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Long Night of the Saxon

17th Feb 06

Yes all right, we’ve had a Zombie Club night dedicated to tonight’s namesake, we don’t deny it. But the thing is, John Saxon’s just one of those actors that keep turning up all over the place. He’s been in a kung-fu movie with Bruce Lee, several cowboy films including one with Lee Van Cleef, a Dario Argento movie, an Italian cannibal movie, he played Nancy’s father in A Nightmare on Elm Street and he was in… well actually it would be a bit ridiculous for me to go on listing more stuff as I could be here all day, suffice is to say he’s been in a lot (check his IMDB page here if you don’t believe me).

Tonight’s line up just fell into place. It started with Zomblee winning a couple of auctions on ebay, firstly The Bees followed by an obvious Zombie Club classic in the making called Atomic Cyborg. “It’s got John Saxon in it,” was all we needed to hear. Tenebre was an Argento pick which was our, as Rawshark put it, “serious horror film of the night”, while Zombie Death House got in purely for having the biggest video box we’d ever seen (no seriously, it was huge). And Battle Beyond The Stars? Well, that was a bit of a late entry that we tacked on because we had it on DVD, John Saxon was in it and we could all still see straight, at least when it started.

So let’s get on with it. Pull out your fashionable roll-neck sweaters, settle down and start your long journey into the world of the man that is John Saxon.

Tonight's entertainment is brought to you as a Zombie Club special in association with the Saxon Norris foundation for Actors that were Lucky Enough to be in a Bruce Lee Movie

The Bees Tenebre Zombie Death House Atomic Cyborg: Fists of Steel Battle Beyond the Stars 


The Bees (1978)

Plot
John Saxon talks to the bees.

Jim
It’s the 70s and down in South America a father and son honey-thieving duo break into a bee farm run by a couple of American scientists, but the boy is stung to death in the process. The villagers react violently, and the brave scientist with the amazing hair locks his wife in a storage room and is then killed by bees too, along with most of the attackers. The wife is then rescued.

One swipe cut later and it’s over to New York City, with the lady scientist from the intro calling on fellow scientist John Saxon, who’s just showing some hot chick the door. Time to head straight down to the lab and listen to David Carradine talk about his communicating with bees theories and what such. So far so good.

Then it all goes a bit bonkers. Swarms of killer bees are suddenly attacking a beach somewhere, people are running all over the shop waving there hands wildly and then they fall over. Okay, so it looks like all the bees are either superimposed later (especially in the panning scenic shots) or being chucked on from buckets off screen, but that’s not important. Where is it? What’s John Saxon gonna do? Where’s this movie going?

Well, everywhere. This is one of those B-movies that goes wherever the budget can afford and if it can’t, it borrows the rest. John pitches this plan to some important people round a table somewhere to spray this liquid he’s developed on the bees that turns them all gay so they try to mate with each other. They go for it and the next thing you know John’s leading a taskforce that coordinates gay bee spraying all over the States from one of those low budget control rooms where extras in the background shuffle papers around and randomly stick pins in maps. But is it enough?

In the meantime, Carradine’s given some info to the wrong guy, and suddenly we have a corruption subplot. “If John Saxon does some kung-fu I’m gonna shit myself!” said Zomblee, realising that this movie could go anywhere and probably will. I think it’s enough to say that the last 20 minutes or so are pretty eventful, but I’ll leave that stuff to my deadhead colleagues here to tell you about.

I cried with laughter throughout the bees, it’s so much fun. God only knows why this movie hasn’t been given the DVD treatment.

“Good lord, this chaps gone completely raving bonkers”

Zomblee
Saxon really did do some kung fu shortly after I expressed excitement at the very prospect. This is when The Bees officially went a bit bonkers plot-wise, though of course you could argue that it was pretty bonkers to begin with.

