Roger Corman is well known for creating b-movies, although this space epic is a good exception. The script and movie was written and filmed in an incredibly short time, filming was only 5 weeks, on a budget of just $2 million to jump in on the "Star Wars" bandwagon that had started a few years before.
More Behind The Scenes from Battle Beyond the Stars
After the massive success of "Star Wars" and it's sequel, sci-fi b-movies were a dime a dozen in the 80s but a few have withstood the test of time.
This is one of them.
Battle Beyond the Stars is a big sci-fi space epic which contains all the things you could ask for in a space orientated sci-fi film; many strange alien beings, an evil overlord with a massive spaceship, other worldly planets, implausable space fight scenes, androids, a talking space ship, well known actors in roles you may not expect them to be in, the underdog overcoming the evil force in the galaxy, and not forgetting a romance involving the lead characters.
When the evil overlord Sador (John Saxon, well known for his baddie roles) spies the planet Akir and decides he wants it for himself, Shad (Richard Thomas, who played 'John Boy' in The Waltons) of the Akirians volunteers to take the only space ship on the planet, Nell (voiced by Lynn Carlin) and go out to find help to defend his planet against Sador.
He finds seven mercenaries willing to help, the deadly assasin Gelt (Robert Vaughn, who had previously been in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) who has amassed a large fortune from his assasinations, yet is hunted throughout the galaxy, so lives alone on an empty planet, sleeps with his back to the wall, when he can sleep, and the only thing that can tempt him into joining the fight is food and a place to hide because he eats sea serpent seven times a week.
A carefree space merchant called Cowboy (George Peppard, who later played the role of Hannibal in The A-Team) somehow gets roped into helping for free, a sexy Valkiri called Saine-Exmin (Sybil Danning) who joins the fight for the thrill of the chase as her race's motto is "Live fast, die young and have a beautiful ending".
Nestor, who is a actually 5 highly evolved beings in white, sharing one consciousness, so when one facet is hurt they all feel the pain. A green reptilian called Cayman who joins the fight to avenge the virtual extinction of his species by Sador and The Kelvin who are two mute aliens who have no voice or ears and communicate through heat.
Together they use their combined force and individual talents to defend Shad's homeworld, Akir.
If you think things sound a little familiar, it's because the writer borrowed the basic plot from Akira Kurasowa's famous film The Seven Samurai.
I know it's bad form to do this but the text on the back of the original 1981 release video, which I have, actually reads very well and tells the beginning of the film well;
"The peace loving inhabitants of the planet Akir are threatened with extinction unless they submit to a ruthless conqueror, Sadow, who posses the most awesome weapon in the universe - a stellar converter. While Sador is engaged in eliminating another planet which refuses to submit, the Akira have a brief spell in which to organise a defensive campaign.
Shad, a young emissary sent by the Akirian council to seek aid from inter-galactic soldiers of fortune, is directed to secure robot reinforcements. The doctor is only concerned with keepins Shad captive in order to mate with his beautiful daughter Nanelia. Escape is achieved with the aid of sympahetic Nanelia who follows Shad as he continues his quest and encounters and inter-galactic adventurer named Cowboy, who agrees to join his mission.
An alien mercenary named Cayman, a huge lizard-like creature, also agrees to joing the Akirian defence, intent on revenge - his own planet was destroyed by th eevil Sador.
Further volunteers are enlisted including the Nestors - five clones who think and react as one being, St. Exmin, a voluptuous warrior from the planet Valkiri, and Gelt, a criminal wanted throughout the universe.
The seven ships return to Akir just as the colossal war is about to begin with Sador.
The plot is more complex than one person going out to find help then coming back and winning the battle against the evil overlord, we learn about the characters involved, what makes them tick, why they act as they do.
Not all the characters survive the battle which helps make the film, if all the good guys live happily ever after when the evil is extinguished it doesn't make for interesting and entertaining watching, thankfully Battle Beyond the Stars doesn't take that stance.
This has to be one of the best b-movie sci-fi space films produced, the special effects are great, the characters have depth and the actors play their parts to their best ability, and it doesn't try to take itself too seriously or go for a comedic stance to keep people watching.
The sets look great, you can really imagine you're inside an alien space ship or on a strange world, the use of colour and lighting makes the scenes as the film was done on such a low budget the crew used what they had to the maximum.
This is true Friday/Saturday night matinee material, get the DVD (forget the VHS), get some friends round, get out the popcorn and/or beer and sit yourself down for an hour and forty minutes of an 'old school' cinema experience.
And remember, "Live fast, die young and have a beautiful ending"Notice any mistakes? Review
Pure unadultarated space sci-fi.
Not for those that dislike cheesy sci-fi.Our rating:
9 out of 10Review Written by Ridwan Hughes: Contact | More Reviews by Ridwan Hughes