This is a 1980 film which was billed as The Magnificent Seven in space; which is The Seven Samurai in a western setting. This film stars Richard Thomas (The Waltons) and featured the late George Peppard (The A-Team) and the late, great Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven, The Man from U.N.C.L.E) The music was done by James Horner and features James Cameron’s earlier SF effects work.
Summary: The planet of Akir (one of those one culture, one town planets) is threatened by a psycho warlord named Sador of the Mamori and his mutant army, who will destroy the planet. Since the people of Akir follow the “teachings of the Varda”- they are committed to non-violence. Basically, no one knows how to fight. And Sador has a secret planet destroying weapon. (Yep. They were trying to capitalize on a certain other franchise) One young man Shad, is sent to go and find mercenaries to fight Sador. He has a ship with an AI named Nell- who is probably more interesting than a lot of the characters. His first stop is a space station to find Doctor Hephaestus, who was an old friend of an Akir leader. The only people on the station are Doctor Hephaestus and his daughter Nanelia and a host of androids. The Doctor has become a cyborg due to life extension and is stuck in a giant container. So, not much help. Nanelia eventually agrees to help Shad and escapes.
I won’t go through the whole list but Nanelia and Shad manage to recruit some other mercenaries: A guy who trades weapons, smokes cigars, and watches lots of westerns. (George Peppard right before the A-Team) A group of clones with a hive mind and very fake third eyes glued to their foreheads. Some lizard alien. A space Valkyrie. And a hired killer, played by Robert Vaughn, who is actually one of the better and far more convincing characters and you kind of wonder how and why he got roped into this film.
Actually, the concept isn’t a bad one. Battle Beyond the Stars does have its moments, but it is very much a B movie. And in light of 2019, a very, very B movie. Cheap special effects can be overlooked; but the costumes have a giggle factor difficult to ignore. Lots of robes. Glued on extra eyeballs. Stiff, plastic lizard head. The Valkyrie had on some type of breast baring halter top and looks like an erotic amazon bird creature.
There are a few decent actors, but the script doesn’t give them much to work with. The supporting actors are not exactly top quality. Lots of stiff delivery and staring into…space? The camera? Cue cards? The aliens,-“forms”- as they are called all seem kind of slapdash. As if the writers took lots of old SF movie alien tropes and sort of threw it together. I think that’s part of what makes it so B-movie. There is no consistent look or style. Just lots of random names and goofy costumes.
The real problem, though, is the pacing. Or rather a lack of pacing. The hero meanders through space for a while, picking up aliens, but there is not sense of fear or danger. Even the climax doesn’t feel climatic. You just have background mood music and a hero who rarely changes his facial expressions.
And that’s what really does me in. You can have budget effects and costuming as long a you have top notch actors and a good script. This movie does not have those things. But it does have a goofy charm; and hey, it did well on its release and clearly has its fans. As long as it makes someone happy, I guess it’s all worth it.
3 thoughts on “SF Obscure Movie: Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)”
But wasn’t it delicious? It is actually among my favorite “B” sci-fi laugh-ins. Right up there with Ice Pirates, Cherry 2000, Spacehunter, and let’s not forget Barbarella – all eye roll worthy. So ridiculous they are fun to watch just for the laughs. (And all part of my private collection.) But yeah, I will admit when I first watched Battle Beyond the Stars, it was because of the list of fine actors in it, especially Robert Vaughn. Then I sat there and wondered when their careers had tanked so bad that they were doing something like this. But, once past that, it is a scream to watch.
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As silly as the movie was, I sat there and watched the whole thing:) Barbarella is a beautiful disaster.
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