Awfully Good: Starcrash
As everyone gears up for THE FORCE AWAKENS, we'll spend the next few weeks looking at some of the worst STAR WARS-inspired flicks…
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Stars: Caroline Munro, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer
Intergalactic thief and bare skin enthusiast Stella Star gets a pardon from space jail in order to rescue Prince David Hasselhoff from the clutches of the evil Count Zarth Arn.
There's nearly an entire separate genre of movies that were created to capitalize on the galaxy-size pile of money STAR WARS in 1977. We've covered and enjoyed many of them here at Awfully Good— BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, THE BLACK HOLE, THE ICE PIRATES—but STARCRASH belongs in a league entirely of its own.
This movie might even be better than STAR WARS…
Conceived, shot and released within a year of STAR WARS, the film clearly has no qualms about how blatantly it poaches from George Lucas' space epic. I can accept a similar-looking blaster that also shoots lasers, or even a giant planet-size weapon that also threatens entire galaxies. But having a character wield what is inarguably a lightsaber is pushing it. And featuring an opening shot of a long spaceship passing over the camera…well, now you're just rubbing Lucasfilm's tauntaun snout in it.
"Behold my Lightsa…I mean, my Glowblade!"
Every fiber of STARCRASH's existence is bad in the best way possible and I give the filmmakers credit for really going for it. There's a lot of imagination and production "value" on screen, with big sets, big action set pieces and big (attempted) effects—just no money or time to pull any of it off convincingly. The special effects in particular are next-level terrible. Alien creatures are (clearly miserable) horses forced to wear masks. The spaceships, shot to highlight the fact that they're miniature models, often remain stationary while thruster sound effects are played to suggest movement. The villain's climactic "Doom Machine" is accomplished by shooting the camera through what I can only assume is a lava lamp. And don't get me started on the Guardian, a Godzilla-sized stop-motion robot so unconvincing (and unstable-looking) there had to be some sort of bet or dare between the effects team to actually get it in to the final film like that.
It wasn't easy being Captain Buttplug's sidekick.
The plot is essentially an interstellar precursor to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK/LA, with our heroine Stella Star travelling to a dangerous territory to rescue a political leader's offspring, encountering everything from busty Amazon warriors to hygienically-deficient cavemen along the way. With a story like this we're not expecting award-winning dialogue, but STARCRASH is full of so many wonderfully awful line deliveries that you'll be quoting it for days on end. The script and performances also aren't helped by the filmmakers' bizarre decision to re-dub the actors in post-production, even though everyone was already speaking English. This leads to more than one glorious instance of someone speaking and making noises even when their mouths are shut.
They're not going to win any Oscars for writing, but Costume Design is a different story…
Caroline Munro is legitimately great as Stella Star, easy on the eyes and delightfully overacting the entire way through. The film's dedicated quest to find new ways to put her in skimpy outfits for no logical reason is one of the highlights. For example, when she goes to jail her uniform is a space bikini even though everyone else wears jumpsuits. And of course they had to throw in an all-girl fight sequence between her and other scantily clad Amazon women. Stella's companions on this adventure include Elle, a robot cop with an inexplicable southern accent who's programmed to be a giant pansy and create awkward cybersexual tension with Stella. Many of the film's best lines come from Elle's bizarre robo-hick persona.
Can you guess which of Drax's parents had the dominant genes?
There's also David Hasselhoff as the Emperor's son. The Hoff's part is fairly small, but he still spends a chunk of his screentime in a mask because the actor got food poisoning (cheeseburgers?) and couldn't perform. And finally, Christopher freaking Plummer shows up as Emperor of the Universe. Plummer admits he only did the movie for the free trip to Rome, but nonetheless, his brief presence is one of the few things that elevates the movie immensely. (The other being a score by James Bond composer John Barry.)
Nice to see David Schwimmer still getting work after Friends.
And a special shout out to Akton, Stella's most intriguing co-hort. Akton looks human but it's revealed during the movie that he has a variety of Superman-like powers—he's impervious to lasers, can bring people back from the dead, and can see in to the future. However, for some reason, none of these incredibly interesting things are ever explained or exploited in the film. He can predict what's going to happen, but lets his friends constantly get injured or die. He's omnipotent, but gets a small cut on his arm and then dies by evaporating in to electricity. I never thought I'd say this, but, can we please get a prequel movie about this character?
Things got really interesting when The Rocketeer learned his jetpack worked in space too.
There are so many parts of STARCRASH that I genuinely love, from Stella Star going swimming in space (that's not how outer space works!) to the villain's terribly ineffective henchmen. But hands down my favorite part of this movie is when Emperor Christopher Plummer arrives on a spaceship seconds before it is set to explode and saves everyone by yelling out, "Imperial Battleship, halt the flow of time!" His spaceship then shines a green light on everyone and freezes time so that they can all escape. It's probably the most amazing, laziest ex machina device of all time and made even better by the fact that in the next scene, the Emperor suggests everyone essentially suicide bomb the bad guy to stop him in time.
Oh, STARCRASH, you rascal.
The best of Elle, the lame Southern robot. BONUS: Count Zarth Arn laughs at you!
Some of the amazing action scenes, including lightsabers, stop-motion giants, and lady-on-lady fighting!
No nudity, but Caroline Munro will definitely put a smile on your face.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- STAR WARS is blatantly ripped off
- There is especially bad dubbing
- A special effect is unconvincing
- Elle the Robot is nervous
- Akton lets something bad happen even though he could've stopped it
Double shot if:
- Elle supposedly dies
|Extra Tidbit:||Christopher Plummer on STARCRASH: "There are two things I can say about that: One, give me Rome any day. I’ll do porno in Rome, as long as I can get to Rome. And the girl… What’s her name? Caroline Munro. She was something incredible to look at. That was a great pleasure, too."|