There aren’t very many filmmakers out there that can get away with remaking a remake, let alone ripping-off a rip-off. And then there’s that iconic B-Movie King, Roger Corman: a man that damn-well knew the difference between shit and Shinola, and who could make a mint of off either one due to his legendary marketing skills. Following the unexpected success of George Lucas’ Star Wars in 1977, movie studios were eager to jump on the bandwagon and construct entire wardrobes out of rare 1934-issued $100,000 Gold Certificates. Even the Cor-Man himself was overwhelmed with the urge to make a science fiction space epic with aliens, lasers and things that go boom — such as planets.
Seeing as how George Lucas got away with basing his movie off of an Akira Kurosawa classic (The Hidden Fortress), Corman’s writing staff — Anne Dyer and John Sayles — based their tale not only off of another Kurosawa classic, Seven Samurai (1954), but also off of it’s uncredited American “remake,” The Magnificent Seven (1960). And, as a result, 1980’s Battle Beyond The Stars came to be.
We being with the peaceful farmer folk of planet Akir receiving a “do or die” ultimatum from tyrannical alien dictator fellow Sador (the one and only John Saxon: who looks more than a little embarrassed at times here, but who nevertheless still commands his fair share of wickedness from his part). Since they’re pacifists, the Akira send out a young lad named Shad (Richard Thomas aka John-Boy) to find and recruit as many warriors as he possibly can. Aided by his ship’s computer, Nell (Lynn Carlin), Shad proceeds to encounter a wide range of mercenaries and men on the run from the various law enforcement agencies of the universe.
Among these laser-slingers are a man known only as “Space Cowboy” (The A-Team’s George Peppard), who, I suppose makes this movie a precursor to Cowboys & Aliens and on-the-lam tough guy Gelt (Robert Vaughn, who essentially plays the same character as he did in The Magnificent Seven — even using some of the same dialogue — and plays it up accordingly like only he can). Other contenders are include luscious Sybil Danning plays a Valkyrie warrior with an impressively-revealing wardrobe, a group of alien clones called “Nestor” (led by Earl Boen) who are part of a collective-consciousness, a reptilian alien critter named Cayman (Morgan Woodward) who hangs out with a couple of Peter Bark look-alikes (who communicate via heat).