Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Starring: Robert Vaughn, George Peppard
Director: Jimmy T. Murakami

Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Color, Widescreen, Dolby
DVD Features:
Commentary by writer John Sayles and Roger Corman, Commentary by producer Gale Ann Hurd, Theatrical trailer(s), Production Stills, Widescreen letterbox format



This cheesy 1980 sci-fi effort was made by movie producer Roger Corman (of Death Race 2000 and Piranha fame) to cash in - somewhat belatedly - on the popularity of Star Wars.

It is however notable for two reasons, namely (a) its budget, which at $2 million was the legendary B-movie producer's biggest ever, roughly more than twice what he usually spent and (b) the talent involved.

Its director Jimmy T. Murakami went on to direct the animated anti-nuke movie When the Wind Blows (featuring a great score by ex-Pink Floyd leader, Roger Waters).

The script was by John Sayles who, after slumming with Corman projects such as Alligator, went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed indie directors with films such as Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, Passion Fish, The Secret of Roan Inish, Lone Star and Men with Guns.

Art director was James Cameron (he designed all the spaceships in the film). Yup, that James Cameron of The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens and The Abyss fame. Oh, and did I mention Titanic?

Supplying the symphonic score is James Horner in full ripping off John Williams mode. Speaking of which: we would later rip off this movie's soundtrack for the music he did for Star Trek II - Wrath of Khan. Horner is of course also known for the most annoying symphonic soundtrack of all time (Krull) and the most overrated soundtrack of all time (Titanic).

Then there's the stars, more than one would expect with anyone from A-Team's George Peppard and John Boy of The Waltons to Robert Vaughn (reprising his role in The Magnificent Seven basically) and the busty Sybil Danning crammed into an outfit that, erm, amplifies the reasons why she became such a cult actress.

With all the talent aboard you'd expect Battle Beyond the Stars to be better than it ultimately is, but in addition to ripping off the plot of Seven Samurai, the movie also steals any post-Star Wars SF clichés it can lay its hands on. The special effects look rather crummy today and the acting is rather bad. However, despite this end results ought to impress any thirteen-year-old boy. After all, there's some fun to be had with Sybil Danning's outfit, aliens oozing green blood and lots of action. It certainly blew me away as a thirteen-year-old when I first saw it during its theatrical run. Okay, so I probably didn't know any better . . .

THE DISC: This Region 1 disc actually has two audio commentaries. I listened to the one with screenwriter Sayles and producer Corman throughout - something I rarely do (the last probably being The Thing DVD). Anyone interested in Roger Corman and/or low-budget film-making ought to listen to it since it is rather interesting and informative. Not much else: some trailers (for Piranha amongst others) and some production stills. Still better all-round than the recent Death Race 2000 DVD I watched.

Image and sound is acceptable, but the print used has a fair amount of scratches and the like and can't exactly be described as unblemished.

WORTH IT? If you're feeling nostalgic and like some cheesy retro space opera, then this and Battlestar Galactica (an edited version of the pilot released as a theatrical release outside the States) ought to fit the bill.

RECOMMENDATION: Rent it. Besides, it is difficult to actively dislike a movie that features a spaceship with boobies . . .



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