Some Post Star Wars Space Movies
Star Wars showed an action/adventure movie set in outer space could be a great box office success. In the years that followed many movie makers sought to cash in on the Star Wars popularity. After Star Wars there were many memorable outer space movies. They were rarely memorable because of the film’s quality or production values. This article contains spoilers for the movies in the article. Arguably there is little in these movies to spoil.
Filming on this movie took place in Toronto in autumn 1976.[i] It had a budget of about $2 million. The film strung together reports of alien abductions with Erich von Daniken’s theory of ancient alien visitors. The "Battlestar Galactica" television series was also based on von Daniken’s theory. The movie’s premise and other factors make it a good time capsule movie.
The movie’s title sequence shows flyby views of Jupiter, Mars, and the Moon before Earth comes into view. A flying saucer abducts a man who is the stereotypical man who claims he has been abducted by aliens. Professor Allan Duncan (Robert Vaughn), an Astronomer and UFO believer, is making the rounds with the media. Next the aliens, who are from the planet Alpha in the Constellation Orion, kidnapped a family of 3. Captain Rameses (Christopher Lee) explains the mission’s purpose. Their sun will soon go nova so they will exterminate the humans on Earth. Then their civilization will migrate to Earth. The space ship flies to a pyramid at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Inside the pyramid is a base run by The League of Races. The League allows observation but not contact with Earthlings. Earth is protected by treaty. All the aliens look like Earthlings. The only physical variation is some of them have bald heads. The robots on the base look like the robots in the alien abduction reports. The plan is to exterminate the Earth by causing mass suicides. The Alphas put their plan into action. They kill everyone and disable the robots on the station. Cassandra, who worked in the recreation room, killed some of the Alphas and got a message out before Captain Rameses killed her. A League saucer destroys an Alpha ships but its computer system is damaged. The flying saucers move similar to the movements of objects on UFO tapes. The League crew enlists Professor Duncan’s help. He leads them to his friend Malcolm (Henry Ramer) who is a computer expert. They stop off at the computer center and pick up a few circuit boards. They fly to their fleet. They use Professor Duncan’s knowledge of planetary mass and Malcolm’s math skills and a pocket calculator to get the most gravitational aide from the planets they pass. They join the league fleet and the space battle is on. The Alphas have the initial advantage because they can use the base computer. One robot that is not so badly damaged kills the Alpha at the base. The robot causes the Alpha saucers to crash into each other. Captain Rameses sees from an indicator on his wrist his sun has gone nova. He crashes his saucer into the moon.
Earth computer components being compatible with the computers of an alien interstellar craft is ridiculous. This premise has been used in "Independence Day". Often bad science makes for good, or at least entertaining, science fiction. The alien hand weapons were bloodless killing devices. This was good for keeping the movie’s budget down. It also made sense an advanced civilization would develop such weapons. Destroying the earthlings by having them kill themselves also makes more sense than methods used in other alien invasion movies. The mass suicide method would mean less damage to clean up. The aliens communicated by telepathy. Telepathic communication seems to make more sense than the universal translators used in the "Star Trek" universe. This also meant novice actors could be used without anyone noticing their inexperience.[ii] Science, UFO lore, and nonsense aside it is an entertaining movie and a good study for those interested in getting ideas for low budget movie making.
[i] United States Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076760/?ref_=nv_sr_1)
[ii] Many actors had no previous acting credits. Many had few or no subsequent acting credits.
Battle Beyond the Stars
This 1980 movie is a Roger Corman film. It is an outer space version of "The Magnificent Seven", which was a wild west version of "The Seven Samurai". The movie begins with a large space ship, commanded Sador (John Saxon) the leader of the Malmori, approaching a planet. They destroy what they believe is the planet’s only space craft. The inhabitant’s are unarmed. Sador announced he had a “stellar converter” and he will return in 7 day to take charge of their planet. He killed a couple of the planet’s inhabitants to prove his point. There is one space ship on the planet. The spaceship is armed and has a wise cracking onboard computer called Nell (Lynn Carlin). Shad (Richard Thomas), a young man takes this spaceship to search for mercenaries who would fight for his planet. The planet has little to offer a mercenary. Despite this he manages to get some people who would fight for his planet for other reasons. The fighters include Gelt (Robert Vaughn). Robert Vaughn also played one of the fighters in "The Magnificent Seven". Cowboy (George Peppard) played an Earth man. In these types of films Earth is the target of the bad aliens, is never mentioned, or the Earthling is the main hero. In this film Cowboy is just one of the fighters. St. Exmin (Sybil Danning) is a Valkyrie. She is dressed as an outer space version of the Valkyries. When the Malmori return the mercenaries and the inhabitants engage them. There is a battle on land and in space. The Malmori kill the mercenaries but the mercenaries and the inhabitants kill many more of the Malmori. It comes down to the stellar converter armed Malmori mother ship and Shad’s ship. Shad activates his ship’s self-destruct system and exits the ship. When the ship self-destructs it destroys the Malmori mother ship and Sador.
