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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Starship Invasions 1977 ***

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A prized entry in the so-bad-its-good canon, Starship Invasions is a breathtakingly awful sci-fi epic that claims to be based on actual testimony. Captain Rameses (Christopher Lee) is plotting his invasion of earth, and only Robert Vaughn’s scientist stands in his way. He joins forces with a race of peaceful aliens already on earth to start the fightback when Rameses uses mind control to cause earthlings to commit suicide in droves. Everything in Starship Invasions is jaw-droppingly awful, from the spandex costumes to the kid-friendly suicide bids and endless technobabble (one technician artlessly describes his super-computer as ‘ruined’). Lee and Vaughn looked baffled, as will audiences; apparently writer/director Ed Hunt filmed parts of this at the University of Toronto, which raises questions about the uses of august educational facilities to make such engagingly spurious films.