Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris both throw hands as August 1980 concludes
Plus the Bandit's back and there's a Battle Beyond the Stars
We ran into some technical issues that delayed this final installment of the August 1980 edition, but we’ve got all of that resolved now and here we go. It’s a dense newsletter this time, covering a lot of ground, and writing this one really pushed me. I would not normally pick this cluster of movies to write about and as a film critic, it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
I had a great time recently watching a few episodes of Sneak Previews from this exact time period, and I’m surprised by just how weird their release dates were. There were films that they were covering as Chicago releases that were released in 1979, no question about it, but that’s not surprising. We’re so used to modern distribution patterns and the sort of carpet-bombing that goes on now in theaters that it’s easy to forget that films would routinely roll out slowly, never sending more than a few hundred prints into the market, and even that was considered a fairly hefty release.
I’m curious how I would have felt about some of these films at the time of their release, but I feel like writing these reviews in chronological order helps at least create some sense of the context that Siskel and Ebert were working in, some sense of how these films bumped up against each other and what it felt like watching these trends play out.
Anyway, let’s get into it with a big fun goofy splash…
Battle Beyond The Stars
Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, George Peppard, Darlanne Fluegel, Sybil Danning, Sam Jaffe, Morgan Woodward, Earl Boen, John Gowans, Steve Davis, Lawrence Steven Meyers, Lara Cody, Lynn Carlin, Jeff Corey, Marta Kristen, Julia Duffy, Eric Morris, Doug Carleson, Ron Ross, Terrence E. McNally, Galen Thompson, Whitney Rydbeck, Tom Henschel, Nate Esformes, Richard Davalaso, Lanny Broyles, Rob Reece
cinematography by Daniel Lacambre
music by James Horner
screenplay by John Sayles
story by John Sayles & Anne Dyer
produced by Ed Carlin
directed by Jimmy T. Murakami
1 hr 44 mins
When a peaceful farming planet is threatened by a sinister warlord, Zed and Shad go on a mission to put together a team that can protect them.
It’s easy to dismiss this as one of many low-budget ripoffs of Star Wars that came out in the wake of that film’s phenomenal success, but from the perspective of producer Roger Corman, this was anything but low-budget. John Sayles was on a roll at this point as a writer with credits on The Lady in Red, Piranha, and the just-released Alligator. The story he and Anne Dyer came up with is pretty transparently Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven repurposed once again. By now, we’ve seen so many variations on that story shape that it’s not especially surprising, but this was still early enough that doing the space opera version felt fresh, and Corman rolled the dice, spending just over $2 million, a fortune for him.