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Battle Beyond the Stars


Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), starring Richard Thomas, John Saxon, Morgan Woodward, George Peppard, Sybil Danning, Robert Vaughn directed by Roger Corman


In short, Battle Beyond the Stars is Roger Corman’s cheesy rip off, trying to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars. Cross Star Wars with The Magnificent Seven, and this is what you get. Frankly, Robert Vaughn effectively plays the same role in both films.

The space ships look beautifully crafted. Some of the alien makeup is excellent – but others aren’t. And the acting is, for the most part, good. The exception to that is Sybil Danning. She relies on her figure instead of acting ability.

That’s not to say it’s a terrible movie — it’s not. It’s got a fair amount of humor (some unintentional), fast paced. It’s an enjoyable popcorn movie. Be forewarned that there’s

Cast of characters

The Seven

  • Richard Thomas (The Waltons) … Shad. Battle Beyond the Stars has been described as “John Boy in Space”, and there’s some truth to that. Richard Thomas plays Shad, a pacifist farmer. He’s forced by circumstances to gather a group of mercenaries to defend his homeward from Sador’s invasion.
  • Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) … Gelt. The bounty hunter’s who’s unwelcome everywhere. Shad promises him a safe place to stay, and meals. And keeps his word in a touching moment.
  • George Peppard (Damnation Alley, The Blue Max) … Cowboy. Effectively, a trucker in space. Shad and Nell rescue him from pirates. He’s got a large shipment of hand weapons that he can no longer deliver. Because Sador has killed his customers. And Shad’s people are unarmed, and can use those weapons. Actually, Cowboy’s an enjoyable character. The audience comes to care for him, especially by the end.
  • Darlanne Fluegel … Nanelia. Dr. Hephaestus’ lovely daughter. Shad’s the first human being she’s seen besides her father. Not counting the androids that populate the station. She initially refuses Shad’s invitation to join him, but later follows him.
  • Morgan Woodward (Cool Hand Luke) … Cayman. A lizard man who’s cold-blooded in more ways that one. He’s captured Nanelia, and intends to sell her. Until he learns that they’re fighting Sador — whom he hates. Sador previously exterminated his people. His crew of heat-communicating Kelvins come in quite handy as well.
  • Sybil Danning (Howling II) … St. Exmin. Supposedly, a space Valkyrie, who lives for battle. In actuality, her job’s to not pop out of her revealing costume.
  • Earl Boen … Nestor 1. The Nestor are interesting characters, although the hot dog eating scene is silly. They’re a collective consciousness. Effectively, each individual is a like a cell in an enormous brain. They join the fight, to hold off boredom. And, one of them makes a supreme sacrifice, in an attempt to kill Sador. A good, unexpected, scene.

The Others

  • John Saxon (Queen of Blood) … Sador. The evil, world-enslaving villain. A very one-dimensional character. A waste of John Saxon’s talents.
  • Lynn Carlin … Nell (voice). Nell’s one of the highlights of the film. The spunky, sharp-tongued AI that’s part of Zed’s ship.
  • Jeff Corey (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Babylon 5) … Zed. Owner of the “junk” ship that Shad uses on his quest.
  • Sam Jaffe (The Day the Earth Stood Still) … Dr. Hephaestus. Zed’s old friend. He’s an old man — literally a head in a jar. He wants Shad to stay on his large, empty space station. With his beautiful daughter. Apparently, he’s really desperate for grandchildren!

Editorial review of Battle Beyond the Stars courtesy of Amazon.com

Twenty-first-century science fiction fans accustomed to special-effects orgies like The Matrix may snigger at the quaint, Flash Gordon-like spaceships in Battle Beyond the Stars. But executive producer Roger Corman”s belated entry into the ”70s sci-fi craze surpasses expectations with sharp performances and a witty script by John Sayles (his third for Corman, including 1978”s Piranha).

The story, lifted wholesale from Akira Kurosawa”s Seven Samurai (1954), finds the dictator Sador (John Saxon) threatening the planet of Akira. Its pacifist inhabitants are no match for Sador”s devastating weapon, the Stellar Converter, but young Shad (Richard Thomas) decides to fight back. Borrowing the ship of notorious mercenary Zed the Corsair, he recruits a band of mercenaries, each of whom has a personal reason to join the fight. Among them are a lizard-like humanoid (Morgan Woodward), an improbable space cowboy (George Peppard), a zaftig female warrior (Sybil Danning), and brooding killer-for-hire Gelt (Robert Vaughn, reprising his Magnificent Seven role).

Battle”s final showdown is somewhat anticlimatic, but the surprisingly stellar cast (which includes Sam Jaffe and Darlanne Fluegel) and the indie spunk of Sayles” script, with its light meditations on death and honor, will charm newcomers and repeat audiences alike. New Concorde”s digitally remastered DVD features commentary by Sayles and Terminator 2 producer Gale Anne Hurd, Battle”s assistant production manager. Oh, and those spaceships? Designed by Titanic director James Cameron. Still laughing? –Paul Gaita


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