John Carradine is the professor who's been studying bees since the time when his hands weren't all knobbly and mangled ("John Carradine's hands are really freaking me out." - Jim). And Saxon? Well, it’s great to see The Man as the ‘expert’. Experts like to show they’re getting in the thick of it by rolling their shirtsleeves up very often and the Saxon is no exception. He knows more about bees than most other characters here, which is why he gets to hold Special International Bee Meetings with delegates from all over the world. The only person who knows more about bees than the Saxon is probably John Carradine, but, like I say, his hands are all mangled. Maybe he got them stung a lot. Who knows. So, with the bees attacking everyone, they come up with the idea to spray them with ferone(?) which makes them gay, but instead of dancing they are meant to attack each other and kill the queen. But it doesn’t really work because at the end of the movie the bees are all waiting for an answer to their ultimatum outside the United Nations meeting. “It’s a bee apocalypse!” (Jim)

Bees waiting for an answer? Hell yeah. This strangely enjoyable little flick has a lot going for it, like the concept of bees communicating with humans, and vice versa. It’s worth seeing just for the plain silliness of seeing John Saxon talking to a swarm of bees. “We haven’t been able to decipher your language but we’ll keep trying”, he says to them, with real conviction. They know he’s trying. They know he’s a good guy, because they cut him some slack by opening doors for him and everything – I kid you not. I know - Jim couldn’t believe it either, “I’ve never seen bees open a door before!” Strength in numbers, dear boy, strength in numbers.

I loved the way The Bees flirted with the assassin-type thriller genre over halfway through – this is when we got to see Saxon using some kung fu and pressing bees into some guys face. I’ve never seen anyone die like that before. Seriously though, this is the best gay bee movie I’ve seen in months.

"There’s been a mutation… a new strain… it’s out of control!"

Rawshark
Well, if you’re going to dedicate a long night to John Saxon, the undisputed King of the B’s, then where better to start than a film called The Bees. Made in the same year as The Swarm starring Michael Caine, The Bees is the cheaper production of the two flying stinging killer flicks, but is no less enjoyable for it.

A plodding bee attack intro paves the way for the first appearance of John Saxon who instantly hits on the visiting widow scientist, whilst showing the door to a previous female conquest. Saxon lets our heroine stay the night in his bed whilst he crashes on the sofa, but he’s there showing off early the next morning with some acrobatic poses whilst wearing a smart black tracksuit with white stripes. ”I like his tracksuit” said Jim. ”I really like his tracksuit” said Zomblee. Girl scientist clearly liked his tracksuit too, as she’s soon flirting with our hero before being rudely interrupted by John Carradine’s Uncle Ziggy. There’s a lesson for you singles out there - get a black Saxon tracksuit and you’ll soon be quids in.

Of course, it’s not long before killer swarms of bees (”Reckon the bee swarm is just black ink?” - Jim) are attacking random victims in the first of many hilarious bee victim montage sequences. One man pays two boys to catch bees for his ‘rheumatism’, a carnival is attacked and Saxon is soon instigated as the leader of a jet plane taskforce. They manage to wipe the bees out at first, but an added subplot of Governmental corruption (featuring Zomblee-shitting Kung-Fu!) just leads to another wave of attacks, and this time the bees are not in the mood to take prisoners.

Cheap, cheerful and lots of fun (Saxon and Carradine almost try to take it all seriously), The Bees is great trash entertainment, with an ending that is either complete rubbish or big-balls genius, depending on your point of view. Personally I thought it was simply the bees-knees.

“You want us to conduct peace negotiations with bugs?”

The Bees

Director
Alfredo Zacarias

Cast
John Saxon
Angel Tompkins
John Carradine
Claudio Brook
Alicia Encinas
Júlio César

Rating
Jim
Zomblee
Rawshark

Runtime
93 mins

Available From

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Amazon US
CD WOW

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Tenebre (1982)

Plot
A serial killer seems to be getting his inspiration from the works of a famous writer. John Saxon plays the writer's agent.

Rawshark
As much as we love our b-movie trash here at Zombie Club, it’s always good to throw a serious, grown-up horror flick into the mix from time to time. Luckily, John Saxon teamed up with Italian legend Dario Argento in 1982, allowing us the chance to bring one of Dario’s last ‘great’ films to tonight’s Saxon-athon, a twisty-turny giallo featuring black-gloved murders, rich and successful novelists and a lot more blood’n’gore than your average episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Peter Neal has just released his latest novel, a ‘sexist’ piece of work entitled Tenbre, so he cycles to the airport to travel to the US to promote the book. Hooking up with his agent, John Saxon (with added “hat that won’t drop off” prop), Neal soon finds himself somehow involved in a series of gruesome murders where the victims have had pages from his latest book stuffed down their throats. Amidst some plink-plonk scored dream imagery that occasionally borders on near-porn, Neal turns detective and along with his fiance, and quite frankly rubbish young male assistant, he tries to investigate the case to prove that he’s far cleverer than the cops.

