I was playing with a new outdoor projector setup and was looking through Netflix to test it out. What movie could I use to run it through its paces? What film had a great variety in shot selection that would really show me what it could do? For some reason, I picked Battle Beyond the Stars… The cheesy Roger Corman Star Wars knock-off.
Oh, my… Battle Beyond the Stars.
After Star Wars came out, I was a crazy fan of anything that was remotely like it… So, of course, I dragged my mom to take me to Battle Beyond the Stars. I loved it, but time (as we have seen) has a way of change one’s perspective. Battle has not aged well, and it is as cheesy as any 70s or 80s sci-fi gets.
In addition to the obvious “homages” to Star Wars, it’s also a blatant rip-off of The Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven. It’s a “high concept” movie before the term even existed. But “The Magnificent Seven in Space” does not a good movie make… And Battle Beyond the Stars is not a good movie.
It is also incredibly ernest… And it is that tone that takes any and all fun out of the proceedings. Things are played with no whimsy or happiness, and it’s that dreary tone that makes it a chore to sit through.
(Sidebar: Holy cow, the amount of not-so-subtle sexual subtext in the spaceship design in this movie. It’s pretty clear that the designer of these spaceships was a Freudian, and stuck in the Phallic stage.)
What I did enjoy was some of the acting. Three of by favorite B-grade actors are on display: George Peppard, John Saxon, and Robert Vaughn. They do the best with the material they have been given, with Peppard looking like he’s having the most fun. Other actors, like lead Richard Thomas and actress Sybil Danning, do their best to make things work, but the film just doesn’t.
It’s not the worse movie I ever say, but it’s far from the best. If you like cheesy sci-fi, you may like it. Casual viewers need not apply.
A final note: the movie did produce three impressive “graduates.” The first was composer James Horner, who’s work here predates his impressive soundtrack work in Star Trek II, The Rocketeer, and Titanic. The third was writer/director John Sayles, who went on to better things. The third was a man who was responsible to making most of the low-budget sets and effects look quite impressive. You may have heard of him: James Cameron.