Worth A Look: 56.82%
Pretty Bad: 13.64%
Total Crap: 9.09%
3 reviews, 26 user ratings
|Battle Beyond the Stars
by Scott Weinberg
OK, when is a rip-off NOT a rip-off? When it's an ACKNOWLEDGED rip-off! See, then it's called a REMAKE! And one of the craziest remakes I ever did see was waaaaaay back when I was about 11. It was called Battle Beyond the Stars. Being a child (and obsessed with all things space-related), I had no idea that this delightfully cheesy romp was a pretty dead-on remake of The Magnificent Seven! And it was another 10 years before I knew that The Magnificent Seven was ALSO a remake...of something called The Seven Samuari?? Oh man, was life sweet back then. Anyway, Roger Corman wanted to rip off Star Wars AND The Magnificent Seven at the same time, and only spend about 75 bucks doing it. The resulting movie is one of the finest pieces of B-movie wackiness that you're ever likely to see.Star Wars meets The Magnificent Seven. Now guys (and I'm talking to the men here for a sec), tell me that doesn't sound cool! Each of the seven heroes is a different freaky alien, each with their own subplots, backgrounds and agendas. AND they all have their own distinctive spaceship! AND they all get to meet poetic, heroic deaths to save their buddies. Sounds great right?
"Ah, that lovable B-movie sci-fi crap from the early eighties."
Well, take a breath first. I should let you know that it's a Roger Corman production from 1980, which means the production cost about as much as a new Lexus would cost you today. To put it bluntly - It's cheap. Several of the outer space 'explosions' are recycled throughout the movie. I've made more impressive visual effects with two bean burritos and a laxative. The 'sets' make each planet feel as if they're the size of a small mailbox. The costumes are so warped, you'll be convinced that the wardrobe designers were snorting heroin off of huge blocks of cocaine. OK, still interested? Good.
Because Battle Beyond the Stars is truly a B-movie extraordinaire. It features a whole BUNCH of B-movie actors, which is one of the first requirements of the truly cheesy film. (And I believe I mentioned the costumes and the special efects already.) We got the mole-faced Richard Thomas, who is basically playing 'John-Boy in Space', and he's the hero! We got sidekicks and henchmen galore, and if this cast doesn't excite you, then you're definitely a person who ONLY watches good films and therefore you won't recognize any of these actors: John Saxon! Robert Vaughn! Darlanne Fluegel! (I know, it's a feast of riches, but there's more!) George Peppard! Sybil Danning!! And if you look real carefully, you'll see that cutie Julia Duffy from the old Newhart show! I can only assume that Joe Don Baker and Dick Miller were busy on other Roger Corman productions at the time.
The main strength of this cartoonish mess is the distinctive style in which young screenwriter John Sayles creates his "Alien 7". Here's what we got:
Shad is our young Skywalker. As played by Richard Thomas, he's just boring enough to allow us to appreciate all the truly kooky characters. Shad's planet is about to be destroyed by an evil overlord, and he rockets into the solar system to find some mercenaries. Motivation: Save home planet!
Nanelia has lived her entire life inside of a satellite surrounded by nothing but sexless androids and a Dad who consists of nothing more than a head atop of a washing machine. She digs Shad immediately and agress to help out. Motivation: Space-sex!
Valkyrie Saint-Exmin, as played by the statuesque and extremely bosomy Sybil Danning, is just a hoot. She hails from a race of fierce warriors, whose strengths obviously lie in their massive overflowing breasts and their prediliction for screaming like banshees during space battle. Motivation: To die in a glorious battle and display cleavage that could house a young dwarf.
Space Cowboy is...get this...He's a cowboy...in space! George Peppard plays this good ole boy with a crooked grin, a frumpy hat, and a complete wet-bar in his belt buckle! No wonder he gets some nice alien booty before it's off to war! Motivation: Han Solo complex; has several chances to bail but stays on to help (and get more space-tail).
Gelt is the cool assassin guy, and Robert Vaughn simply chews up every piece of styrofoam scenery and spits it out at every opportunity. Gelt is discovered on an extinct casino-planet and welcomes the opportunity to kill aliens he knows nothing about. Motivation: Sheer boredom, and the desire to show off his slick black spaceship.
Cayman of the Lambda Zone is this pretty groovy lizard alien guy who initially tries to eat Nanelia (and who could blame him?) but when she mentions the name of the evil overlord, he immediately spares her. Cayman comes complete with two cool little glow-in-the-dark space-midgets who can do cool sonic power stuff. Motivation: Knows the evil overlord from the past and is out for revenge!
Nestor is actually a collection of six docile and benign aliens, all sharing the same consciousness. (So NYEAH to all you Trekkies out there who thought 'The Borg' was a new idea!) These guys have cool telepathic powers and can make space-villains shoot themselves and stuff! Motivation: The desire for their race to discover new experiences, and apparently a WAR is one of them.
So we have all these freaky heroes, but no villain? Of course not.
Sador (rhymes with Vader) is played by B-movie demigod John Saxon in full overdrive. Complete with alien limbs and a freaky Gorbachev birthmark covering his face, this guy is truly B-movie evil. If I'm not mistaken, he has several scenes in which he grins evilly, strokes his chin and says "Mwaaa Haa Haaaaa!!" until all his space-clone cronies all join in. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the evil space-clones.)
If you're wondering if this movie has a sense of humor about itself, you need look no further than the wacky spaceships (as designed by a young and immeasurely less "king-like" James Cameron): Several of the villain's spaceships look like evil little frogs, while the ships of the heroes take on all shapes, colors and sizes. Shad's ship, which speaks freely and goes by the name of Nell, sports the largest pair of breasts ever captured on film. I'm not kidding! The spaceship has boobs! It's never mentioned in the movie, but the gag is there. Enjoy it.
In today's CGI-driven age, there's no WAY a movie could get away with this stuff any more. But back then, there was no CGI, so if the only way to get cool FX was to dip a frisbee in guacamole and throw it at a shaven dog, then so be it. Cheesy effects don't bother me as much when there's a real sense of FUN to a movie.
So there you have it: Cheap. Fun. Stupid. Colorful. Juvenile. Funny. Campy. Derivative. Energetic. Cheesy. Wonderfully dumb. I love it.To tell me that this is a BAD movie is to tell me that my childhood was a sham. Surely something this intentionally campy and colorful can't be all bad. Sure, it's a rotten thing to just ape someone else's screenplays, but if you're gonna do it, at least have the decency to add your own concepts and contributions, and that's something Battle Beyond the Stars does in spades.
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originally posted: 03/03/01 17:51:57