Awfully Good: Battle Beyond the Stars
In case Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis don't do it for you, here's another epic space adventure worth ascending...
Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)
Director: Jimmy T. Murakami
Stars: Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, Sybil Danning
When his planet is threatened by a merciless villain, a young man heads out to find the universe's greatest warriors to help him defend it.
BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS is an example of a movie being utterly cheesy, obviously low-budget, and still awesome. It has all the trappings of a forgettable, run-of-the-mill sci-fi B-movie, but manages to outwit them at pretty much every turn—remaining just as enjoyable today as it was 30 years ago.
If you look in the credits for the movie, that level of quality will start to make sense. BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS was produced by B-movie legend Roger Corman, a man who knew how to stretch production value out of every dollar in his budget. He also had a good eye for talent, employing future Oscar-nominated writer John Sayles to pen an outer space riff on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and Oscar-winning composer James Horner to do the score. But perhaps his smartest move was hiring a young novice named James Cameron as model maker, production designer and eventually art/special effects director.
Cameron's creativity and perfectionist attention to detail can be felt throughout the film, especially in the different spaceships for each of the various alien races. Don't get me wrong; you won't confuse the visual effects with STAR WARS or any other blockbusters, but you can tell the crew actually spent some time and thought with it and put the money on the screen in any way possible—big space battles, high-concept future tech, and extraterrestrials of all sorts. And this is a movie that's definitely not afraid to go weird. There are albino hive-minded aliens, giant lizard men, pig-faced Twilight Zone bad guys, and of course busty Thor princesses. My favorite thing in the movie though is Nell, the sassy talking spaceship that happens to be shaped exactly like a pair of breasts. They even made her flesh-colored in case the subtlety was lost on anyone.
In case the plot synopsis didn't clue you in, this is indeed a remake of the remake of Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI. (They even keep some of the cowboy aesthetic and co-star Robert Vaughn.) If you've seen either of the previous versions, you pretty much know exactly what will happen here. What makes BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS worth watching though are the oddball cast of characters. When scenery¬-chewing villain Sador the Malmori (played by ENTER THE DRAGON's John Saxon) comes to the planet Akir and promises to use his
Death Star Stellar Converter unless the Akira accept him as their new God, only a young man named Shad (Richard Thomas a.k.a. John Boy Walton) is brave enough to do anything about it. While he's too much of a pansy to fight himself, he sets out to find men who are not. Along his galaxy quest, Shad encounters:
Nanelia: A beautiful robotics and computer expert who just so happens to want Shad to teach her about the ways of human sexuality. It's okay though, because five seconds after meeting Nanelia's father, he too asks Shad to "breed" with his daughter.
Gelt: A mercenary assassin so badass that literally everyone in the universe is looking for him. He is played by Robert Vaughn who is essentially playing his exact same character from MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but with laser guns.
Space Cowboy: A-Team star George Peppard plays a western gunslinger from Earth whose powers include having a scotch and soda dispenser on his belt. Sadly, his name is not revealed to be Maurice.
Cayman: A giant reptile who was originally going to sell Nanelia as a sex slave, but decides to help her and Shad instead. Cayman also comes as a package deal with the Kelvin twins, two small aliens who emit extreme heat radiation and have the most hilarious action sequence in the movie.
The Nestors: A race of psychic white alien clones with hive consciousness who join Shad's cause purely out of boredom.
Saint Exmin: A female Valkyrie warrior whose power is unbelievable, physics-defying cleavage. Played by Sybil "Holy moly!" Danning.
The film spends the better part of the first hour tracking down and gathering together the team, but once the space avengers are assembled, it's all alien asskicking from there. Except for when they take a break around the campfire to eat hot dogs and play the harmonica. But after that, it's really on! There are plenty of memorable moments here, from sonic warfare to psychic assassination attempts to lizard war cries to Sybil Danning's cleavage in a different outfit. Truly something for everyone.
Cayman's unforgettable war cry, John Saxon's glorious overracting and John-Boy Walton saying, "You want me to breed with your daughter?"
Awkward sex talk, the film's best action sequence, and a touching moment around the campfire.
Sybil Danning might as well not be wearing anything.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- You meet a new alien species
- Nell is sassy
- Someone gets burned by the Kelvins
- Shad is mean to Saint Exmin
- A major character ends
- Space Cowboy dispenses a drink
Thanks to Rodrigo for suggesting this week's movie!
|Extra Tidbit:||In addition to TITANIC composer James Horner, James Cameron also met his future TERMINATOR producer/wife Gale Anne Hurd on the set of this movie.|