Battle Beyond the Stars

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The farmers of the peaceful planet Akir are threatened by the space tyrant Sador (John Saxon) and his army of mutants, the Malmori. Sador’s huge ship carries a weapon called a “Stellar Converter”, which turns planets into small stars. He threatens to use the Converter unless the planet submits to him when he returns in several days. Zed (Jeff Corey), the last Akira warrior, is old and nearly blind. He suggests they hire mercenaries to protect the planet. Lacking valuable resources, they can only offer food and shelter in payment. Unable to go himself, Zed offers his ship, which has an artificial intelligence navigation and tactical computer named Nell, for the job if they can find a pilot. The ship is fast and well-armed but cannot defeat Sador alone. Shad (Richard Thomas), a young man who has piloted the ship and is well known to Nell, volunteers for the recruiting mission.

Shad’s first stop is the Hephaestus space station, which repairs androids. Expecting to find weapons, Shad instead finds only two humans among the androids: Doctor Hephaestus (Sam Jaffe), kept on life support, and his beautiful daughter Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel). The doctor attempts to force Shad to mate with his daughter. Shad doesn’t want to abandon his people, and escapes, with Nanelia following in her own ship. Although she has no weapons, her highly advanced computer systems might be useful. The two split up to look for more mercenaries.

Shad comes across Space Cowboy (George Peppard), a spacegoing truck driver from Earth. Shad learns that Cowboy is late delivering a shipment of laser guns to a planet which, as they watch, Sador destroys with his weapon. Lacking the fuel to carry the weapons home, Cowboy offers to deliver them to Akir. Shad talks him into teaching the Akira to use the guns. Later, Shad meets a set of five alien clones who share a group consciousness named Nestor. They admit their life is incredibly dull, since their whole race shares one mind. In order to be entertained, they have sent five members to join Shad’s cause. Nestor does not require payment, saying they are completely self-sufficient. Next, Shad recruits Gelt (Robert Vaughn), a wealthy assassin who is so well known he can’t show his face on any civilized planet. Gelt offers his services in trade for the ability to live peacefully hiding among the Akira. Gelt’s spaceship is highly maneuverable and well armed. On his way back to Akir, Shad is approached by Saint Exmin (Sybil Danning), of the Valkyrie warriors. She is a headstrong woman looking to prove herself in battle. She pilots a small, barely armed, but extremely fast spaceship. Shad finds her annoying and wishes she would go away, but she tags along.

While waiting for Shad’s return, Nanelia is captured by a reptilian slaver named Cayman. Cayman possesses a powerful old ship with an eclectic crew of aliens. She quickly recruits Cayman to their cause when he learns that they are looking for mercenaries to fight Sador. The only payment Cayman wants is Sador’s head, since Sador’s forces had destroyed Cayman’s homeworld.

The fleet of seven ships return to Akir. Shad takes the mercenaries down to the surface, but they are greeted with caution by the natives, who are not used to violent species. Eventually, Sador returns, but his fleet of fighters is intercepted by Shad and his new friends. In the opening battle, Gelt skillfully destroys several of Sador’s ships but is mortally wounded when his ship crashes. Meanwhile, Cowboy and the Akiran natives, armed with his laser guns, fight off Sador’s invading ground forces.

Sador survives an assassination attempt by one of the captured Nestors and launches all of his ships in retaliation against the planet. The Akira ground troops, lead by Cowboy, defeat Sador’s army, but Zed is killed in the fighting. There is another huge space battle and the mercenaries’ ships are destroyed one by one. However, the mercenaries are successful in destroying all of Sador’s star fighters and the Stellar Converter, leaving only Sador’s flagship. Shad and Nanelia, piloting Nell, are captured by the flagship in a tractor beam. The pair escape in a lifepod after Shad orders Nell to activate the ship’s self-destruct program. Sador’s ship is destroyed in the explosion. As Shad and Nanelia return to Akir, Nanelia despairs over the deaths of their friends. Shad tells her that the Akira believe that no one is truly dead when they are remembered and beloved by the living. The Akira will remember the sacrifices made by the mercenaries and honor them forever.


Cult movies seem to be the theme for the upcoming year for me. We’ll have to see if this becomes something more than a fluke. In the meantime, I bring you Battle Beyond the Stars. Chances are you have no idea what this is, right? Well, let’s find out what’s going on with this, shall we?

What is this about?

With the peaceful planet of Akir in peril, seven mercenaries join forces to protect it from the plottings of an intergalactic megalomaniac.

What did I like?

Referendum. For those that aren’t familiar with the source material, this is another remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. You may be more familiar with the western remake, The Magnificent Seven. With such a well-known property such as this, it doesn’t hurt to throw some fan service in there, if it does right. For instance, the planet under siege is called Akir, obviously after Akira. Little touches like that offer a pleasant nod to the true creator of this plot.

Familiar. Speaking of The Magnificent Seven, Robert Vaughn appears in a role that is very similar to the one he played in that classic western. Once again he is someone who is above his compatriots, at least he appears that way, and is a very talented and skilled assassin. When I heard that this was the case, I thought I would not be a fan, but as it turns out, it would be hard to picture anyone else in this role, without comparing them to Vaughn. So, why not get the man himself and let him do his thing, right?

In space. Here is something that I’ve noticed, many films that are “set in space” end up spending way more time on planets than they need to. Most of these films are modern, but back in the late 70s and 80s, they knew how to make a sci-fi flick that stays in space for most of the flick. Yes, they do go on a couple of planets, but they aren’t there very long, and I appreciate that.

What didn’t I like?

Lean back. The final member of our seven is a buxom Valkyrie named Saint-Exmin who, when in her Valkyrie gear, seems to be the inspiration for Sif in the Thor comics. Is that what I have against her? No, it is the way she sits in her ship. For some weird reason, she is leaning back as if she is Barbarella on that pleasure/torture machine she had. I don’t really get what the reason for this was, and I may just be grasping at something complain about, but I didn’t like it.

Cowboys and aliens. This wouldn’t be a space flick complete with mercenaries without a Han Solo-type character. This iteration of our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder is known as Cowboy and is played by George Peppard. I have nothing against Peppard’s character, except that is does seem strange that an Earthling is out there in the middle of space. Do I think that he should have been an alien? Not necessarily, but it was just strange to have him from Earth.

Remake. There are very few things that I detest, despise, and just flat-out hate more than remakes. Like I always say, those things are nothing but lazy filmmaking and show how Hollywood doesn’t have any creativity left, since all they do is recycle old ideas and spit on their legacy. Before I go off into an epic rant, let me say that while I love the western version of this and appreciate that this version takes the original and puts it in space, they are both remakes, again proving the lack of originality coming out of Hollywood.

The year is 1980. Earlier in the year, the second part of George Lucas’ opus was released. Perhaps you’ve heard of that small film, The Empire Strikes Back? Yes, this film was made to combat the space craze that was going in films at the time. Another small fact that you may not know is that a couple of young up and comers worked on this film, composer James Horner and future director James Cameron who was then working as a special effects artist. Aside from those little trivia bit, we must appreciate the different alien races and ships. As fun as this film is, I have to say that it really isn’t that good. The acting is very rudimentary, at best, there is a lack of humor that would have served this film much better, though Peppard tries, and the motivation behind the antagonist doesn’t seem to exist. With all that said, do I recommend this? Yes, this is a very fun film in the vein of Star Wars, but not quite the authentic. Mixing two of my favorite films together in Star Wars and The Magnificent Seven, of course I’m going to like this, and I hope other will enjoy, as well.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars


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