Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Corman's Magnificent Star Wars VII
You've never seen a Valkyrie go down - Saint-Exmin
When you read the one line synopsis which sums up "Battle Beyond the Stars" as "The Magnificent Seven" in space you just have to watch in the knowledge that this sci-fi B-movie will be enjoyable for being bad. Then when you learn that not only does it star Robert Vaughn who was in the original "The Magnificent Seven" but also Richard Thomas, John Saxon, George Peppard and the statuesque Sybil Danning the sense of being enjoyably bad increases. And to be honest "Battle Beyond the Stars" is a bad movie, but not as bad as you would expect for a sci-fi b-movie which when released was trading on the popularity of "Star Wars". And the only reason I can put down to it not being that bad is the names behind the scenes because working on this Corman movie was James Horner who did the music, art direction by James Cameron and Cameron's one time wife Gale Anne Hurd is an assistant production manager, not bad for a b-movie.
When the planet of Akir come under attack by the villainous Sador (John Saxon - The Electric Horseman), the peace loving Akira must fight or be killed and so young Shad (Richard Thomas - Wild Hearts) is sent off on the planet's only spacecraft to try and get help which he does with a rag bag bunch of mercenaries from the Cowboy (George Peppard) to the statuesque Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning) all ready to help defend Akir from Sador.
Whilst "Battle Beyond the Stars" basically combines "The Magnificent Seven" with "Star Wars" it also pays homage to Akira Kurosawa whose "Seven Samurai" inspired "The Magnificent Seven" as we have the people called Akira. It is a small nod to the originator but a welcome one and in some ways clever for those who know their movie facts. But as already mentioned this is basically "The Magnificent Seven" in space and we go through the story as we have young Shad sent out to get mercenaries to help protect the planet. I would be lying if I said this was that interesting but with him meeting the Cowboy, Gelt and the voluptuous Saint-Exmin it is fun.
Now whilst the first half of "Battle Beyond the Stars" basically is "The Magnificent Seven" the second half, the actual battle with the evil Sador is more "Star Wars" as we have laser fights, Sador's army swooping in on the planet and also the variety of powers from the strange collection of alien mercenaries. Again I would be lying if I said this was brilliant but it is fun for basically feeling like a rip off of other movies.
The irony of this is that you watch "Battle Beyond the Stars" expecting it to be bad, when it comes to being a b-movie it doesn't hide the fact yet it is not as bad as you would expect. The special effects are better than expected, the sets whilst simple look good and with the James Horner soundtrack it certainly doesn't feel that inferior. Now in fairness Corman had a lot of talent working for him on this movie who would go on to become some of the biggest names in the movie industry but even so it is still surprisingly impressive for a b-movie.
As for the performances well everyone delivers some wonderful tongue in cheek humour, be it Richard Thomas who subtly sends up his John-Boy Walton persona or the brilliant Sybil Danning who looks, dresses and acts like a space age dominatrix. Every single performance is good fun as are many of the characters especially the multi-bodied Nestor; I won't spoil it but if you haven't seen it you will love the hotdog scene.
What this all boils down to is that "Battle Beyond the Stars" is not only not as bad as you may expect but it is also seriously good fun. If you like "The Magnificent Seven" and "Star Wars" this is a must watch movie if not own because it deserves regular late night viewing.
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