For the few years between 1977 and 1989 cinema was filled with clones of Star Wars. Films like Star Crash cashed in on the Star Wars craze, even Battlestar Galactica which had Ralph McQuarrie did come to work on that series, and the three-parter turned into a feature, and even the effects team behind it all.
For me the ultimate of these was Roger Corman’s production of Battle Beyond the Stars, from the score, cast, effects, story and even Jim Cameron’s model work it was the low budget tribute to films like that.
We have a few stars to get us through what is a by the numbers western when you think about it, with the evil lord played by John Saxon (he’s quite good in this actually), laying siege to a planet, just like the bandits do in The Magnificent Seven and expect them to give in, but they have other plans and need a team of heroes to find salvation for them.
The film stars: George Peppard as Cowboy and Robert Vaughn as Gelt. Along with a collection of amazing heroes they do battle which is small, and pales in comparison to anything George Lucas created, but given its budget and creativity is actually impressive. Vaughn played Lee in The Magnificent Seven, and his character in this Gelt is pretty much exactly the same, certain lines in both films seem to echo, and like Yul Brynner who revisited his western character too in Westworld to a certain degree it’s amazing to see it work in another genre so well. The film really is a space western.
James Cameron worked on this as one of his first films, creating the starships, and working on the effects of the film, surprisingly so did his frequent collaborators, Earl Boen (Dr Silberman from The Terminator) and James Horner who created an amazingly memorable score.
The ships are quite derivative of Star Wars but there’s some very odd designs going on, either way, you can see Jim was honing his art here.
The main plot involves young Shad played by Richard Thomas, a farmer who goes out to recruit mercenaries to help stop the impending invasion of evil forces by John Saxon’s Sador. The planet is called Akir in honour of Akira Kurosawa, as it’s the second US remake of Seven Samurai.
Directed by Jimmy T. Mukamai and also Roger Corman. It’s also the most expensive or his films to make at the time as it cost Roger around 2 million dollars.
The film may not have the budget, and effects to hold up the majestic story, but it’s the most enjoyable of the clones of the Star Wars films, and one that is rewatchable.