Hot on the heels of a small sci-fi production called 'Star Wars' came this remake of 'The Magnificent Seven' and 'Seven Samurai'. If you haven't guessed the difference was the story has now been set in space.
A Roger Corman production so you might think it would be space trash, but at the time this was quite a big release as sci-fi was popular again. The people involved with this film is actually quite impressive, for one James Cameron was in charge of the effects (mainly models) so this explains why they look so detailed, imaginative and quite good.
The cast for the film is also impressive for the time, looking back they are all your typical B-movie players really. Classic character actor Richard Thomas is the young hero, the legend Robert Vaughn plays a space merc, John Saxon is the evil space villain and George Peppard is the 'Space Cowboy'. Yep he has no name other than that, cos he's coooool. All are legends in their own right (accept Thomas maybe) but you can't deny all have popped up in some glorious B-movie fluff in their time, film and TV.
The film on the whole is a brave effort and bold with certain ideas. The start of the film seems quite sensible with its 'Star Trek' like score playing accompanying slow camera pans of various spaceships...all very 'Star Trek-ish'. The costumes aren't too bad either, this isn't a 'Flash Gordon' type affair, well not too much. Of course you can see many similarities to other films in both costumes and various ideas but that is pretty inevitable seeing as 'Star Wars' came out in 78.
As the film progresses it does become a tad dull really, the whole time is spent with the hero looking for mercs to save his home planet. This is where the film tends to rollercoaster as some people he meets are pretty good in design, others are not. Take Peppard as the Space Cowboy, his ship's interior looks good, its well designed and has a nice 'Millennium Falcon' feel about it, the character himself is cliched but Peppard makes the role work nicely.
Some ships looks good while others look terrible, laser effects are poor and not helped by the quite ridiculous sound effects used. The names used for some of these alien races, planets etc...tend to be rather daft too. Sets vary from scene to scene with the odd one looking nice but most looking rather plastic with merely lots of flashing lights everywhere.
Speaking of the 'Millennium Falcon', Robert Vaughn's character is a complete 'Han Solo' rip off in my opinion, right down to his boots. Other characters like the 'Nestor' and 'Valkyrie warriors' are just your typical B-movie crap frankly. They look like they were designed in the 50's, bad makeup, tacky fake plastic looking costumes and completely childish, real cheap sci-fi. From time to time there are some nice ideas though, the character of 'Cayman' is a nice addition with a reasonable looking reptilian mask.
Oh I forgot...the 'Valkyrie warriors' are stunning women with tight outfits that easily reveal their enormous breasts. Just like it would be in space, what? are you saying there aren't alien races like that?.
The film does get sillier and sillier as it goes on, the ham builds with performances and effects. I loved the evil laughter sequences by Saxon and his mutant henchmen...classic stuff. A little bit of evil dialog then pause for some evil laughter with your henchmen. The makeup design for 'Sador' actually looks a bit like Ed Wood's 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' with the single face mark, the mark of the baddie.
The film kicks into gear towards the end as we see the final battle between 'Sador' and good guys. Lots of laser gun fights, dodgy space battles with the same model sequences being reused over and over and some great cheesy acting from all.
Its clear to see many influences in this film from classic sci-fi such as 'Star Trek', 'Lost in Space', 'Westworld', 'Forbidden Planet', 'Star Wars' and many films from the 70's. But you have to hand it to Corman and director Murakami as they too have influenced many sci-fi films with this. The whole concept of a 'space cowboy' may well have originated here, if you overlook 'Han Solo'.