Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Movie Review: Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

As we sat down to watch Battle Beyond the Stars, Jay shook his head and said, "I don't know what you're going to make of this one..."

Well, that's a heck of a start, isn't it?

I was surprised to learn that Battle Beyond the Stars is a Roger Corman film. Then, I watched it and... oh, yeah. Totally a Corman film. (If you're not familiar with his work, just assume Corman is a synonym for "cringe-worthy.")

Battle Beyond the Stars is more like a sci-fi movie from the 60s than an 80's film, although the intro is painfully of the Eighties. The sets are exactly as dodgy as you'd expect a 60s set to have been. It really doesn't hold up well against other sci-if movies of the day.

(Those special effects, man. Whoo-ey.)

The cast is pretty decent, though. You've got George Peppard, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, and Richard Thomas, for starters. If only a good cast could guarantee a good movie...

It does not. Apparently, a good cast doesn't even guarantee good acting. There was some stellar acting in Battle Beyond the Stars (pun intend, of course.) This is what happens when bad movies happen to good actors.

I've been trying to think of a way to describe Battle Beyond the Stars and the only thing I can say is imagine every sci-fi cliche you've ever seen, then put them all in one movie.

Boy, do I wish I was exaggerating...

John Saxon's Sador was your typical deformed baddie with ugly henchmen. Because the Big Bads have to be disabled and their henchmen have to be ugly, right? Okay, to be fair, there's more to it than that. Sador is more of a cautionary how-much-can-we-replace-and-still-be-ourselves cautionary villain but you get the point.


Meanwhile, John Saxon swaggers in with his booze belt and rebel flag, proving there are even rednecks in space. And let's talk about Sybil Danning's St. Exmin for a minute.

Since we're talking about cliches, we may as well get the big-haired space bimbo out of the way. I swear the woman had to have changed her outfit a million times, each one more ridiculous than the last. And, for a Valkyrie-type race, she was a lousy fighter with the most ridiculous, girly scream.


I'm amazed St. Exmin's enormous, heaving bosom didn't single-handedly set women in sci-fi back thirty years. She was there, as far as I can tell, for no other reason than to be the over-sexed temptation for the sweet, little virgin boy. As Jay says, St. Exmin was basically "a demented Playboy bunny in space."


There was only one part of the movie that I really enjoyed and that was the uber sarcastic computer, Nell. Of course, Nell was part of a spaceship that was shaped like a massive ball sack but, hey.

I'm still not 100% certain if I know what the message of the movie is supposed to be. When it started, a race of peace-loving people got wiped out of existence, suggesting the theme was going to be something along the lines of "Nice guys get their asses kicked." But, in the end, Richard Thomas's Shad leads his people to victory. Except, well, the band of reformed mercenaries he enlisted to help him ALL die. So... the moral is... um, everyone dies except the virgins?


Nah, that can't be right...

Guess I'm still trying to figure out what, exactly, the point of watching Battle Beyond the Stars is. I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

Despite how awful this movie was, it's surprising how often references to it have popped up in other things. The Dial-a-Date machine in Gelt's hideaway reminded me of a similar machine in Demolition Man and there was a touch of the Peppard's Cowboy in Spaceballs's Lone Starr. Oh, and let's not forget the frightening similarities between Saxon's Sador and Futurama's Zapp Brannigan. Clearly, there are plenty of people out there who got more from this movie than I did.

Next time? Maybe some action/adventure.

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