Science fiction can be pretty stupid at times, especially olded science fiction, the stuff with zap guns and space ships. But it can also be pretty entertaining, as proves the Roger Corman-produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) that I saw last night on a 35 mm film. I'd seen it before on television, but never on big screen.
At core, the film is indeed stupid: John Saxon plays a maniacal tyrant, who wants to destroy or enslave whole planets. One of the planets, Akir, wants to fight, and a young man is sent to find some hired guns to help them. Battle Beyond the Stars is a riff on The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven (with even one of the actors of the latter film, Robert Vaughn recreating his role as a lone gunman), but more essentially it's a Star Wars copy, with lesser space fights and less fictional mythology. The film races along fast, but the scenes are loosely jointed. The battle scenes are clumsy and a bit confusing at times.
But on the good side are many things: John Sayles' funny and clever script with lots of sexual innuendo that's largely missing from George Lucas' Star Wars, many nice actors in bit parts (Sam Jaffe, George Peppard, Vaughn), Sybil Danning in a goofy role as a female warrior, and good music from Howard Shore. Sayles' script shows his feminism also in the female computer of the hero's space ship, she's clearly an grumpy older lady who takes no shit from no one. Too bad she doesn't make it in the final battle.
Though nothing great, Battle Beyond the Stars was a good-humored film and I left the cinema grinning to myself. And oh, by the way, I thought I spotted Sayles playing one of the doll-like androids in Sam Jaffe's space station, but IMDb doesn't mention him.
Huge amount of links to other reviews on Todd Mason's blog here.