STARCRASH [1978]

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Directed by:
Written by: , ,
Starring: , , ,

ITALY

AVAILABLE ON DVD

RUNNING TIME: 95 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, official HCF Critic

 

In a distant galaxy, a starship searching for the evil Count Zarth Arn is attacked by a mysterious weapon which drives the crew insane. Three escape pods launch during the attack, but the ship crashes into the atmosphere of a nearby and is destroyed. Smugglers Stella Star and Akton find a sole disoriented survivor in the ship, but are apprehended by Thor and a robot named L who are members of the Imperial Space Police. Tried and convicted of piracy, they are each sentenced to life in prison on separate prison planets though manage to escape. The Emperor of the Galaxy informs them that Count Zarth Arn has a secret weapon of immense power hidden away on a planet somewhere, and orders Stella and Akton to find the Count’s weapon, offering them clemency if they help find two more missing escape pods as well as the mothership, one of which may contain the Emperor’s son. With Thor and Elle accompanying them, Stella and Akton….

If you’re a real film fan, you would probably agree with me that sometimes, watching a movie that is complete and utter shite can be as enjoyable and fulfilling as watching a groundbreaking masterpiece of cinema. Of course many bad films are just unwatchable and do deserve to not really be seen at all, but some really do deserve to be seen. One such film is Starcrash. It’s a total piece of crap which is staggering in i’s ineptitude, but it’s also one of the most entertaining film experiences I’ve had so far this year. Does this mean I’m insane? Maybe, but I firmly believe that the two worst things a film can be are “dull” and “boring”, and Starcrash is certainly neither of these. As you can probably guess from the title and the summary of the first third, it’s basically an Italian-made ripoff of Star Wars, although it’s also very much inspired by the science fiction serials of the 1030’s and the movies of Ray Harryhausen. It was directed by a guy called Luigi Cozzi [who claimed he conceived of it before Star Wars, yeah right!], who I’d heard of before because he sometimes worked for Dario Argento, but I didn’t really know any of his directorial efforts. After seeing Starcrash, he’s certainly an auteur whose work I want to explore further. Maybe he’s the Italian Ed Wood?

So, imagine Star Wars, mixed with a bit of Flash Gordon and Jason And The Argonauts, and perhaps even a touch of James Bond and Barbarella. Sounds pretty good, if a bit derivative, doesn’t it?  Now imagine that the director and most of his collaborators had no money and were on hallucinogenic drugs when they made it. Imagine someone jumping out of a window in a spaceship and doing the breast stroke through space. Imagine a robot who speaks normally for fifteen minutes then for no reason at all spends the rest of the film speaking like a Western cowboy. Imagine a green-faced alien whose makeup runs more and more as the film progresses making it obvious nobody ever bothered to reapply it. Imagine a woman being sentenced to “hard labour” trying to escape by grabbing a gun and shooting it out with guards, then in the middle of the fight we suddenly cut to her running across a field by a stream. Imagine all the stars in space not white but red, gold and blue. Imagine a guy who can see the future but can’t divulge anything because it’s “against the law” [and yet he’s a pirate and an outlaw].  Imagine, and I’m honestly not making this up, missiles crashing through huge windows of spaceships and instead of causing depressurisation, people with guns jump out of them.

Imagine, above all else, actors [of a sort] delivering lines like:
“By sundown [WTF, we’re supposed to be in Space?!] I’ll be the most powerful man in the Universe”.
“A floating space ship is approaching and about to crash into us”. “Destroy the floating spaceship approaching”.
“I will kill you forever”.
“It’s nice to be turned on again”  [said by L the robot].
“The temperature [of the planet they are on] drops thousands of degrees at night”.
“ You know, my son, I wouldn’t be Emperor of the Galaxy if I didn’t have a few powers at my disposal. Imperial Battleship, halt the flow of time!”  [and imagine Christopher Plummer saying it].

If the script appears to have written by excitable school kids, than the special effects appear to have been done by blind people. Starcrash employs pretty much every type of special effect, from stop motion to model work to blue screen to rotoscoping, and botches every one. One of the funniest bits is a pathetic recreation of the superb Talos sequence from Jason And The Argonauts [except that this giant has breasts], but then equally helarious are the spaceship battle which basically consists of the same four or five shots repeated very fast and sometimes flipped, the fight with cavemen where all the cavemen for some reason leap into the air in slow motion as they attack, and the attack by the “red monsters” which seem to be superimposed shots of inside a lava lamp. The spaceships appear to have been created by combining missing pieces from Airfix model kits with kitchen utensils. Honestly, this films is totally nuts. Every time something stupid happens and you think things can’t get any more ridiculous, something even more stupid happens. Whole chunks of footage appear to be missing, as if sequences were dropped because they realised they couldn’t shoot them. This helps give the film a lightning fast pace that is almost surreal. One minute our heroes are battling Amazons on one planet, then the next minute they’re seemingly freezing to death on another planet, while L the robot is constantly moaning how he’s scared of things.

Ah the acting – well, Christopher Plummer gives the most absurd lines almost Shakespearian gravitas, Joe Spinell in a dime store Satan outfit laughs and snarls like the most over the top pantomime villain ever, and as for the rest – well, to give you an idea I will say that David Hasselholf, in his first role [and how on earth did he ever get cast in anything ever again?] and absolutely caked in mascara, probably gives the best performance. Caroline Munro, wearing lots of sexy outfits which change from scene to scene, does probably look her best but just doesn’t bother to act at all, though as with Spinell she’s very badly dubbed. Marjoe Gortner though uses his own voice and is just horrid full stop, while whoever thought to dub L with the Texan voice deserves shooting.  Everyone else involved with this movie does an incredibly bad job, in front of the camera and behind it, with one notable exception. John Barry provides a terrific ‘007 in space’- sounding score that’s sometimes so grand and classy that it’s totally at odds with the picture. Supposedly he wrote the score before the film had been finished but had been presented with elaborate paintings of spectacular effects sequences by Cozzi, who promised him that the finished film would have scenes just like those shown in the paintings. Interestingly, and probably thinking that Starcrash would soon fade into obscurity, he recycled the main theme for his Oscar-winning score for Out Of Africa. But Starcrash has survived. It’s an absolute hoot from beginning to end.  See it, preferably with a six pack of beer, or a bottle of whisky, or something even stronger. I picked it up in HMV a months ago and have already seen it three times.

2/10 [film quality] or

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★ [entertainment quality]

About Dr Lenera 3108 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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