Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Battle Beyond the Stars
  • Battle Beyond the Stars
  • Richard Thomas in Battle Beyond the Stars
Produced by Roger Corman and scripted by John Sayles, Battle Beyond the Stars is a cheerfully blatant imitation of The Seven Samurai (or at least the American remake The Magnificent Seven). A peace loving planet is attacked by malevolent aliens. The powers-that-be hire a group of mercenaries, headed by George Peppard, to protect the planet from harm. Peppard's contingent includes squeaky-clean Richard Thomas Jr. and statuesque Sybil Danning. John Saxon goes through his usual paces as the villain, while the supporting players include such dependables as Sam Jaffe, Jeff Corey, and, from Magnificent Seven itself, Robert Vaughn. Keep an eye out for Julia Duffy as "Mol". A deft blend of standard sci-fi action and knowing "inside" humor, Battle Beyond the Stars was one of Corman's biggest hits of the 1980s - not to mention an endless supply of stock footage for future New World Productions. – All-Movie Guide
45% liked it

PG, 1 hr. 45 min.

Director: Jimmy T. Murakami

January 9, 2011: The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Year A)

As noted above, 45% of Flixter users liked this movie. The other 55%, while entitled to their opinion… are quite obviously insane. Battle Beyond The Stars is Roger Corman at his (mostly) non-sleazy best, a near perfect realization of his tried and true technique of gathering together recognizable faces like Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, George Peppard, and (Oh Yeah!) John Saxon, and pairing them with some soon to be recognizable names behind the camera such as a then unknown composer named James Horner and a still wet behind the ears visual effects effects designer by the name of James Cameron.

Which is actually kind of funny because, for my sensibilities at least, this measly $2,000,000 dollar effort is a lot more enjoyable than the $237,000,000 production Horner and  Cameron last worked on together. Oh sure, Avatar might win in the effects department (kind of), but it pales in comparison to Battle Beyond The Stars when it comes to characters. For me, Cameron’s generic space Indians just can’t compete with the rag tag band of memorable mercenaries the hopelessly wimpy Shad assembles to protect his planet in Corman’s movie. There’s the cosmic trucker Space Cowboy with his ever present harmonica and trusty booze dispensing utility belt. There’s the pre-Borg group consciousness Nestor who sends five of his hive minded clones to join the battle just for the experience. There’s Gelt, the galaxy’s most wanted assassin, whose only fee is a bed he can sleep in without having to leave one eye open. There’s the overly enthusiastic chain mail bikini clad Valkyrie warrior Saint-Exmin. There’s the righteous revenge seeking man-lizard Cayman of the Lambda Zone and his crew of heat speaking midgets, The Kelvin. Heck, even Shad’s spaceship Nel has a more memorable personality (not to mention a more memorable anatomy) than anyone in Avatar.

I know Battle Beyond The Stars sounds cartoonish, and to tell the truth, it is. But thanks to the solid performances it’s also true that you get attached to the characters, and feel for them when they start to die. Heck, If I had a booze dispensing utility belt, I’d lift a glass to them all right now. I suppose all that bible reading has just left me with a soft spot for unlikely heroes. You know, like in this week’s reading from the Book of Isaiah which is the first in a series of  four poems known as the Servant Songs. These verses announce the coming of a messiah who will bring deliverance for God's suffering people, but not necessarily the one they might expect.

As Peter M. J. Stravinskas  explains in his book The Catholic Church and the Bible, “Throughout much of Israel’s history, it seems that the Messiah was seen as a king or political figure. Even the famous oracles in Isaiah had their original setting in the imminent expectation of a king… As it became increasingly obvious that the kings were not living up to their vocation, many in Israel began to turn to others for a Messiah, such as the one we find described in the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah 42 and 49-53. This servant would suffer and, through his sufferings, justify many. He would bear the guilt of the people.” Doesn’t really sound like the warrior-king one would expect to save a nation, does it?

But, as in everything else, the unexpected servant king revealed by those songs acts as our example today. With our individual quirks and flaws, we may not be what the world expects to save it, but we’re what it’s got anyway. As the Catechism points out, “lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.” Nowhere in there does it say only the cool or important Christians, but all of us, however unlikely a choice as we might think ourselves to be.

Now if only we could figure out a way to get the job to include one of them there booze dispensing utility belts…


(former) Rocket Scientist said...

Very very good article. In both the movies you briefly mention, "Seven Samurai" and "The Magnificent Seven" the heroes are unlikely - well, most of them, anyway. God gives us what we need, not what we want.

germangreek said...

Weird. I remember actually seeing this one in the theater. Star Wars it wasn't.

EegahInc said...

Nope, it's not The Magnificent Seven or Star Wars, though it happily steals from both. Still, I've got a big soft spot for Battle Beyond The Stars. It's just entertaining to me.