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Just Look Away: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS

I’m from Earth. Ever hear of it?

I really hate to tell you the title for this one before I talk about it.

Forget about the title for a minute, okay?

Forget what you know about the movie (if you do).

Imagine that you heard about a science-fiction movie.

James Horner was doing the score; John Sayles, multiple award winner for screenwriting, was the writer; James Cameron was only the art director.

How awesome must that movie be?

Well, if they spent all that money behind-the-scenes, the cast must suck, right?

Except this hypothetical movie stars Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, and George Peppard.

Okay, that dates it a little, but that’s still a fine cast.

What’s it about, you ask? Well, it’s an adaptation of The Seven Samurai.

Still want to see it?

Lord knows, I did, back when we rented movies on VHS and this was a staple on the cable movie channels.

Stay tuned for how it turns out!

Why Bother?

“Nobody goes behind me!”
This movie was made back in 1980. Some of the stars were getting a bit long in the tooth. Some of the others were still learning their crafts.

This film had producer Roger Corman’s biggest budget to-date, $2 million US. Most of it went to Vaughn and Peppard, whose careers warranted bigger salaries.

James Cameron was very young. Corman hired him for the in-house special effects team, but promoted him quickly based on his work. In addition to art direction, Cameron was effects cameraman and model-builder.

Gale Anne Hurd was an assistant production manner. Because she and Cameron worked on this film, we got The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss.

You watch Battle Beyond the Stars because you want to see a movie early in the careers of giants.

You watch it because you loved The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven (Robert Vaughn basically plays the same character in this movie that he did in Magnificent, and even gets some of the same dialogue). You watch this movie because you have a thing for Sybil Danning, or Darlanne Fluegel, or both.

Mostly you watch it if you like fun, campy, ‘80s sci-fi.

I watched it 

“Does your species have kissing?”

Do you really need a summary?

I mean, you must have seen either The Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven.

Really?

Okay.

Sador of the Malmori (John Saxon) shows up at the planet Akir (possibly name for Akira Kurosawa, who directed The Seven Samurai). He’s going to take over the planet. The people of Akir are nonviolent.

One of them, Shad (Richard Thomas), volunteers to take their one, old, spaceship and hire warriors.

Shad knows nothing about life beyond his world except what he’s been told by an old, blind, man in his village. The galaxy has changed since the old man traveled it, and Shad is a fish-out-of-water.

Eventually he gathers a force of oddballs and misfits. They return to Akir where many of them fall in battle with Sador’s forces, but ultimately triumph.

The Verdict

“The Valkyrie are great warriors. In our youth we must leave home, and fight in as many battles as possible, until we have proven ourselves.”

This 1980 sci-fi movie has a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where only 45% of the audience report liking it.

Ever see a cheap sci-fi movie?

Well, then you’ve seen Battle Beyond the Stars. It has better source material than most movies. It had some future giants (Cameron, Hurd, Horner, Sayles) working on it.

Sador has, essentially, a Death Star. The trick to defeating it is, basically, the same trick used against the Death Star in Star Wars. That seems a bit too derivative.
 

It suffers in comparison to the previous scripts. The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven are just so much better than this, that there’s no way this movie can look good.

Many a Traveller role-playing game drew inspiration from this film.

If you’re in the mood for a cheap, cheesy, fun movie, check this one out. Otherwise, Just Look Away.

Look! A Female!

Okay, hit us with your best shot. What’s the crappiest sci-fi movie you’re willing to admit watching?
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Andrew

    March 18, 2012 at 7:05 am

    I just watched this movie on Netflix and it was really really really hard to get through. I like crappy campy old movies with "interesting effects" and this one was amazingly bad. Reading this review afterwards was fun though, and knowing Cameron was involved, which I didn't realize – is awesome.

    The music was almost good and some of the ship designs were almost good too. I also have to say that Darlanne had some really good bad costumes.

    Good bad movie.

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