Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
One of the more successful of the Star Wars ripoff productions, Battle Beyond
the Stars sees Roger Corman back in typical form, making a commercial product with
a barely disguised contempt for his audience, in this case almost exclusively
small children. The script is a quickie gloss on The Magnificent Seven that John Sayles
must have scribbled off overnight to get out of a contract commitment or something. Neophyte
Akirian Richard Thomas recruits a handful of space warriors to defend his planet from some utterly
colorless villains led by John Saxon. In cameos that at most required a day or two of work
by each, the stars say their few lines and make faces for closeups at the controls of various
spacecraft, that can later be intercut with special effects. Thomas is reasonably engaging, Vaughn
replays a nothing riff from his Mag 7 character, and Peppard charms his way through his awful
dialogue. Also seen briefly are Sam Jaffe, (or at least his head), Jeff Corey, and the only
even momentarily fun character, an over-the-top amazonian warrior played by Sybil Danning. The
whole enterprise is, as they say, for undiscerning kids.
For a few moments we have some inventiveness with a race of albinos who have a common consciousness
and a telepathic connection: they let one of their number be voluntarily captured in a nice inversion
on a torture scene. Otherwise, it's all actors pretending to shoot ray guns, followed by barely-
related shots of animated rays zip-zapping about.
For all Corman's boasting that this is his most expensive production, it looks horribly cheap
and tacky. There's a randomness to the cutting and a deadening sameness to the outerspace
effects shots. There are a lot of them. The quality never goes below a certain
it is obvious that people like James Cameron are making the most of their first chance at screen work,
while getting zilch in the way of support from their producer. The model work and photography
of the ships is
rather good (Corman would recycle it as stock footage for a number of subsequent films), but
the spaceship designs are sub-par Star Wars rejects.
Thomas's ship looks like a cross between a
hammerhead shark and a scotch tape dispenser, but with breasts. Or are they testicles? Go figure.
James Horner's music is one definite asset, playing it safe yet proving that he had what it takes to do
fullscale symphonic scores. In the absence of story or even editing structure, it's the music
that gives the film what cohesion it has. What Battle Beyond the Stars best
illustrates is Corman's typical modus operandi for the last thirty years - hire ambitious unproven
people, give them far less than the bare minimum to accomplish their jobs, and let them make up
the difference. Savant doesn't buy the 'great encourager of new talent' story: for every James
Cameron or Gale Anne Hurd, there are 200 Corman hopefuls who were exploited, plain and
simple. Savant's admiration for Corman is for his work as a director.
New Concorde's transfer is on the dark side but adequate; there's a lot of dirt and negative damage,
some of which appears to be built into the one-try-only opticals. There are twin commentaries by
writer Sayles and production manager Gale Anne Hurd. Both commentaries are fascinating. Hurd
and Sayles are enthusiastic about the movie and talk openly about the business and the opportunity
Battle represented for them. Jolly Roger Corman joins Sayles and together they visit all
kinds of subjects, movies and people related to this movie and others. Corman has recorded
commentaries for a number of MGM-owned pictures; it'll be interesting to see if he's this effusive
when his talk is promoting someone else's product!
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Battle Beyond the Stars rates:
Supplements: twin commentaries, production stills, trailer
Packaging: Alpha case
Reviewed: April 8, 2001
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2001 Glenn Erickson
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