Tenebre is as you would expect, a very stylish affair that delivers some great murder scenes, most notably the sequence that features a Doberman chasing a girl towards her grisly fate at the killer’s house (”Go on doggy – yeah!” - Jim). The music in the film is Goblin-great, the camerawork typically Argento-ish, and the script just about hides its twists well enough to keep you guessing throughout. It may have been a slight change of pace for us at Zombie Club (”We don’t talk as much during the good films” – Jim) but Tenebre is most certainly an effective little shocker that deserves to be seen. And John Saxon gets a great suspenseful death scene in it too.

“I guessed who it was on page 30!”

Jim
Yeah, turning off full-on irony mode and switching on your serious horror head has always been a tricky thing at Zombie Club, but as Rawshark pointed out, it's good to get at least one proper horror film in the line up, especially at these marathon sessions we always seem to run at my house.

But old habits die hard. This movie opens with a shot of the leather-gloved killer chucking a copy of Peter Neal's Tenebre novel into the fire place which we then watch burn as the titles roll. I immediately suggested to my colleagues that maybe they only had one copy of the book made, so this must have been the last scene shot, to which Rawshark and Zomblee nodded sagely. Trust my luck that the next scene was a book signing with hundreds of copies on display. "Oh no, they had more copies of the book..." Yeah, thanks for that Zomblee.

Anyway, Rawshark's written enough plot explaining I reckon, so I'm just going to mention a few things and get off. Firstly, we all really liked Tenebre, which was pretty obvious seeing as we all shut up for once. Well, except to point out the occasional giallo cliché like, for example, "do all killers in giallos wear black gloves?" - Rawshark. And the twisty-turny plot keeping the killer's identity secret right up to the final frame; I wrote down 'is it Jane?' four times, and I swear one of those came after she was already dead. Ooops - I hope I haven't ruined that for anyone.

Still, at least John Saxon gets to flex his acting muscles this time around, although I wish his general chivalry had spread to the rest of the cast. The scene when Neal shags his secretary and then still makes her sleep on the couch had us all shaking our heads, for as he demonstrated in the previous movie, "John Saxon wouldn't have made her sleep on the sofa." Quite right Rawshark.

Good film, then. Oh, but not so good interview with Dario on the DVD. We all got a bit disinterested pretty quickly, so Zomblee turned it off with “I’ll watch that later when I’m really bored.” Fair enough.

“I’d like to do something with you, I’d like to do something in depth.”

Zomblee
A few short weeks after seeing Argento’s latest – Jenifer – I caught Bird with the Crystal Plumage – for the first time. “How could it go so wrong?”, I thought. He may not be so capable of producing honest-to-goodness fear films in this day and age, but back in the early 1980’s the fringed one was still knocking out quality giallo thrillers with the panache and verve of a man who pretty much made the genre his own. He was capable of making his entries stand out as easily identifiable from that of other giallo directors, part of his edge being his deftness in executing what are some of the finest constructed murder scenes in horror film history.

Tenebre, from 1982, is a taut, well crafted guesser revolving around murders in Rome which are associated with the famous novel writer, Peter Neal and, more to the point, his latest book – Tenebre (which means 'deep fear', or something). The murderer makes phone calls to him and sends him letters, placing emphasis on the elimination of “human perverts”. So, Neal works with the police as well as performing his own investigations at night time, peering through windows voyeuristically and suchlike – you know, typical Argento fare. Although the black-gloved territory is familiar, it’s a very well delivered giallo and I can certainly remember more scenes from Tenebre than I can from any other film tonight.

