Space Week #3 = Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) cashes in
Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) is one of the many films released in the 80s made to cash in on Star Wars. Filmmakers saw the phonemenal business Star Wars was doing in theatres and wanted a piece of the pie, so they called on Roger Corman to produce a space movie. They called on the right guy, because if there’s anybody who can control a budget, it’s Roger Corman. After securing Corman, they threw all the low-budget talent they could find at Battle Beyond the Stars, such as George Peppard of A-Team fame, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, and “John Boy” TV actor Richard Thomas. James Cameron did the models and effects for the movie. Although some people have called it B-Movie crap, it did well at the box office and I think it is underrated. However, this movie has the most sexual innuendo I’ve ever seen on film. Pure comedy right there.
The plot of this movie is Seven Samurai or Magnificent Seven in space. John Saxon plays the evil villain in this movie and it’s his job to be as one-dimensional as possible, so as to give our heroes something to do. After Richard Thomas jumps in to be a hero, there’s not much time spent on character development. That’s okay, because it’s the same story we’ve seen in countless other movies. Richard Thomas recruits some friends to fight John Saxon because the bad guy is threatening some helpless planet. That’s it. The rest of the movie is smoke and mirrors.
This movie has a lot of sexual innuendo. In almost every scene you can point to something sexual, like a giant spaceship that looks like a woman’s chest. I was almost embarrassed to watch this movie, but I trudged on in the name of movie reviewing. The good thing about this movie is that it knows what it is trying to be and is fun along the way. Sometimes. Good thing too, because I don’t think I could have watched two hours of a serious, serious sexual innuendo space movie. John Saxon and Robert Vaughn go over the top as you might expect, and it’s a riot.
John Saxon: Full thrust to Umatiel.
George Peppard plays a space cowboy, a mercenary like Han Solo. We see him drinking in many of his scenes. For some reason. He’s the one who the audience identifies with, while the rest of the characters are supposed to be more alien. The characters use weird names for things without any explanation and many of them refer to people or things the audience isn’t familiar with. It’s god damn annoying.
Sybil Danning is one woman all young boys of the 80s enjoyed. She has the most revealing costumes ever. Her character is a Valkyrie warrior. There’s not much to say about her because she’s just there to look at. That’s it. She really typifies this movie. It is pretty shallow. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes shallow movies are the most fun and you don’t need a deep, meaningful message like Silent Running or Interstellar all the time, but this movie took the superficial boat out of port and went way off the deep end. Even Star Wars is deep by comparison.
Richard Thomas was John Boy on The Waltons for many years and he was typecast into that role. He left the show in the 70s and tried his hand at a few bigger roles, but none of them worked out. His problem is that he doesn’t try to stretch himself any further than he has to. He’s typecast into all these wholesome roles, so he takes them all. In the movie, his character doesn’t even have the guts to shoot down some guys who are trying to kill him. Pretty weak for a hero, but I guess he’s not the cowboy, George Peppard is.
James Horner wrote the score for this movie, the same guy who did the music for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It sounds a little similar, but Battle Beyond the Stars is a little more boisterous. His music has matured with experience, and you can really tell the difference when he gets later into his career, on movies like Field of Dreams and Glory. Most of the other sounds are pretty unique, but you can hear the influence of all the other science fiction films you might have seen. Ships blast lasers like in Star Trek and zoom around like in Star Wars, exploding all over the screen.
Warrior Woman in Tight Clothes: Shad, did you see me on the monitor? I pulled out! He smashed into an asteroid.
Shad: This isn’t a game, dufus.
Warrior Woman in Tight Clothes: Sorry, I forgot about your Varda. I’m a warrior and we live for battle. Our creed is to live well, fight hard, and have a beautiful ending.
Shad: Violence isn’t beautiful.
Warrior Woman in Tight Clothes: You’ve never seen a Valkyrie go down.
All in all, I’m not sure who might like this movie, because it wears on me. It’s superficial, has awful dialogue, and stupid characters. In comparison to Star Wars, this movie is not even in the same ballpark. I think the best part of this movie is George Peppard and the musical score. The worst part of this movie is that everything is overdone, with more color, more sound, and more stupid dialogue than we need. There’s a four-minute sequence with no dialogue whatsoever, just ships flying around in space trying to blast each other with brightly colored lasers and loud effects. Most of this movie gives me a headache and I would rather watch pretty much anything else, but there are a few funny parts. I guess. I’m still shaking my head though.