This movie had a number of "Star Wars" parallels. The long sequence of the large space ship crossing the screen at the beginning is similar to the Star Destroyer’s appearance in "Star Wars". The stellar converter destroyed a planet. The difference between the planet’s destruction in "Star Wars" is the stellar converter converted the planet into a sun. The strongest parallel is the coming of age story. Shad, like Luke Skywalker, was a young farmer. Fate sweeps them up into a great adventure. The movie doesn’t have a mystical element such as the “The Force”. Space ship combat scenes in this movie were later used in "Space Raiders" (1983) and "Wizards of the Lost Kingdom" (1985) . The cast also includes Marta Kristen, who played Judy in the television series “Lost in Space”, as Lux.
This 1980 movie is a remake of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. When it was released the X rated "Flesh Gordon" (1974) was being rereleased. The disclaimer for "Flesh Gordon" was that it wasn’t the "Flash Gordon" serial “or that piece of art playing down the street.” "Flash Gordon" may be best described as pure camp. The movie's animation is by King Features and its music is by Queen.
Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) the emperor of Mongo rains havoc on the Earth. Amid these disasters New York Jets[i] quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) and reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) take off in a small commuter plane. When the crew is blown out of the cockpit Flash, who is taking flying lessons, takes control of the plane. Landing was supposed to be his next lesson. Meanwhile Dr. Hanz Zarkov (Topol) has concluded the chaotic weather is an attack plans to take off in a space ship he made and communicate with the aliens. Flash crash lands into Zarkov’s lab. Flying his space ship requires two people. He decides to take Dale at gunpoint. In the struggle with Flash the space ship takes off with the three of them onboard. They are taken to where Ming is holding court. There are representatives of the planets in the Mongo Kingdom. They were humanoids in gaudy attire. The beings from the different planets don’t get along. A fight almost breaks out between the Aborians, lead by Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton), and the Hawkmen, led by Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed). When Ming declares he wants Dale as his wife Flash objects. Flash uses football tactics to frustrate Ming’s guards. Dale play the cheerleader saying; “Go Flash Go!” Others take some cheap shots at the guards. Dr. Zarkov tosses metal balls to Flash, which he then throws at the guards. The fight ends when Dr. Zarkov makes a bad toss and hits Flash in the head with a ball. Ming sentences Flash to death. Dale is taken away to be Ming’s bride. Dr. Zarkov is taken to have his memory erased. Before they start the process on Dr. Zarkov Ming’s security chief, Klytus, tells Dr. Zarkov the Earth is going to be destroyed because Zarkov figured out it was an extraterrestrial intelligence that caused Earth’s cataclysms.
Flash Gordon didn’t die because Emperor Ming’s physician, one of Princess Aura’s (Ornella Muti) many lovers, gave him an antidote to the gas. Princess Aura was Ming’s daughter. She took Flash away from Ming’s Palace. Dale got one of Ming’s handmaiden’s drunk and slipped out of the palace. She killed some of the Palace Guards in a shootout. Klytus sent Zarkov to retrieve Dale. Instead Zarkov and Dale escaped from the palace. Zarkov with his genius defeated the brain draining machine. Princess Aura takes Flash to Aboria. Prince Barin, who is wants Aura for his wife, is jealous of Flash. As soon as Aura leaves he throws Flash in a slime pit. A Hawkman patrol captures Dale and Zarkov and take them to the Hawkmen’s sky city. Prince Vultan intends to hand them over to Ming. An Aborian help Flash escape but it’s just a plan to get Flash killed. Flash escapes but a Hawkman patrol catches them and take them to their sky city. Prince Barin and Flash are pitted against each other in a fight to the death. Flash refuses to kill Barin and it appears an alliance is possible. Then Klytus arrive and Flash and Barin kill him. Prince Vultan and the other Hawkmen flee the city and leave the others to their fate. Ming arrives and captures Dale, Zarkov, and Barin. Dale is to be Ming’s bride. Barin and Zarkov are to be executed. Ming offers to make Flash the ruler of The Earth. Ming points out the Earth people will be different after the calamities he is raining on them. Flash refuses the deal. Ming leaves Flash in the sky city and orders it destroyed. Flash falls to a sublevel during the bombardment. There he finds a rocket cycle and flies away from the doomed city.
