Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) – Jimmy T. Murakami

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With the advent of Star Wars in the late 70s, every studio, almost every writer, wanted to get in on the sci-fi band wagon, including Roger Corman. Known for his exploitation films with incredibly low budgets, Battle Beyond the Stars, was his biggest budgeted film, and was my introduction to the story of the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven. I caught it in the very early 80s, when one of the pay channels was having a free weekend. My parents knew I liked sci-fi movies, and they liked John Boy (Richard Thomas), so we all gathered around to watch.

At the age of 11, I ate it up, and loved it, not quite aware that it was stealing so much from all these other films I had never even seen. I’ve seen it a few times since then, and while my nostalgia for it is very high, it’s not exactly the best film. But, if you can find your way back to your youth, then this one may still entertain.

I was so willing to bet it would that I recently went out and picked up the newly re-mastered Blu-Ray edition. I’ve never seen it look better, and it was amazing to lose myself in the worlds it created again.

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Young Shad’s (Richard Thomas) planet is being threatened by the evil Sador (John Saxon). A largely pacifist race, the people seem verging on buckling before Sador, his troops and mutants; until, the  idea is proposed that someone go out into the universe, while there is still time and recruit people to fight for them. Climbing aboard Nell, a spaceship not only with a female voice (Lynn Carlin), but breasts (have a look), Shad launches into the great star-filled void in search of hope and weapons. Along the way he recruits Gelt (Robert Vaughn, who is pretty much playing the same character he did in the Magnificent Seven), Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel),  Cowboy (seriously that’s his name, I don’t know if Cow is his first name, and boy is his last… as played by the awesome George Peppard, who was about to find his way into my young life through The A-Team), the Valkyrie St. Exmin (the scantily clad Sybil Danning), the reptilian Cayman (Morgan Woodward), a pair of aliens who communicate through heat, and a clone group that calls itself Nestor.

Behind the scenes though, are a lot of names cinephiles know and recognize, the music was by up-and-comer James Horner, art direction by James Cameron, and Alec Gillis was heard at work in the art department while a script by John Sayles helped bring the action to life. For a proving ground for these names, this film definitely helped them perfect their craft, and work within constrains of a tight budget, forcing them to fire the imagination and improvise.

It has to be said that the Blu-ray looks amazing, and lets you really revel in the design, the sound, and the moments of the film. Yes, it’s hokey, but it will definitely continue to hold a nostalgic hold over my heart, and I will, no doubt, find myself revisiting it often.

Do you have a favorite film from Corman?

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