Battle Beyond The Stars 1980 ****

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‘I eat serpent seven times a week’ says Gelt (Robert Vaughn), in one of a number of quotable lines from Roger Corman’s Star Wars rip-off Battle Beyond the Stars. There’s a certain logic to Corman’s thinking here; if Star Wars knocked off Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, then why not rip of Seven Samurai? Sure, The Magnificent Seven already Westernised that classic text, but why not lean into it and have characters like Cowboy (George Peppard) and to take things further, get Robert Vaughn back and have him say the same dialogue he did in John Sturges’s film? John Sayles was the screenwriter charged with sorting out the conceptual issues, and presumably his writing process involved being locked in a room with the script for Magnificent Seven, Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces and a massive lump of cheese, because cheesy action is what results. Henry Thomas is Shad, a young farmer dispatched to put together a group of mercenaries to defend his home planet against despot Sador (John Saxon). The team he puts together include various oddities like a lizard man, bald twins and a Valkyrie, played by the voluptuous Sybil Danning in costumes which make Caroline Munro in Starcrash look positively demure. With a James Horner score and James Cameron on effects, Battle Beyond The Stars has quite a pedigree, and the talent bring their A-game to this B movie. Jimmy T Murakami directs, so what do we talk about when we talk about Battle Beyond The Stars? Spaceship interiors seeming made of plasticine, planets made of candy-floss; it’s a strange universe to explore in low-budget cinema, but there’s a degree of knowing wit in the dialogue that makes Battle Beyond the Stars a guilty pleasure.

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Alien 2: On Earth 1980 ***

alien 2

Ciro Ippolito’s cheeky horror film is a rip-off rather than a sequel to Ridley Scott’s benchmark sci-fi horror, but it’s got a certain charm. Made in a brief moment before Fox copyrighted the Alien brand, Alien 2 sets a very different tone; a montage of scenes showing how the mechanism of a bowling alley operates, or a plaintive country and western song over footage of dustbowl California. After a noodling opening capturing such inessential scenes, Alien 2 eventually focuses on a group of potholers encountering a deadly alien life-form. Alien 2 mimics the action of the original in a cheaper setting, but there’s some imagination behind the effects, with Maria Bava involved in the process. The final scenes, in which pot-holers escape to find a deserted world, have a certain dreamlike quality, and the whole package, while laughable in comparison to Scott’s film, is pretty much compulsive viewing for lovers of Italian Eurotrash.