Monday, November 8, 2010

THE TERROR WITHIN / DEAD SPACE

The folks at Shout! Factory are still on a roll with the latest "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" Double Feature: THE TERROR WITHIN (1989) and DEAD SPACE (1991). This time they've paired a couple of Corman's later entries in the ALIEN/S sci-fi horror sweepstakes, one of which is an unabashed remake of the producer's own FORBIDDEN WORLD.

THE TERROR WITHIN is the better of the two monstrously derivative features on the disc, and stars George Kennedy, Andrew Stevens, Starr Andreef and Terri Treas. In the aftermath of some sort of biological apocalypse (referred to as "The Accident") five scientists and a couple of engineers huddle in an underground complex somewhere in the Mojave Desert (represented by Vasquez Rocks and Bronson Canyon), making only rare forays out into the plague-ravaged world, which is inhabited by mutated man-beasts they call "gargoyles." After they bring a female human survivor into the complex, it is discovered that she is pregnant with a gargoyle fetus. When they attempt to abort it, it bursts from her womb and escapes into the ventilation system, where, in a matter of hours, it grows to full maturity. Now there's a man-eating/woman-raping terror within their walls, and they must find a way to hunt it down and kill it if anyone is going to survive.

Screenwriter Thomas Cleaver's script is an shameless retread of ALIEN, set in a bunker rather than on a spaceship, but otherwise pretty much on target - right down to the characterizations of the two engineers, who act exactly like Yaphett Koto and Harry Dean Stanton in the template film. Still, director Thierry Notz keeps things moving at a good pace, the acting is generally better than average for a flick like this, and the monsters, while a little goofy, are pretty decent man-in-suit creations. The cast is good: George Kennedy (CREEPSHOW 2) seems a bit ill-at-ease with the material, but Andrew Stevens (NIGHT EYES, MAXIMUM FORCE) makes a serviceable hero, Starr Andreef (SYNGENOR) is pretty and appealing, and Terri Treas (TV's ALIEN NATION) is a strong and beautiful heroine.

DEAD SPACE is a pretty-much scene-for-scene remake of 1982's FORBIDDEN WORLD, but with most of the nudity and gore excised. The plot is identical: a freelance outer space troubleshooter (this time played by Marc Singer, BEASTMASTER) and his robot are summoned to an isolated research station where an experiment has mutated into a bloodthirsty monster.

Unfortunately, it's not nearly as much fun as the original, despite a decent cast that includes Bryan Cranston (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE) and soap opera vet Judith Chapman. The sets look even cheaper than in its predecessor and are not nearly as imaginatively designed. The monster suit is pretty cool, though, and for creature feature fans it may be worth sitting through the rest of the dreary proceedings just to enjoy the FX work. But otherwise, DEAD SPACE doesn't have much going for it.

Shout! Factory's double feature disc sports a very decent 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of THE TERROR WITHIN. It shows a little wear and tear, but is solid, with good colors and detail. DEAD SPACE is presented in its original, direct-to-video 1.33:1 "full frame" aspect ratio, and also looks okay. Supplemental features are limited: director Fred Gallo provides a fairly-interesting audio commentary for DEAD SPACE, and the theatrical trailer for THE TERROR WITHIN is included, along with a handful of other Corman Collection trailers. Shout! presents the option of watching each film seperately, or as a "grindhouse" double feature, with the bonus trailers incorporated into the presentation.

THE TERROR WITHIN and DEAD SPACE make a pretty fair pairing - at least thematically - but I wonder why Shout! didn't pair TERROR up with its Andrew Stevens-directed sequel instead.

For man-in-suit monster buffs and Corman completists, this disc is worth picking up. THE TERROR WITHIN is a fun B-movie, and DEAD SPACE is, well....

BUY: Terror Within / Dead Space (Roger Corman's Cult Classics)