Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 1980. . Story by , , Screenplay by John Sayles. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by , . Costume Design by . Film Editing by , .

This is among the more watchable of the Star Wars ripoffs that flooded the film market after George Lucas had such immense success with his space opera in 1977.  Stealing many of that film’s key elements, it sets The Magnificent Seven in space, with a peaceful, desert-like planet being threatened by evil invaders (led by ) who promise destruction if the planet’s citizens don’t allow themselves to be colonized.   Skywalker-esque farmboy hero takes it upon himself to travel through the galaxy and collect mercenary warriors who will help his people fight the bad guys, coming back with quite the rag-tag crew: a race of ghostly beings united by a single consciousness, a sexy “Valkyrie” in an iron brassiere (played by ), a drunken loner obsessed with twentieth-century cowboy aesthetics () and a stone-faced fighter who is only interested in the job for the money (Robert Vaughn).

The most expensive film yet to come out of the Roger Corman factory, this one features early gigs by artists who would later make their mark in film, including a screenplay by John Sayles, visual effects work by James Cameron, and production guidance by future powerhouse producer Gale Anne Hurd (she and future husband and collaborator Cameron met on this project).  Unlike many of Corman’s efforts in science-fiction, this one doesn’t look cheap; it doesn’t look like Star Wars but it doesn’t look terrible either, in fact many of the effects offset their lack of effectiveness with a kind of bright and shiny beauty.  The plot is painfully derivative, waiting for the inevitable to play itself out becomes tedious beyond belief by the time you reach the end, but there’s at least a genuine attempt to reach further than the expected, with interesting attempts at creative characters and imaginative alternate forms of life, making for a film that, while not great, is at least not worth hating.

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