In 1980, riding high on the success of Star Wars (1977) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), the Roger Corman produced Battle Beyond The Stars was released.
The story concerns a young farmer, Shad (Richard Thomas), from the peaceful planet Akir (named for Akira Kurosawa), that is under threat from the warlord Sador (John Saxon), of the Malmori. Being a peace-loving people they have no way to defend themselves, so Shad takes an old spacecraft and goes looking for some mercenaries to help defend his planet. These include, Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel); Space Cowboy (George Peppard); Nestor (Five Alien clones, who share a group consciousness); Gelt (Robert Vaughn); Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning); Cayman (Morgan Woodward) and The Kelvin (Larry Meyers & Lara Cody).
When Sador returns he is met by Shad, leading seven ships in a bid to safe his planet from destruction.
The film is a remake of The Magnificent Seven (1960), which was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954), so there is no time wasted on in-depth character development or storytelling, as the story should be familiar. Everything we need to know about each character we learn in our first meeting with them. Space Cowboy is a space trucker, from Earth, looking for adventure. Saint-Exmin is from a female warrior race, who has a very fast ship, and wishes to have a glorious death. Gelt is the best assassin in the galaxy, but is alone and paranoid, only joining Shad for the reward of a safe and peaceful place to live.
The effects aren’t the best, but are by no means poor. This could be down to a number of reasons;
- While Star Wars (1977) had an estimated budget of $11 million, Battle Beyond the Stars had an estimated budget of just $2 million.
- The man who was in charge of the miniature design and construction, special photographic effects and was also the additional director of photography was none other than James Cameron. (It was while working on Battle Beyond the Stars that James Cameron met Gale Ann Hurd, the films assistant production manager, who he would team up with to make his 1984 classic, The Terminator.)
- Battle Beyond the Stars was filmed in just five weeks.
The score was composed by James Horner and is very upbeat and full of brass instruments, fanfare and goes very well with the pace of the film. James Horner also scored the soundtracks to Star Trek II (1982) and Star Trek III (1984), the latter of which has pieces of score that sound as if they were simply ‘lifted’ from the Battle Beyond the Stars score.
Each of the characters appears to have been given the same amount of screen time, which works in the movie’s favour. John Saxon plays Sador with a particular ruthlessness, while George Peppard is almost playful as the Space Truckin’ Cowboy. Meanwhile, Robert Vaughn’s, Gelt, is so closely based on the character of Lee, from The Magnificent Seven (1960), that some of Gelt’s dialogue is almost identical, to that of Lee’s.
The film has few flaws, but these are more than made up for by some nice acting and some terrific special effects work, which makes
Battle Beyond the Stars a true Cult Classic.