Tenebre has weaknesses akin to those of Argento’s other works, most obviously that of the acting quality. Jim agrees here – “When my eyes are off the screen it sounds like a porn film.” He’s right of course – the acting (or, specifically, the detrimental effect of post-synching dialogue) is pretty bad, apart from John Saxon of course. Here, looking very “dapper”, as Jim put it, he plays Neal’s agent with great light-hearted flair, and makes every scene a brighter place to be part of. Johnny - the gay looking assistant who wears abominable sweaters - is an annoying addition to the mystery stew though his excitement regarding the investigation, as well as the fact that he "looks like a Hardy Boy" (thanks Rawshark), makes his presence that bit more bearable.

This was the “good movie” of the night, and although we knew it would, conventionally, be a cut above the rest in terms of just about every technical / thematic aspect, I lost count of how many times I heard “This is really good” being said tonight. That’s because it IS really good, and not just when watched alongside The Bees, Zombie Death House and Atomic Cyborg.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

Tenebre

Director
Dario Argento

Cast
Anthony Franciosa
Christian Borromeo
John Saxon
Mirella D'Angelo
Veronica Lario
Ania Pieroni
Eva Robins
Carola Stagnaro

Rating
Rawshark
Jim
Zomblee

Runtime
101 mins

Available From

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Zombie Death House (1987)

Plot
John Saxon is doing dangerous experiments on death row inmates, turning them into zombies.

Zomblee
Zombie Death House. Where do I start? Well, it's got the biggest video box you've ever seen. It's not only the biggest video box you've ever seen but also boasts the following statement: "Banned in Queensland"

Wow. I will keep this film forever, even if it stinks. Which, truth be known, it does. Saxon's directing lacks the screen charisma we know and love him for. This is a flat looking genre piece that only occasionally excites, like with 'Nam flashbacks for example ("Yeeeeeessss! 'Nam flashback!")

Also known as State Prison, Saxon’s one and only stab at directing tells the tale of Keillor – Vietnam vet and all round good guy, who gets framed for murder by a mafia boss, Vic Moretti who, coincidentally, is played by Anthony Franciosa (Peter Neal in Tenbre!) So, Keillor - a sort of cross between Chuck Norris and Jon Voigt - goes to the prison where evil army prick Saxon is conducting "behaviour modification programme" tests on inmates. To cut a long story short, it involves prototype drugs and it all goes wrong; noses bleed everywhere, they call in an expert chick, and a few prisoners turn into crazy zombie fucks. Saxon keeps a safe distance outside in his "back of truck command centre", as Jim put it, and barks orders at everyone, shouting "I'm ranking officer here!" whenever he gets the chance.

It was good to see some fighting in a movie directed by the Saxon, but in all honesty it didn't impress too much.

Jim: I reckon John Saxon choreographed that fight scene.
Rawshark: Yeah, but he sure didn't light it.

A lot of ZDH is very dark indeed, and I don't mean ominous - just dark. Technically, the film has little merit whatsoever although it does end with a massive explosion, which is always entertainingly unimaginative, and it's great fun to see Saxon doing 'evil'.

"Welcome to the death house."

Rawshark
Two movies down, two to go, so it was time for a cushion reset, and the directorial debut from the man himself, State Prison, or as we prefer to call it, Zombie Death House. There was a small expectant cheer from all of us at the ‘Directed by John Saxon’ opening credit, but 20 minutes later, with garbled shots of chauffeurs, drug deals gone wrong and Mafia murderers, we were still at a loss as to what the hell the film was all about. Thankfully our hero, Mr Keillor is subsequently framed for murder and we cut to 10 months later as he is sentenced to Death Row. “Bugger, I’ve just written whole page of notes and story’s only just started” said Jim.

So yes, as you’d expect, the story only really gets going inside the prison, or as the inmates call it ”death house”, where we get to meet such people as Moretti’s brother (“That’s Moretti’s brother” announced Jim, before quickly adding, “also probably known as Moretti”) and his lover bitch. A few blood drips and nosebleeds later, and we discover it’s all to do with a virus apparently, and although we get some brief gore highlights with a guy who has his face pushed into cell door (“Ace, his face is still stuck in the door” – Jim), arm rips, and a decapitation, Zombie Death House is pretty shit really.

