Reel Reviews

Battle Beyond the Stars - Blu-ray Review

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Battle Beyond the Stars - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

Famed writer/director/producer Roger Corman is not one to let a trend pass without notice and monetary capitalization.  Still looking to mine the Star Wars vein of golden riches and fortune and glory in 2980, he mounted his most expensive production and put together a creative team (which included a young and still tyrannical James Cameron and composer James Horner) to put together the snazzy-looking space adventure that is Battle Beyond the Stars.  Expertly written by John Sayles, the result is a matinee geek’s love affair; a rip-roarin’ adventure that works as a companion piece to Flash Gordon and, in many ways, outpaces the B-movie imaginations of George Lucas.

There’s nothing original about the narrative; only the sense of bandit-type fun that percolates throughout the film.  Threatened by the space tyrant Sador (John Saxon) and his army of mutants, a young Akir farmer – Shad (Richard Thomas) - is sent by his people to assemble a team with enough firepower to destroy Sador’s forces forever.  The hodge-podge group is composed of the earth-loving and scotch-drinking Cowboy (George Peppard), the deadly assassin Gelt (Robert Vaughn basically in the role he played in The Magnificent Seven), love interest Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel), Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning), and Cayman of the Lambda Zone (Morgan Woodward), a former slave of Sador’s rule.  The team returns to Akir and mingles with its inhabitants as its plans the attack against Sador’s forces.  The ragamuffin group also gets to know each other in hilarious and rather virginal (and laughable) ways.  It is full of heroic padding and goofball oddities all the way toward the big showdown with Sador’s bigass Stellar Converter.

Essentially, Battle Beyond the Stars can be described as Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai meet Star Wars on a restricted budget that employs egg and milk cartons for its interior spaceship designs.  The cardboard characters don’t try to be anything more than soap opera fluff and the chaste situations aren’t much stronger.  The performances are little slices of B-movie mojo and don’t aim to be anything but in-the-moment carbon copy.  Confidence alone carries this picture across the finish line with a win.  It knows what it is and isn’t trying to fool anyone with awesome special effects and artistic vision.  Maybe Cameron thought that at the time, but such is not the case.  Still, as far as B-movies go, Battle Beyond the Stars has the look of the one to match and try to beat.

What is insanely awesome about Battle Beyond the Stars is the fact that James Horner’s score seems to be the blueprint he would later use for Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.  The cues are eerily familiar and equally barbaric; even the sonic distortions when viewing the scenes that feature the exteriors of the spaceships are sonically familiar for the careful Trekker who knows his film cues.  It seems Horner used Battle Beyond the Stars as the basis for what would, two years later, become the best Star Trek film and soundtrack (which, ironically enough, was Horner’s first major film score).

The film slightly loses its low-tech charm and goes off its rails during the final laser-soaked battle and succumbs to its Star Wars riff without adding much bang to the established sci-fi formula, but even that can’t stop its goofball charm for too long.  It’s sincere, but not perfect; that rare spectacle of science fiction gobbledygook that achieves its matinee-level goals with an eagerness all too often unseen in these types of knockoff productions.  Offering no apologies for its formulaic approach to space madness, Battle Beyond the Stars is nothing short of a good time.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Film Details}

Battle Beyond the Stars - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Jimmy T. Murakami
Writer: John Sayles
Cast:
Richard Thomas; Robert Vaughn; John Saxon; George Peppard; Darlanne Fluegel; Sybil Danning
Genre: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline:
A battle beyond time, beyond space.
Memorable Movie Quote: "30 seconds and counting, Zed. 29, 28, 27, 24, 15, 22... did I... did I say 15?"
Distributor:
New World Pictures
Release Date:
September 8, 1980 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 12, 2011

Synopsis: Seven futuristic mercenaries are assembled to defend a helpless farm colony from an evil overlord.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Battle Beyond the Stars - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 12, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A

Another solid offering from Shout! Factory.  The 1080p transfer is the best this film has ever looked.  Colors are brightly-soaked with glowing hues.  Blues are sharp and the blacks are heavy without dominating the screen.  Large interiors are warm and defined with an unmatched clarity.  The sound, offered in a 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix, kicks with levels the filmmakers probably never imagined.  Spaces are filled with constant noise and explosions are robust.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Offering two wonderful commentaries, the supplemental material is rich with information.

  • In the first track, Corman sits with Saylas and discusses the making and writing of the film.
  • In the second track, production manager Gale Anne Hurd offers her take on the backstage antics of the movie.  It’s not nearly as sharp as Corman’s offering, but it is interesting.

Special Features:

With new interviews from cast (especially Richard Thomas) and crew, the supplemental material is bold and informative.  There isn’t a lot but with the two commentaries it’s enough.  The interviews are thorough and has a great making-of featurette that rounds out the brief (but of value) supplementals.

  • The Man Who Would Be Shad (15 min)
  • Space Opera On a Shoestring (33 min)
  • Still Gallery (37 images)
  • Trailer
  • TV Spot

{2jtab: Trailer}

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