Battle Beyond the Stars
Dir: Jimmy T. Murakami
Star: Richard Thomas, John Saxon, Robert Vaughn, George Peppard
Cert / Year: PG / 1980
Format: DVD R1

The Magnificent Seven (Severn Samurai) gets the Roger Corman treatment.

The peace loving planet Akir has been threatened by the evil Sador (John Saxon) so that they either submit to his control or the planet will be turned into a sun by his stellar converter. Possessing no warriors and no means of defence they dispatch Shad (Richard Thomas) in their only ancient spaceship to get help. He recruits six mercenaries who are willing to fight Sador. They are, an interstellar trucker called Cowboy (George Peppard), a burned out hit man Gelt (Robert Vaughn), one of the original magnificent seven), a computer whiz kid Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel), a telepathic gestalt Nestor (Earl Boen amongst others), a Valkyrie warrior Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning) and a zymer! known as Cayman of the Lambda Zone (Morgan Woodward). Each fighting for their own reasons they must defeat Sadorís armada, and his planet destroying mother ship, to save Akir.

If anyone has the right to be called the father of cult cinema it is Roger Corman. Not only has he produced and directed over two hundred B movies many of which are cult (Death Race 2000, and Piranha amongst others), but he has also fostered much of Hollywood's A list talent (including Frances Ford Coppella and Sandra Bullock). This is possibly the best example of both of these facts. Battle Beyond the Stars was expensive movie Roger Corman had ever made and to be brutally honest it is nearly too good to be called a B movie. It also showcased the creative talents of James Cameron (as both Art Director and Spaceship designer) and producing skills of Gale Ann Hurd (one time wife of Cameron, as Associate Executive Producer).

OK so enough of the name dropping, what about the film. Well it is fun with a capital F. A witty and well thought out script has plenty of action and provides some creatively unique characters. From the shared consciousness of Nestor, to the thermal communicating Kelvin (a species that must have the saying its too hot to hear ourselves speak!), but these characters talents are not just for show they are cleverly used by the script.

On the acting stakes Richard (John Boy) Thomas is rather more wooden than a tree, but never mind as the rest of the cast are in good form. John Saxon glares menacingly from each of his scenes, although he has little else to do other than this. The real stars of the show are Robert Vaughn who plays his hired killer with enough cool to put ice to shame, and George Peppard who has great fun playing the Cowboy with tongue firmly in check. A special mention must be made for Sybil Danning who steals scenes away from Darlanne Fluegel and others with amazing ease.

Sci-fi movies equal special effects, and even in 1980 things here were never cutting edge. Cameron's spaceship design is refreshing unusual, as he seems to have taken inspiration from the sea, with the ships varying from hammerhead and basking sharks through rays and jellyfish all the way to a squid (all be it one with breasts!). This helps give the movie its look, and although I said it wasn't cutting edge for the time it was better than average (Roger Corman must have liked them as he reused them in a number of his other movies, along with the score). Thing have dated (how many times do you get to say this for older sci-fi) and many effects do now fail to convince, but when you take into account the budget they are still not terrible, in fact they do lend a certain charm to the film.

Another one of Roger Cormanís finds is the composer James Horner (responsible for many films since including The Grinch, Titanic, and Braveheart) who provides the excellent score for this film. All of the best films have striking title music and Battle Beyond the Stars is no exception. The rest of the score matches the quality of the title music, just check out the ominous music that announces the arrival of the Sadorís flagship.

Battle Beyond the Stars is great entertainment. Its dated, and its low budget, but its still fun. Good clean fun. Some superb performances, a good script, and some inventive spaceships ensure than the film is watchable over and over again. It beats the hell out of horses and six shooters.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 good for its age pretty clean image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Brand new soundtrack
Features Audio Commentary from writer John Sayles
Audio Commentary from producer Gale Anne Hurd
Photo Gallery
Verdict This is the twentieth anniversary edition and indeed soem effort has been made. The picture and sound are very good, and the extras while limited are not bad.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home