With some pretty weak acting (we eventually decided the hero was like a cross between MacGuyver, Willem Defoe, John Voigt and Jason Donovan), Zombie Death House ultimately climaxes with a Day of the Dead rip-off ending as our heroes and villains escape through a tunnel filled with clawing zombie hands. Still, at least it gave us our only chance tonight to watch John Saxon get ripped apart and eaten by zombies, and let’s face it, that was probably worth the admission price itself. If you’re reading this in Queensland however, don’t worry about it being banned where you are – you’re really not missing that much.

”Got no bananas here, monkey ass.”

Jim
"You can drown in 2 inches, apparently," offered Rawshark as film number three gets up to speed with Moretti (that's Moretti from Tenebre, not the incarterated brother) murdering his girlfriend in the bath tub. Then it cuts to Keillor, his ex-special forces chauffeur (is there any other kind?) who likes to whisper to himself Chuck Norris style. "Oh no, it's The Octagon all over again!" - Zomblee. He gets himself framed for the murder, but it hardly seems to matter as he's managed to also get himself involved in all manner of botched mob stuff. You know the kind of thing - deal goes wrong, cops arrive, shoot out, car chase, prison. And then I click this is where the film really begins and Rawshark and I strike through our first page of notes. Sheesh, was that really worth it?

Apparently not. From here on in we get a prison drama masquerading as a zombie movie. Saxon’s doing experiments, the inmates turn on him, Keillor gets caught in the middle, blah, blah. No, not even the warden’s wife’s incessant moaning, the bizarre gay guard rape or the monkey bananas man (“Oh, monkey ass is coming for his bananas!” - Rawshark) can relieve the boredom. In fact, I went to the toilet in the midst of this dullness, only to be greeted on my return by news that the boys had paused the tape to show me a “really rubbish piece of gore.” - Zomblee. And it was rubbish too, so rubbish that I don’t actually remember it. Still, the notes never lie, especially when desperation is setting in.

It’s not all bad though. John Saxon turns in an incredibly straight faced performance as the mad general, but I guess you have to set an example when you’re directing too. And the excitement factor does pick up later on with the zombie hands corridor and the very explosive finale but as Rawshark said, “might be a case of too little too late.” - Rawshark).

Oh well, at least we got to see that stock Pentagon footage that they used in The Bees again.

"Don't touch my twinkies!"

Zombie Death House

Director
John Saxon

Cast
Dennis Cole
Anthony Franciosa
John Saxon
Dino Paskas
Dana Lis Mason
Ron O'Neal
Salvatore Richichi

Rating
Zomblee
Rawshark
Jim

Runtime
90 mins

Available From

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Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Atomic Cyborg: Fists of Steel (1980)

Plot
A meathead cyborg regains his humanity, arm wrestles George Eastman then gets shot at by the biggest gun you've ever scene.

Jim
“It’s the future; they’ve got pipes on the cars,” noted Rawshark, and that pretty much set the mood for the whole of the next picture. Yes, next up was Atomic Cyborg, which put us back squarely in the hands of those crazy Italians. Thank Goodness.

The plot goes like this. It’s a dystopian near-future and Paco the cyborg has been sent to the scummy bed-sit of the leader of the resistance to assassinate him. Yes, a scummy bed-sit, but it does have funky pipes on the wall so it must be the future. Anyway, at the last minute this supposedly brainwashed meathead killing machine pulls his punch and lets the leader live. Why? Could it be there are still remnants of his humanity still left? Well yes, that’s the whole plot of the film.

So Paco’s on the run and ends up holding up at a shit hole truck stop in the arse end of nowhere where he lands a job as a handyman and gets to play the popular local sport of arm wrestling with George Eastman. “He’s looking pretty greased up in this movie, George Eastman.” - Zomblee. Yes he is. Soon of course things get out of hand, with Paco being an atomic cyborg and winning all the time, and fights break out. “Fight, fight, fight, fight!” - Rawshark. Let’s just say it all goes Paco’s way, as Zomblee pointed out, “George Eastman’s getting a whipping!”

Anyway, there’s a quick subplot about some snakes, the regional arm wrestling champion and a female cyborg assassin that pulls funny faces (“Cyborgs don’t pull faces like that!” - Zomblee), before John Saxon and his gang of henchmen turn up with machine guns, helicopters and the biggest laser gun you’ve ever seen. “He gets to use the biggest gun of the whole film.” - Zomblee. And if I was John Saxon I’d demand to wield that beast too.

