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Sunday, 22 January 2012

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)


One of the most blatant Star Wars rip-offs in history (only really topped by the 'Turkish Star Wars' which actually sole footage from George Lucas' masterpiece), Battle Beyond The Stars is a delirious fever dream for anyone well-versed in 70s/80s TV. I mean, this thing has John-Boy from the Waltons (Richard Thomas) in the lead as Luke Skywalker-lite, George Peppard (Hannibal from 'The A-Team'), Robert Vaughn ('The Man from U.N.C.L.E.') and even John Saxon ('A Nightmare on Elm Street' 1,3 and 7 and many, many more titles) amidst its cast.

A young man must gather a motley band of adventurers in order to do battle against the evil forces of Sador (Saxon), the Darth Vader/Palpatine type character of the flick, from blowing up the peaceful planet of Akir.

Really, all it is seems to be an excuse to rip off Star Wars and every sci-fi cliché in the universe. From the way it's shot and edited (look out for all those diagonal wipes!), the score, the characters, the effects, everything is stolen from something else. The plot is basically The Seven Samurai all over again, but in space.

Everything is lifted directly from other properties (I even spotted a rip-off of the TARDIS console in there), and it really is a million times worse than the film I remember seeing on TV when I was a kid. No wonder I liked it so much back then- there are plenty of lasers, lingering model shots of spaceships, clear-cut good guys and bad guys and lots of explosions. As a more mature viewer now though, it's unintentionally hilarious.

Some of today's favourite WTF moments have included noticing the automatic doors on one ship sound EXACTLY like Darth Vader's breathing, and the sheer nightmarish quality of Sybil Danning's costume (a somewhat crude and revealing mix of Barbarella and Thor!).

There are Jedi-style aliens, cheerly androids, an Empire-like legion of villains, stormtroopers, rickety starships and derring-do galore. It's loveably awful for the most part, and just plain awful for the rest of it. The best thing to do with this film would be to cut out every single scene apart from the space battles fought between (admittedly well-created) model spaceships. Those scenes are fun, if woefully cheap.

John-Boy looks bored throughout the film, as do most of the cast apart from George Peppard, who seems to be having a blast playing what is essentially a gay cowboy version of Han Solo. Battle Beyond the Stars is passable enough entertainment, but for all the wrong reasons.

Actually, my girlfriend has been sat beside me and glancing over at odd scenes here and there throughout the film. She described it thusly: “It's like the people who made it went to a sci-fi supermarket and stole everything from every aisle.” Well said.


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