BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS
Reviewed April 8th, 2001 by Todd Terwilliger
Roger Corman, one of the kings of the B-movie, wanted to make his own Star Wars sci-fi epic. Raising his largest film budget (at least at the time), he developed Battle Beyond The Stars (BBTS).
BBTS is the space opera adaptation of Akira Kurasawa's Seven Samurai, with some alterations of course. Richard Thomas (John-Boy from The Waltons) is Shad. When Shad's planet is threatened by intergalactic tyrant Sador (John Saxon), Shad must scour the stars for a group of mercenaries who will fight the good fight. Notables among the ragtag mercenaries are George Peppard as Cowboy, Robert Vaughn as Gelt, and Sybil Danning as the Valkyrie.
The production values are pure 1980 gold or, if not gold, than at least bronze. It is a Roger Corman film after all. Interestingly, many future stars of industry had a hand in the making of BBTS. James Cameron was the Art Director, the script was written by John Sayles, James Horner (Titanic) composed the score, and Gayle Anne Hurd went on to produce The Terminator and Armageddon. There was more future star power behind the camera than in front of it.
BBTS looks about like one would expect a film of it's age to look. The 1.85:1 widescreen video suffers from grain of differing degrees throughout. Nicks and scratches are also common. Even with these faults, the transfer is the best that's available. If imperfect, it is certainly serviceable.
The soundtrack has been digitally remastered in 5.1 digital stereo surround. While the surrounds are used sparingly, there is a surprising amount of action across the front soundstage. Dialog could have been louder but it is clear and easily understood. Horner's score is also well presented.
This New Concorde edition of BBTS features a nice package of extras. There are commentaries with Sayles and Hurd. There are also production stills, a trailer, cast and crew bios, and preview attractions. The set of extras is quite attractive for a cult niche film such as this.
There's no getting around it. Battle Beyond The Stars is one cheesy film. The effects and conceptions are dated-Shad's ship literally has breasts-and the limitations of low budget '80s special effects becomes obviously apparent. You may recognize shots from BBTS in other Corman films. That is because, to save money, he reused footage in multiple projects. The dialog is often contrived and sometimes painful (or funny) to hear, even as they are spoken with dead serious honesty. The film, despite this (or because of it), is fun. Like the old pulp movies, if you're looking for layers of meaning, you are looking too deep. However, like those films, what BBTS does deliver is a trip to new places, even as it retreads some familiar ground.
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