So despite my initial reservations about this film (I’d watched it before alone and didn't see as much of the funny side of it that time), Atomic Cyborg turned out to be one of those Zombie Club treasures. When it’s good it’s good, when it’s bad we chuckled all the way through it. Ah, you’ve got to love it.

“He’s getting away in a blue car, move in…”

Zomblee
Indeed. This movie - apparently legal in Queensland - is great fun from the get go but unfortunately for Rawshark, myself and Jim had already seen it so we talked nonsense for the first ten minutes - sorry Rawshark. Funnily enough, we shut up as soon as Saxon made his entrance with the line, "This project was your responsibility!" I don't know about you, but I know I'm in safe hands when I hear Saxon saying a line like that. Bring it on.

So, as Jim has said, this one is about a cyborg called Paco whose human side is taking over, but he's made a number of enemies so he's hiding out in the desert with Janet Agren from City of the Living Dead. This is where he arm wrestles, chops wood really quickly then kicks the bejesus out of George Eastman and his fat pals, which made Jim very happy, "I love seeing people being thrown across bars!" Me too, Jim.

For a cyborg, Paco is an emotional sort, considering that "70% of his body has been bionically reconstructed" it's a bit odd that he seems to be falling for the girl. We didn't get to see the Atomic Cyborg nail her with his bionic cock, but I think we can live with that. Saxon plays a bad guy again, hell bent on putting an end to Paco by sitting at his desk for most of the movie, placing calls on his really rather funky 80's futuristic phone. Rawshark loved that phone, and that's just another reason to see Atomic Cyborg.

This flick is pure 80's rubbish, but George Eastman and John Saxon are both in it. It's one of those movies that effortlessly falls into the 'guilty pleasures' category. Hard to believe it's from Sergio Martino - the man who brought us giallo gems like The Strange Case of Mrs. Wardh and The Case of the Scorpion's Tale in the 70's.

"I can't let him escape. Go after him with the laser!"

Rawshark
And so onto the fourth and final film (or was it?) of the night – the futuristic arm-wrestling championship flick that is Atomic Cyborg. Coming in like a breath of fresh air following the dark, dim and dismal Zombie Death House, we were now safely back on terra firma Italia trash. Zomblee and Jim may have been talking all the way through the first ten minutes, but let’s face it, you really can get away with talking all over these kind of films and still be able to follow the plot, even when halfway through a second bottle of red wine.

Paco fails to kill resistance leader, Paco goes on the run, Paco trades futuristic white car for old crappy blue one, Paco pushes old crappy blue one over cliff (because it’s old and crappy I assume) and eventually ends up chopping lots of wood for Janet Agren. He wins an arm-wrestling match, gets beaten up, fiddles with his bionic arm a la Terminator and Empire Strikes back, and then chops off a rattlesnake’s head with his bare hand.

Of course the FBI ultimately do close in on their quarry and send in two undercover cyborg cops masquerading as prostitute and client (”She not got very nice knees either” was Zomblee’s other comment) to take care of their rogue robot, but Paco kills them both easily, setting the film up for a truck, car, bridge, helicopter action finale with lots of men in “really futuristic motorbike helmets” (Jim). Saxon pops up wielding a huge laser gun, Paco kicks more ass, and it all ends on a surprising, yet satisfying, downbeat ending as Paco reveals his robot brain to a love-needy but rejected Agren. All together now.. Aaahh.

“You thought you could win me by controlling my brain, but what you don’t realise is that you don’t own a man until you control his heart”

Atomic Cyborg: Fists of Steel

Director
Sergio Martino

Cast
Daniel Greene
Janet Agren
Claudio Cassinelli
George Eastman
John Saxon

Rating
Jim
Zomblee
Rawshark

Runtime
94 mins

Available From

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Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Plot
Roger Corman spends some money and does The Magnificent Seven in space. Zomblee falls asleep.

Rawshark
So that was it wasn’t it? Four Saxon films in one night - could we do any better? Well, yes actually, as Jim realised that we could indeed go one better. Sneakily pulling out a DVD of Battle Beyond The Stars, and heavily influenced by too much drink, we decided to brave the depths of Zombie Club only once ever ventured to before, and take the night to a five-film epic. Hey, it was Saxon, it was Corman, it was Peppard and it was Vaughn, all doing The Magnificent Seven in space. It just had to be seen, although Zomblee was more resigned than Jim or myself. He’d seen it recently was his excuse apparently.

