Thursday, November 17, 2016

Battle Beyond the Stars

In down times, I turn to "comfort science fiction."

That's something of a term I invented (or maybe I didn't...should check the interwebs) to describe purely entertaining science fiction films from my youth. Many of these were produced on the cheap and were blatantly attempting to cash in on the massive success of Star Wars. They have no serious message and don't pretend to and that is by no means to their detriment.

I recently watched Battle Beyond the Stars. It's a Roger Corman feature from 1980 that actually featured special effects work by a young James Cameron. It definitely borrows pages from Star Wars but also deliberately from The Magnificent Seven (and thereby Seven Samurai).

Akir is a peaceful planet (whose inhabitants are known as the Akira in a nod to the director of the aforementioned Seven Samurai.) But it's getting hassled by Mardor the Conqueror (played by John Saxon, a staple of 70s/80s scifi) who leads the Malmori army and a couple creepy, freaky sycophants. So a young boy named Shad (played by Richard Thomas...that guy from The Waltons) needs to head off into space in search of mercenaries to help defend his home. Fortunately, he picks up a love interest from Hephaestus Station (a space station where androids are repaired...and yes, there will be many more parentheticals in this post) who happens to own a hammerhead-shaped spaceship with a wise-cracking computer named Nell.

During their search, they acquire a wealthy assassin named Gelt (played by Robert Vaughn), a really cool reptilian alien named Cayman who has a personal vendetta against Mardor, Saint Exmin of the Valkyrie (played by the ever-voluptuous Sybil Danning) who flies by the motto "Live fast, fight well, and have a beautiful ending," five hive-mind clones called the Nestor, and a couple aliens who communicate by sharing heat. Best of all, there is George Peppard as the Space Cowboy (I'm not kidding), a hard drinking, space-rig driving sort that I swore would say "I love it when a plan comes together" at any given moment. The seven, each in their own respective ships, fly into battle against Mardor and the Malmori.

And it's pretty cool.

Seriously, I wish they made either toys or models of the spaceships. I can see myself sitting down on the floor and replaying all the space battles with no shame at all. Well, maybe a little. Nah, that's not true. I've got none left. Better yet, I wish there were comic books that filled in the back stories on the rag-tag group of heroes fighting against the, Malmori. I might be alone in these desires but what the hell. I'm used to that.

You owe it to yourself to check this out. Guaranteed to get your mind off your troubles. Also might inspire you.

I mean, plucky band of misfits against a steamrolling tyrant and his army? Nice.

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