If I were to make a list of my favorite directors it would look like this: 1. Alfred Hitchcock 2. Dario Argento 3. Ridley Scott 4. Lucio Fulci and 5. Roger Corman. Why Roger Corman? If you hand him half a mil and say “I need this pic by the end of the week,” he’ll deliver. Let’s see the almighty Spielberg do that. Corman is the king of making something for nothing and we are the better for it because his movies are what movies should be…FUN. I would love to see what he could do with a budget and a solid script, but that won’t happen, so let’s accept him as the low budget God he is.
The list of people who have worked for him is ridiculous. Nicholson, Scorsese, Cameron, Coppola and a boatload of actors who’ve all made a mark on the industry and they all learned how to do it from Roger. His adaptations of some Poe stories starring Vincent Price for AIP in the ’60s are genre classics, with The Fall of the House of Usher being a favorite of mine, as well as The Tomb of Ligeia.
Quick, true story….Vincent Price was a frequent visitor to the Poe house here in Philadelphia. On one occasion a woman asked him how could he, as a Poe aficionado, make movies that were not very true to the original story, and he told her with a smile, “Because they pay me very well.”
These films introduced me to Roger but the two that really cemented my love for his films were the two I saw one Saturday afternoon back in 1984…Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World. Shot almost back to back in typical Corman style (Move that corridor over here, rearrange those two rooms and voila!, a brand new ship), I raved about these two no-budget gems for years and I welcome them happily into my DVD collection.
This month I’ll be looking back at Galaxy of Terror from 1981, starring Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Sid Haig and Robert Englund. The members of the Quest are heading to Morganthus to find the missing crewman from the starship Remus. Anyone else think this is going to end badly?
The Planet Master has just been told the fate of the Remus. He orders a military official to take over the Quest and go find out what happened. He is told by an old woman, “Death will surround you.” He should have listened. The Quest crew consists of Cabren (Albert), Baelon (Zalman King), Alluma (Moran), Kore the cook (Walston), Quuhod (Haig), Ranger (Englund) and Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell) along with Commander Ilvar (Bernard Behrens) and Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie). A quick, risky hyper-jump lands them right by Morganthus and after a more risky landing on the planet they find the remains of the Remus and its crew….with one lone survivor. They return to the Quest where the Remus survivor locks himself in a room and is killed.
Wanting to avoid a similar fate they send out a group to look around and find a huge pyramid which they believe will help them in understanding what happened to the Remus. Finally gaining access, Baelon, Cabren, Alluma and Dameia go exploring, leaving Quuhod to stand guard. Back at the ship Ranger and Kore go looking for the Captain who’s gone missing.
As crew members die in the pyramid, chaos reigns in the ship as the Captain fries trying to fight an imaginary enemy. The survivors regroup back at the Quest and decide to give the pyramid another try. NOT what I would have done. They venture deeper into it eventually being seperated and done in by their own fears except for Ranger and Cabren, who goes on to play the final game of the pyramid and become the new Planet Master.
Several notable names worked behind the scenes on production and sets: James Cameron, Bill Paxton and Don Opper. Unfortunately, it was vilified by the critics and let’s be honest…not surprisingly. This is not Shakespeare. It is what it is, a low budget, sometimes over the top sci-film with a semi-talented cast who gave it their all. It is mostly remembered for the scene of O’ Connell getting raped by a giant maggot, but sometimes….that’s just enough. So give it a watch and enjoy it as I always have and next month I’ll look back at my absolute favorite Corman film, Forbidden World. Give my love to the kids.