All Stand Together Pt 7 (Battle Beyond the Stars, 1980)

Battle_Beyond_the_Stars_PosterA peaceful planet called Akira is visited by the conqueror Sador.  He promises to return with an armada that will overrun the planet if they do not willingly submit to them.  A young man named Shad goes on a mission to get weapons and warriors to fight off Sador and his forces.

He assembles six unique individuals, including a vengeance seeking lizard man, a young scientist, a clone race, a haunted assassin, a beautiful warrior seeking glory, and a fun loving earth man. They all return to help the citizens of the planet.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, this Roger Corman film is a perfect example of Corman’s formula. Star Wars was a hit and had a sequel on it’s way.  Corman wanted a Star Wars style film.  He commission a script from John Sayles (who also wrote Corman’s Piranha).  They opted to take the story from Seven Samurai and set it in space, just as the Magnificent Seven moved it to the old American West.

And the movie is not shy about this.  The planet is named Akira, after Seven Samurai director Akira Kurosawa.  The advertising for the film included phrases like “Seven Magnificent Warriors”. Robert Vaughn even plays a character much like his dark Lee, from the Magnificent Seven.

This film, while being a knockoff meant to cash in onStar Wars hype, actually stands pretty well on it’s own.  A lot of this goes back to the strong cast.  George Peppard is a more laid back Han Solo type as the space faring earth man Cowboy.  The alien race the Nestors are an alien race of clones who are psychically linked.  This allows for a lot of intended humor, such as when they are offered a hotdog and while only one of them eats it, all the Nestor’s can taste is, and one observes, “There is no dog in this”.  After they recite the ingredients of a hot dog (determined by taste), Peppered cheerfully responds, “That’s what we call meat on Earth.”

Sybil Danning’s Saint Exmin the Valkerie is from a race that live only to fight in wars.  And wear swimming suits (what, you think a Roger Corman film is not going to feature at least one buxom woman in a tiny outfit?!).  Initially, Shad is annoyed and tries to chase her off, but she hangs on, proving herself in battle and winning Shad’s respect.

The film features work by James Cameron (as art director) and the designs go from very serious, such as Sador’s rather impressive ship to somewhat tongue in cheek.  Shad’s ship has a smart talking female voiced AI.  And the ship has breasts.  I am not joking.

Battle_Beyond_the_Stars_Ship

Seriously, Cameron…

And James Horner’s musical score is downright great.  Battle Beyond the Stars is entertaining and downright fun as low budget Sci-Fi goes.

All Stand Together pt 1 (The Magnificent Seven, 1960)

Magnificant_Seven_PosterBandit Calvera and his gang are terrorizing the people of a small Mexican town. After one raid, he promises to return to steal more from the people. The leaders of the village put together what they have to invest in weapons.

Chris Adams steps in suggesting hiring gunfighters.  While reluctant, after helping select the other gunfighters, Chris agrees to help defend the town.

The Magnificent Seven cleverly sets up it’s two main leads Chris  and Vin (Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen) as decent tough guys.  They discover the local coroner has an issue.  There is a body that needs transporting.  But the deceased is Native American and the white locals are refusing access to the cemetery. The two volunteer to take the hearse to the cemetery.  This seen is really full of charm and gets you pumped to follow these two. And they manage to succeed in their mission with only a couple of flesh wounds.  These men are not cold blooded killers.  They are willing to do as little harm as possible.

This is a stellar cast of tough guys, but not in some cheap sense.  They are mostly good and decent (Harry Luck is a bit mercenary, joining up because he believes there must be treasure if Chris is involved, but even he ends up willing t risk his life for the town). Eli Wallach, of course, makes for a great villain.

The music is energetic and fun, especially the heroic theme song.

The Magnificent Seven is a truly great and fun western.

Cut Rate Superman (Superman III, 1983)

superman-3-posterSuperman three came three years after Superman II, riding high on it’s success, but behind the scenes things looked bleak.  There was a divide between some of the cast and the Salkinds over how they had treated Richard Donner.  Kidder was not really feeling up to participating.  To address this, Perry sends her off to the tropics, while sending Clark to do a story in Smallville at his High School Reunion.

Rally, this seems like a plausible idea.  There is a rich cast of characters to draw from.  And they draw from Clark’s past with introducing Lana Lang, played by Annette O’Toole (who was later brought on Smallville to play Martha Kent).  O’Toole makes a fetching Lana Lang.

The other big addition to the cast was computer genius Gus Gorman.  Played by comedy legend Richard Pryor, he gets a lot of blame from folks for this film.  He plays his traditional nervous twitchy type of character.  Except, I have a hard time pinning this on Pryor.  Richard joked to Johnny Carson about wanting to be in a Superman movie.  He felt the script was terrible…but the five million dollar paycheck was to good to pass up.  Gorman is a computer super-genius who starts working for Ross Webster’s company.  He writes a program that pays him fractions of cents that the company loses daily due to mathematical rounding up of numbers.  He makes millions and is brought to the attention of Webster (played by Robert Vaughn).  Webster and his sister Vera are schemers and want to take over the world.  Ross also has his own Miss Tessmacher, Lorelei (Pamela Stephenson).  Her primary purpose is some impressive cleavage.  They use Gus to create a supercomputer and also work to get Superman out of the way.  They manufacture Krytonite and use tar in place of an ingredient they cannot fine.  The result is that Superman goes dark.  He starts causing damage, being means, getting drunk.  And then he fights Clark Kent in a junk yard.  This is without a doubt the high point of the entire film.

Webster is like a second hand version of Lex Luthor, and the character has for less weight.  You can see the giant hole left by not having Lex Luthor or a larger scale villain (such as Braniac, one character they thought about using in Superman III).

The smaller character moments are okay, like when Clark sees Lana’s son being bullied in a bowling alley and sneezes to shoot her son’s bowling ball into the pins.  But for the most part, the film falls flat.  It is not a very good film and Reeve swore off the role of Superman.

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