Space babes share a giggle.
Battle Beyond The Stars
Starring: Richard Thomas, George Peppard, Darlanne Fluegel
Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami
It’s no secret that George Lucas drew influence / blatantly stole from Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress when he assembled the first Star Wars in 1977. Not to be outdone, schlock king Roger Corman bankrolled his own gonzo outer space Kurosawa tribute in 1980’s Battle Beyond The Stars, a remake of Seven Samuri that’s about as subtle as any other Corman effort. Case in point: the central planet in Battle is named Akir, its inhabitants the Akira. Film nerd chum is rarely so meaty and raw.
Of course, Battle Beyond The Stars cribs so much from Lucas it’s easy to forget who exactly the film is trying to honor. There are enough specific shots and music cues borrowed from Star Wars to qualify this as a remake of that film and not Seven Samuri. Yet Star Wars lacked the timid charm of Richard Thomas, an actor who makes Mark Hamill look like Marlon Brando. Thomas is the alien redneck Shad who rockets himself into space in hopes of rounding up a few mercenaries to help defend his home planet against militaristic invaders. He’d do it himself, but the kid’s allergic to violence and can barely fire his lasers even when under direct attack. Why the Akira agreed to let Shad lead any kind of mission is beyond me. He must have rich parents.
The first gun for hire John Boy runs across in the stars is Cowboy, a literal cowboy from Earth, played by a shaggy pre-“A Team” George Peppard. Peppard does Han Solo by way of Rat Pack—cocktail and smoke always in hand, slaphappy smile permanently plastered across his weathered face. Juxtaposing that is an utterly lifeless Robert Vaughn as some sort of abandoned space king who agrees to fight for Shad because he’s sad and lonely. Battle probably could have set up a great scene or two between Peppard and Vaughn if there weren’t so many goddamn aliens getting in the way.
This movie has a noseless lizard person, a set of mute twins who emit invisible rays of energy, a council of five eggshell white super-beings who feel each other’s feelings, a horny space viking apparently bereft of nipples, a comely female scientist who somehow has no understanding of how the fuck babies are made, and a sassy onboard computer (think HAL meets Joy Behar) who cannot stop busting Shad’s balls for being a quivering little space pansy. And that’s just the good guys. Don’t get me started on the villains, all of whom have some kind of facial deformity save their leader (who wears makeup to simulate and/or mock his subjects’ facial scarring).
Future Terminator director James Cameron did art production on Battle Beyond The Stars, so while the script and much of the acting is awful the visuals are interesting and intricate. The spaceships are just as engaging here as they are in Star Wars. They explode with the same whallop, too. That saves Battle from sinking into Laserblast territory. Still, it’s hard to watch this movie and wonder halfway through why you aren’t watching a better outer space adventure, one where the aliens aren’t so transparently named (the main villain’s called Sador, fer chrissake) and the music isn’t reminding you of John Williams on downers.
FINAL SCORE: Two nipple-less Sybil Dannings (out of four).