And I think right there is the issue: for all intents and purposes, when I saw this film at the drive-in back in 1980, it was the first time I can recall specifically going to a flick and watching it for the sole purpose of enjoying what I had read was about as great as any Roger Corman picture was going to be. I was young; I had been reading the news and whatever entertainment magazines we had back in the day (which was slim pickings, my friends); and I had just kinda/sorta come into a wider appreciation of following specific filmmakers. George Lucas had made an imprint, naturally, as did Steven Spielberg, but those of us hungry to really attach ourselves to the movers and shakers of the 1970's and 80's were limited. Back in those days, it was far more common for screenwriters and directors to bounce from project to project -- from genre to genre -- so it was difficult to find folks we could sink our teeth into, study their stylistic predilections, and learn something from these repeat efforts. Corman was a known commodity, and that put him in a league with the purveyors of Star Wars, Close Encounters, and the like.
So, yes, I'm fully aware of all of Battle's blemishes. Hell, I probably even know a few more than most do 'cause I've spent time picking apart elements of this flick in an attempt to discover why it 'ticks' the way it does with me. I can't say why specifically ... other than Corman's name being so closely aligned with it. That and the fact that -- you have to admit -- the film has a whole lot of interesting ideas chocked in it compliments of yarnspinners Anne Dyer and John Sayles. The film -- flawed though it may be -- has a fabulous undercurrent that few can deny.
Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami, the film boasts a fabulous assortment of names and relative unknowns from the era. Richard Thomas -- who had build a career around playing 'John Boy' on TV's family-centric The Waltons -- brought that same rural vibe to this project as young 'Shad,' a farmer on a quest to free his people from tyranny. And ... can I say these three names without getting goosebumps? Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, and George freaking Peppard in the same motion picture?!?! That's some big name and B-Movie magic right there. Top is off with Sybil Danning at the top of her game -- along with Darlanne Fluegel and the fetching Julia Duffy in a small role -- what more could any fan want for a single film?
Here's the premise as provided by IMDB.com:
"A young farmer sets out to recruit mercenaries to defend his peaceful planet, which is under threat of invasion by the evil tyrant Sador and his armada of aggressors."
I do recall -- back in the days when message board debates were all the rage -- really getting into a keyboard throwdown with a few blokes over whether Battle was the kind of film we should be endorsing as fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I won't trouble you with the bulk of their points -- honestly, a lot of their posturing was just downright silly if you ask me given the fact that Battle itself is more than silly in spots. It all boiled down to the fact that they thought Corman's films -- in particular -- capitalized on the campiness of intellectual properties and ended up giving fandom a bad name.
My reply was that anyone with any understanding of Science Fiction since its inception and expansion into film knows full well that camp -- like it or not -- has often been part and parcel of how these stories are presented and is, arguably, why they endure subsequent showings and are embraced by increasing generations of viewers. Rocky Horror? Beloved for its camp. Barbarella? Beloved for its camp. Little Shop Of Horrors? Same thing.
Why should Battle Beyond The Stars deserve no less?
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!