Greetings, Manic Fans. Les here to bring my contribution to this year’s Manic Expression Secret Santa. This year, I’m delighted to say I’m Secret Santa to

The Creature.

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I’ve always loved his “It Came From The Drive In” series, so I’m going to do a film review for it. I thought long and hard to come up with a film with B-movie qualities, funny one-liners, humorously stupid villains and some good honest to goodness action. If Kyle hadn’t done “Flash Gordon(1980)” as MY Secret Santa last year….that would’ve been my pick. However, he did that review so well, I’d never do it justice in comparison LOL!

 

Then it hit me…..

Roger Corman.

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If there ever was a “King” of the drive in movie producers, it’s him. He holds a unique position in Hollywood as the most prolific film producer who never lost money making a film. If you can think of a lot of the great cult classic B-movie films that started a lot of careers in front of, and behind the camera, chances are, they were produced by Roger Corman.

 

Ok, hurdle one beat. Then what film to choose….hmmmm. Gonna have to filp some coins on this one. Loved “Death Race 2000.” Loved “Little Shop of Horrors.” AHA! EUREKA! I’VE GOT IT! There’s only one film I want to review:

 

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS

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This was a truly inspired idea for a B-film. Just think about it. “The Magnificent Seven….in SPAAAAAAACE!!!!!” And being an old guy, I had the pleasure of seeing this one in the theater when it was released in 1980.  The story is simple enough.

 

Warning: Some spoilers and great B-movie moments ahead…

 

Villain of the Universe, Sador(John Saxon) arrives at naively hippie-like peaceful planet Akir and demands their servitude(and kills a few to make an example). He threatens them with utter destruction using his Stellar Converter(See Death Star Superlaser…). And promises to return in 7 days to make good on his threat if they resist. Young Shad(Richard Thomas) volunteers to take a legendary spaceship(shaped suspiciously like a voluptuous headless Venus De Milo with gun turrets on the ends of the arm stumps…seriously!  This ship has boobs!)

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to recruit an army to defend the planet. Having no riches, he can only offer food and shelter as repayment. And like “The Magnificent Seven,” He meets and hires 6 outsiders with special skills to aid in the fight.

 

The Characters

 

Sador(John Saxon)

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A classic bad guy after the style of “Calvera”…but galactic bad assed like “Ming the Merciless.” Sador is of a race called the Malmori and has been grafting body parts from opponents and subordinates who screw up to prolong his life. He’s supremely arrogant and fun to watch. His crew of mutants are hilarious in a “Keystone Cops meets Dumb and Dumber” kind of a way.

 

Shad(Richard Thomas)

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Whoever thought “John Boy” from “The Waltons” would make such a compelling hero? Yet, in this film, he is charming in a naive peace-loving boy who is changed by war to become a skilled fighter kind of a way. He gets a lot of great lines in this story.

 

Space Cowboy(George Peppard)

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Move over, Han Solo, Cowboy is the smuggler in this sector of space. A gun-runner from the Planet Earth with a penchant for old cowboy films, harmonica playing and scotch and sodas he can pour from a device on his belt, Cowboy is the runaway star of the film.

 

Gelt(Robert Vaughn)

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Ironically, this character is the same one he played in “The Magnificent Seven.”(Gotta be a good trivia question in that….) Gelt is the greatest bounty hunter in the Universe. He’s unmatched in skills and wealth, but cannot show his face in any civilized system for fear of assassination due to the enemies he’s made over the course of his career. A meal and a place to settle down to hide is a price he’s willing to take to join this fight.

 

Cayman of the Lambda Zone(Morgan Woodward)

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The last of the Lazuli, a reptilian species, he’s in the fight to avenge his race, extinguished by Sador.

 

Nestor(Earl Boen, John Gowens and extras)

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Remarkably, this character beat Star Trek The Next Generation by several years. He’s a single consciousness with multiple facets(physical bodies)-like the Borg. However, he’s a friendly alien simply out to experience new things. He has telepathic and telekinetic abilities.

 

St. Exmin of the Valkyrie(Sybil Danning)

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The hottest space warrior babe to ever fill a tight spandex outfit, St. Exmin is out to prove herself as a fierce fighter.  Her motto:   Live free, fight well and have a beautiful ending.

 

Nanelia(Darlanne Fluegel)

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The Daughter of Dr. Hephaestus(Sam Jaffe), she’s Shad’s love interest and a computer expert. Having never met another human, she’s delightfully as naive and innocent as Shad.  They make a cute couple.

 

There are several things about this film that make it such a guilty pleasure.

 

1.  This was the first film score by James Horner(Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Willow, Titanic, The Rocketeer, Apollo 13, Aliens…)

Press here to hear-  Film Score

It is magnificent, too. This music has a lot of uniquely “Horneresque” qualities to it. The pulsing string sweeps….The blasting horns….the drum marches and themes used for the different characters. And it’s been recycled in other films from time to time.

 

2.  This was also the first film future director James Cameron worked on(As the head model maker..then quickly promoted during the production to head special effects director).

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You can see his design brilliance in this film that went on to propel his career in later films like “The Terminator,” “The Abyss,” And “Aliens.” With a very meager budget, he produced some fairly respectable effects and some great spaceships and their interiors.

 

3.  The Cast had some fantastic character actors in it.

 

Jeff Corey plays

Zed

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He’s the old blind man who was once a great warrior of the Akira who sends Shad on his mission.

 

Sam Jaffe plays

Dr. Hephaestus

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He’s the really old man who’s now a cyborg on a space station that repairs androids. He wants Shad to stay with Nanelia and “repopulate” the station.

 

Lynn Carlin plays

Nell

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She’s the voice of the AI onboard Shad’s ship. She’s brash, loud and talks a little like a ’70’s porn star. She gets a lot of great lines too.

 

4.  The Dialogue is corny as hell…but delivered completely seriously in such a way that what’s pretty bad is so bad it’s awesomely great.

 

All in all, “Battle Beyond the Stars” is a film adventure that will give you a feel good feeling and some genuinely funny moments while you’re watching it. If you like a fun science fiction B-movie, then I highly recommend this cult classic from the vault of B-movie mogul Roger Corman, my friends.

 

Even though it’s a bit early….Merry Christmas, The Creature. I hope you enjoyed this review. Peace.

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