He makes contact with Prince Vultan. Princess Aura, who is to be exiled after Ming marries Dale, frees Barin and Zarkov. Flash flies towards Ming’s Palace then turns around when the Palace weapons open fire. The rocket Ajax is dispatched to retrieve Flash. It’s a trap. Flash Gordon and the Hawkmen attack Ajax and take it over. Flash flies Ajax towards Ming’s Palace. Prince Barin shuts down the Palace force field just in time for Flash to crash through the Palace main ballroom. Ajax impales Ming on its pilot’s tube. Flash has prevented Dale from being forced to marry Ming and saved Earth from obliteration.
[i] The New York Jets is a professional American football team as opposed to a soccer team. In 1979 the Jets had an 8-8 season. In 1980 they had a 4-12 season.
The Ice Pirates
This 1984 movie is a space comedy. The movie’s premise is all of the water worlds have been destroyed. There is a legendary water world so it is uncertain if this world is myth or reality. Jason (Robert Urich) is a space pirate who with his crew raids ships for the most valuable cargo in the universe, water transported as ice. The movie is a comedic fusion of the space and pirate melodramas.
The movie begins with a raid on a ship. Jason, his crew, and their fighting robots, board the cargo ship. There is a fight between the cargo ship’s crew and its fighting robots. Besides the ice there is Princess Karina (Mary Crosby). When the evil authorities capture Jason he is sentenced to be turned into a lobotomized eunuch. Princess Karina saves Jason and they make their way to a planet that is similar to Tortuga in pirate movies. Jason’s crew includes Maida (Anjelica Houston) and Killjoy (John Matuszak). Princess Karina has Percy the Robot (Gary Brockette) a CP3O type robot that sports a white bow tie and cuffs. They set off in search of the fabled 7th World with the authorities on their trail. The ship has a virtual reality room that predates the Holodeck on "Star Trek: The Next Generation". The evil guys catch up with them as they are entering the wormhole that supposedly leads to the 7th world. The evil authorities board their ship and there is a prolonged pirate style fight. In one sequence Jason has to force his robots to fight at gunpoint. One robot vomits nuts, bolts, and oil. During the fight there is uneven time dilation so the fight lasts for decades. Once through the wormhole Jason and his crew return to their original state and see before them the 7th World. The evil ship and crew who were a bit off in their telemetry were forever lost in the wormhole.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on August 14, 2018:
The original Flash Gordon was probably a melodrama in its day. Flash Gordon was as campy in 1980 as it is today. The big advantage Flash Gordon, 1980, had was the sound track by Queen. While the pun probably wasn't intended the animation was done by King Features.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 14, 2018:
All of these sound interesting in one manner or another. I wonder how the original Flash Gordon movie compared with the later one? I only think of it in comics.
Robert Sacchi (author) on February 02, 2016:
Thank you. If you love the other movies you definitely should give Ice Pirates a look.
Creeper from Aw Man on February 02, 2016:
Um, I loved all these movies, except Ice Pirates which I never heard about
keep the work up, Zoidberg
Robert Sacchi (author) on August 05, 2015:
Thank you. Yes, a movie doesn't have to get a masterpiece to be entertaining.
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 04, 2015:
The sad part is I remember some of these movies!
Great write up
Robert Sacchi (author) on July 19, 2015:
Thank you. Yes, Flash Gordon is a fun movie. Tacky costumes, obviously painted scenery, and of course "Go Flash go!" it had it all. It is the gold standard for a modern "so bad it's good" movie.
Summer LaSalle from USA on July 18, 2015:
Flash Gordon.. haha... worst movie ever- which of course makes it once of the best. Great write up, voted up!