Here's a little test. If you know who Tom Savini is but have never heard of Krzysztof Kieslowski, then this delightfully naked rip-off of Star Wars (1977) from Roger Corman -- that master of cheesy, no-budget "filmmaking" (a term that can only be carefully, loosely applied to his darkly lit, stiffly performed oeuvre) -- is a treasure-trove of delights for you, a discerning appreciator of Z-grade entertainment. Here are the top ten aspects of this 1980 relic that you may savor on repeated viewings: (1) Whip smart despite his drive-in sensibilities, Corman decides not to directly rip off Star Wars -- which is, of course, precisely his intention -- but to rip off an example of classic Japanese cinema from the 1950s, The Seven Samurai (1954), in much the same way that Star Wars rips off an example of classic Japanese cinema from the 1950s, The Hidden Fortress (1958). How many of Corman's typical ticket buyers got the joke back then? Probably not many, which makes it even funnier. (2) The utterly perplexed, slightly crushed, and disappointed performance of "John-Boy" himself, Richard Thomas, clearly wondering how whiny no-name whelp Mark Hamill was cast as Luke Skywalker instead of him. A good question, Richard. A good question. (3) That space ship that looks like it was cast directly from a mold of a Victoria's Secret catalogue model's torso? Designed by James Cameron. Hmmmm. He does write strong female roles...(4) John Saxon, typically chewing up the scenery and spitting it back out as venomous darts in the role of the villain. Ah, Saxon. Where is the next generation's Saxon? It could've been Michael Ironside, but his energy seemed to dissipate at the same time as his ER guest-starring role. (5) The hilariously disturbing thought that Mel Brooks' Spaceballs (1987), which is intended as a wicked spoof of George Lucas' fantasy universe, is eerily similar in both tone and content to this film. (6) The realization, when seen in the reflected glory that is George Peppard's train-wreck of a performance as a space cowboy, of how extremely good an actor Harrison Ford really is. (7) Although you won't be able to detect his artistic fingerprints much except in the credits, the simple, pleasurable thrill of knowing that John Sayles wrote this screenplay. And that the money he made -- as well as checks for penning dual Jaws (1977) rip-offs Piranha (1978) and Alligator (1980) -- probably funded the production of Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980), itself to be ripped off later as The Big Chill (1983). Somehow, this has all got to be related to Kevin Bacon. (8) Robert Vaughn plays the same character here he portrayed in The Magnificent Seven (also a rip-off -- er, homage -- to The Seven Samurai), and even his dialogue is essentially the same. Possibly the man's easiest payday ever. (9) Budget for hair? $0.00. (10) Sybil Danning, in an era before silicone or saline, ushering nearly as many young boys to the cusp of manhood as did Tina Louise in Gilligan's Island.
by Karl Williams review