Friday, March 7, 2014

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

After the huge success of Star Wars, space opera films were all the rage. A whole slew of imitators attempted to cash in on the popularity of the film, and create their own quickie. The master of quickie films himself, Roger Coreman got into the act tying some inspiration from Seven Samurai (and The Magnificent Seven) with classic space opera adventures of yesteryear. This was the result.

Lord Sador (John Saxon) has to be evil because of his name. So he arrives on the planet Akir and threatens them with servitude or annihilation, as is his way. But the people of Akir decide they want to defend their homes, and they send Shad (Richard Thomas) on a quest to find mercenaries who will defend them from Sador and his fleet. Shad jumps into his starship named Nell (voiced by Lynn Carlin) and seeks out some help.

Along the way he meets the Cowboy (George Pepard), Gelt (Robert Vaughn) a cold merc, Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning) a voluptuous valkyrie, Cayman (Morgan Woodward) a reptilian being with a score to settle, and a group of aliens called Nestor. Rounding out the group is Nanelia, a scientist who falls for Shad and uses her knowledge of computers to help the cause. But do they have any hope in destroying Sador in this Battle Beyond the Stars?

Good Points:
  • Moves at a brisk fun pace
  • Some creative visual design and effects
  • The cast seems to be having a good time

Bad Points:
  • You can point to just about any element and call it derivative
  • Those looking for serious sci-fi will be disappointed
  • Ends rather abruptly

This is one entertaining movie. It knows that it is basically trying to cash in on the Star Wars craze, but it also tries to spin some things in a new direction. There is a real spirit of fun in all the performances and execution; it really carries over into the whole film. James Horner’s score is big and bold. The movie moves at a brisk pace and while the ending it kinda abrupt, the whole thing is well worth checking out or revisiting if you haven’t seen it in a while.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 3
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 5
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. John Scalzi ("Old Man's War"), one of the best contemporary writers of classic-style Heinlein-esque SF, wrote in his blog a few years ago that he thought this film was more fun to watch than the three Star Wars prequels. I know what he meant. It's a low-budget flick that in no way tried to compete with Lucas' fx prowess, but the fx is adequate to the purpose while the script tells a simple story with engaging characters. It's hard not to like.

    1. Yeah, I'd have to agree with him on that. The Star Wars prequels are decidedly not fun. They try to be. I think Jar Jar is supposed to give the whole first film a sense of mirth. But the other two films just lack the spirit of the of the original trilogy and even something like "Battle Beyond the Stars".

  2. I enjoyed this movie too when I saw it. It was a few years ago, and had never seen it before, but you pegged it when you said, it's just a fun film. I've wondered if I might still enjoy it, but Netflix for whatever reason doesn't offer it (or didn't at the time I looked). It seems like Peppard has played that cowboy character before in Damnation Alley (maybe other roles), and fun to see Saxon again. I always thought it was one of Corman's better films.

    1. Yeah I agree with you, it is one of Corman's better ones. You really get the feeling that everyone involved knew this was a lark and just went for it. Saxon is having a great time chewing the scenery in this flick.

  3. I tried watching it again recently. Quite frankly it was slightly unbearable. I guess my tastes have changed that dramatically. I think your second notation under BAD POINTS pretty much nailed it for me.

    Despite being, as you said, a derivative, low budget but fun bit of space fantasy it's a little tough to stomach now.

    And I like George Peppard, but I think he pretty much plays himself all the time. Ha.

    1. Yeah, my friend felt the same way when he revisited the film a few years back. He was really annoyed by all the derivative elements of the movie. It didn't bother me as much. I got the feeling the movie wasn't trying to be original, just trying to entertain. Even the score is heavily influenced. It's got a lot of blaster beam in it, and there ware whole passages where James Horner nearly quotes Jerry Goldsmith's score to "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", but puts it in an action context. Of course a year or two later Horner was given the opportunity to score his own Star Trek flick, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", which he ended up taking in a slightly different direction.

      Peppard is always fun to watch, and I think you're right, the man was pretty much playing himself. :)