The peaceful planet of Akir is being targeted by the vicious Sador (John Saxon). Sador is the ruler of the Malmori Empire. With his army of mutants he conquers planets and enslaves their people. Sador has a powerful weapon called a Stellar Converter. If a planet resists it is burned to a crisp. Akir is a farming planet. Sador wants the planets harvest. Since Akir has no weapons they are at the mercy of Sador and Sador is never merciful. He tells the people of Akir that he will return in seven risings of the planet’s sun to collect the harvest.
Knowing that they are not equipped to oppose Sador the people of Akir decide that the only thing they can do is to hire mercenaries to fight for them. The trouble is they don’t know any and they have nothing to pay them with. Zed (Jeff Corey) is an old blind man and the last of the warriors of Akir. He owns the only spaceship. The ship is run by a computer called Nell. Shad (Richard Thomas) offers to pilot the ship and seek out some mercenaries that will accept food and lodging as payment.
Shad’s first stop is to see Doctor Hephaestus (Sam Jaffe). Hephaestus was an old friend of Zed and Zed thinks that he can provide Shad with weapons. Unfortunately Hephaestus is more android now than human. His whole station is full of androids that he created. The only human is his daughter Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel). Hephaestus wants Shad to stay and mate with Nanelia. With her help Shad escapes. Nanelia decides to follow him.
Shad recruits an earthling named Cowboy (George Peppard) when he saves Cowboy from raiders. Cowboy’s payload is weapons he was to deliver to a planet that is now destroyed by Sador. He gives the weapons to Shad. Shad next recruits five clones called Nestor who are bored and then a mercenary called Gelt (Robert Vaughn) who is lonely and likes the idea of receiving his payment in food and a planet to hide on. A Valkyrie warrior called St. Exmin (Sybil Danning) decides to join the group even though Shad finds her irritating. Nanelia shows up having acquired her own mercenaries. She has recruited Cayman (Morgan Woodward). He has a grudge against Sador and joins for free. Along with him are this crew Kelvin 1 and Kelvin 2 (Lawrence Steven Meyers, Lara Cody) two aliens who communicate using heat and Quopeg (Steve Davis).
With this ragtag group Shad heads back to Akir and possible self destruction.
“Battle Beyond the Stars” was released in 1980 and was directed by Jimmy T. Murakami and Roger Corman. It is an American science fiction space opera. The special effects were designed by James Cameron, the screenplay by John Sayles and the music score was by James Horner.
I don’t think there’s ever been a blockbuster that Roger didn’t try to create a mini-me about. He’ll even copy his own films. “Battle Beyond the Stars” came out not long after “The Empire Strikes Back” 1980. It’s one of the ways he makes his money. Granted Roger is the thrifty mart of movie makers but some of his films are fun. This film is a futuristic remake of the Japanese Epic “Seven Samurai” 1954 and its American remake “The Magnificent Seven” 1960. You can’t fault Roger for that. Re-makes, re-dos and re-boots are done all the time, so are variations of other filmmaker’s works. Even films like “The Three Amigos” 1986 are a variation of “The Magnificent Seven” only with three anti-heroes instead of seven.
One of the highlights of the film is the flying uterus that Shad uses to gather his forces to do battle with Sador. The ship’s design was the inspiration of James Cameron. Reportedly to appeal to Corman’s exploitative nature. Of course if you look at it from a different direction it looks similar to a penis and scrotum. Corman got a two fer out of that special effect.
The movie is a fun and campy film with quite a few in-jokes, one liners and subtle sight gags. It’s well done and cheezy entertainment.
The planet Akir and its people, the Akira, were named after Akira Kurosawa the director of “Seven Samurai”. The voice of Nell was done by Lynn Carlin. Marta Kristen from the “Lost in Space” television show plays Lux, one of the Akira. The costume that Sybil Danning wore as St. Exmin kept malfunctioning. The wardrobe department had to use band-aids to keep her top from falling off.