Saturday, 27 June 2015

Favourite Movies, Part III: Battle Beyond The Stars...

(Note: I began to write this shortly after the passing of Jimmy Murakami, but never finished it. It seemed appropriate to have another try, following the recent untimely death of composer James Horner (to whose music I'm listening even now).


In 1994, before I was a Captain, but when I was working as a Post Office counter clerk, a man came in with a parcel he wanted to send to his son in the USA.

As I was weighing the parcel to determine the correct postage, I noticed the return address. The sender's name was printed as 'J.T. Murakami'.

'Excuse me,' I said, ''but I couldn't help noticing the return address. Would you by any chance be James Murakami, the movie director?'

The man looked surprised, but said yes, that was indeed he.

"Battle Beyond the Stars?" I said, unable to believe it. I mean, of all the post offices in all the world...

"Yes, that's right," he replied.

"Excellent! I love that movie!"

Now that I see it written down it looks kinda fanboy-ish but hey, it's not every day you get to meet the director of one of your favourite films. Of 1980. And there was the whole Sybil Danning thing, which was also good, and which gave rise to, among other things, an interest in working in space (and we know how that worked out, don't we?).



Sybil Danning (see what I mean?)
A small but interesting episode, which leads me neatly into the rest of this post.

A Roger Corman-produced vehicle, BBTS is, of course, a reworking of The Magnificent Seven (or Seven Samurai, but I like the Western better) in which the inhabitants of the agrarian world Akir, ravaged by interstellar bandits, hire a band of mercenaries to help them to defend themselves.

Which, in spite of the odds, they do.

The villain in this instance is played by veteran baddie John Saxon, while the good guys feature such stalwarts as George Peppard as a bourbon-drinking cowboy spacefarer called 'Cowboy' and Robert Vaughn, reprising his Magnificent Seven role (of Lee) as Gelt, an interstellar gunfighter with a long past and nothing but enemies.

There's also Richard (John Boy Walton) Thomas, the idealistic young farmer determined to save his people from the bandits.

And Sybil Danning as St. Exmin of the Valkyrie, a warrior race who...

Where was I?


Oh, right.

The movie, made on a tight budget (much of which apparently went to pay the salaries of the headline stars), was an early entry in the careers of several individuals who would go on to distinguish themselves in later years, most notably Special Effects Director James Cameron and Score Composer James Horner, both of whom would be honoured by the Academy in later years. 

I was particularly impressed by James Horner's dramatic score; written long before his later work on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Aliens, one can hear, in certain cues and sequences, much of what would evolve in his later work, and I was surprised it took so long for the Academy to recognise Mr. Horner.

But the man behind the megaphone was none other than Jimmy T. Murakami, who even now was standing before me. We chatted briefly about what he was doing in Ireland; I learned that he had set up an animation studio here and had some projects in the works.

And that was about as much as I got to find out, since the customers were starting to appear and I had to get back to work. We wished each other well and he went on his way.

Subsequent research showed that Murakami had been involved with several well-known animated features, most notably "The Snowman", segments from which are used by An Post (my employer) to promote Christmas posting times and seasonal stamps. 

Also, a recent documentary, entitled 'Jimmy Murakami - Not an Alien', provided an insight into the man and his life, including time spent as an internee in California during WWII.   

James Murakami passed away on February 16th, 2014, in Dublin, aged 80 years.

James Horner died as the result of a plane crash, aged 61, on June 22nd, 2015.

Battle Beyond The Stars will live forever...