly involving O' Connell's jiggly bits - have now been utterly lost. We feel your pain too, mate! By the way, the Lumberyard reference is made because the film was actually shot in an old timber mill that Corman and New World converted into a studio and all the sets they required. This is a great retrospective that fans will rejoice in.
After this, we have some trailers for more Corman Cult Classics , the film's screenplay in PDF, and the fab 12-page collector's booklet and the cool reversible packaging. One side has the original Mindwarp poster and blurb, whilst the other carries the more familiar, and much better, Galaxy Of Terror artwork.
Another great job from Shout! Factory, folks.
Well, it's another winner from Shout! Factory as far as I am concerned. Corman's Cult Classics are never going to appeal to everybody, but this does not mean that they can't be lavished with attention for those who do cherish such screwball exploitation fantasies. You can admire them for their micro-budget creativity and you can become fascinated by the talent that was born behind the scenes ... and you could, in fact, just get off on the sheer fun of watching such crazy scenarios being played out so cheerfully and brazenly.
Galaxy Of Terror is daft, dumb and demented. And we wouldn't have it any other way. There are some nifty little concepts at play here, but we should not be entirely surprised that Corman's assembly-line approach to the material and his eagerness to just give the punters a quick-fix on the shirt tails of Alien simply goes and wastes most of them in a headlong rush that culminates in a story that has actually been better served in the likes of Star Trek and even Space 1999. But, for your money, you get some fabulous miniatures and genuinely eerie set design and art direction form the fledgling talent of James Cameron - and it is fun to see the elements that he would take for later use on The Terminator and especially Aliens. Robert Englund goes loopy. Sid Haig scowls a lot and throws crystal glaives with cracker-jack reflexes. Edward Albert takes to the air like Spring-heeled Jack. And Taaffe O' Connell, Gawd bless her, gets naked with a big slimy maggot. Throw in an outlandish spectral pyramid and some great gore and you've got another slice of prime SF exploitation-heaven, Corman-style.
And with a very faithful, no-frills transfer and a wonderful assortment of hugely entertaining extras, this is an exemplary package from a company who simply haven't put a foot wrong in their treatment of such a niche genre. Shout! Factory can now easily stand beside the likes of Blue Underground and Arrow Video with regards to their product. They clearly know what the fans want because they are fans, themselves.
Once again, this is excellent stuff for those in the know. And with Piranha, Humanoids From The Deep and Battle Beyond The Stars on the way, times are looking good for lovers of sleazy-cheese. Keep 'em coming!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.72
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