Within two minutes it all came flooding back as evil Saxon as Sador (it’s a twist of sadism – he’s obviously the baddie) approaches a planet, blasts the only weather station, and demands to take over, promising to return in “seven risings”. Thus under threat, local boy Shad (John Boy from The Waltons) takes off in a “cow ship” (Jim) with a female voice of Nell to enlist the help of mercenaries to defend his homestead of Akir.

First docking in at a Doctor’s space station (”You can’t beat a good 80s space docking” - Jim) filled with body-popping robots and doors that sounded like Darth Vader, Shad soon enlists a motley crew of hired hands, including Hannibal from the A-Team as Space Cowboy, five-person Nestor (”So Nestor’s joined out of boredom?” – Jim), a lizard and his two bald midgets, Robert Vaughan as ruthless Gelt and Sybil Danning as a Valkyrie in several skimpy dresses that must have meant poor old Sybil has either misplaced nipples or none at all.

Ok, to be honest, as entertaining as the film is, I think the novelty of a fifth successive film wore off pretty quickly, as Zomblee soon slumped into sleep and myself and Jim stopped writing notes altogether. By the end, I think we were just talking to keep each other awake, but thankfully we made it to the film’s rousing climax, even though I was still gutted Space Cowboy bit the bullet.

”Howdy, Gelt. I'm from Earth. Know where that is?”

Jim
Yeah and that’s the biggest shock, he takes his death so well. “Sixty seconds till impact,” he mutters as he kicks back, takes a shot of scotch (no soda from the utility belt soda dispenser this time) and plays his harmonica until his out of control ship burns up on reentry. With all these other space types competing to be the best badass in the galaxy, it makes you proud to be an Earthling, know what I mean?

Anyway, Battle Beyond the Stars is a loads of fun Saturday morning space romp which owes more than a little to both The Magnificent Seven (also featuring Robert Vaughn) and Star Wars, but obviously isn’t as good as either. As a stand alone piece it’s a bit silly and hasn’t aged all that well, what with ridiculous costumes (especially Sybil Danning’s – who was apparently in Reform School Girls according to Rawshark here), cheap aliens, terrible space battle choreography and, err, John Boy Walton as a lead character (I mean, really), but at 2am it’s actually quite engaging. Highlights for me where also the funky robots (“It was the height of the body-popping era, wasn’t it?” - Rawshark), the crazy xylophone powered anti-infantry weapon and Nestor getting confused because George Peppard’s hot dog didn’t have any dog in it.

It was great to see Saxon as a baddie again though, and also great to see him go up in flames at the end. Don’t think I’ll be looking up any more John Boy Walton movies though (I always thought Stephen King’s IT was shit) but I might give Reform School Girls a try on Rawshark’s recommendation. I wonder if Zomblee would fall asleep in that.

"I want to live forever!"

Zomblee
This isn't Italian! Oh...there's George Peppard. Zzz...

Battle Beyond the Stars

Director
Jimmy T. Murakami

Cast
John Boy Walton
Robert Vaughn
John Saxon
George Peppard
Darlanne Fluegel
Sybil Danning
Sam Jaffe
Jeff Corey

Rating
Rawshark
Jim
Zomblee

Runtime
104 mins

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Conclusion
So let's recap. Tonight John Saxon has...

  • Talked to bees.

  • Worn hats that don't fall off.

  • Turned prisoners into unconvincing zombies.

  • Fired the biggest laser gun you've ever seen.

  • Attempted to take over a small backwater planet where John Boy Walton lives.


  • Okay guys, I think that's quite enough of Saxon now, don't you? I like him and all that, but I think it'll be a while before I tune in to this B-movie legend for a while.

    Next week is probably going to be Rawshark's Radioactive 80s Night, which I'm quite looking forward to as one of the film's stars Michael Dudikoff and doesn't have the word 'Ninja' or 'American' in the title. I also predict lots of 80s synthrock, which of course Zomblee's going to be giving big love too.

    Until then, dead heads.

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