Friday, February 18, 2011

No, it's not the Mel Gibson bio-pic...

Starcrash  (New World Pictures, 1979)

D'oh! The main spaceship in the center was drawn upside down
 because the promo photo the artist used was printed wrong.

Before the Camera:

Caroline Munro  (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Marjoe Gortner  (Earthquake)
Joe Spinell  (Maniac)
David Hasselhoff  (The Spongebob Squarepants Movie)
Robert Tessier  (The Sword and the Sorceror)
Jud Hamilton  (Munro's then-husband)
the voice of Hamilton Camp (Ralph Furley's brother Bart on TV's Three's Company)
Christopher Plummer  (The Sound of Music)
as the Emporer

Behind the Camera

Directed by "Lewis Coates"  (Luigi Cozzi)

Produced by Nat Wachsberger and Patrick Wachsberger

Written by "Lewis Coates"  (Luigi Cozzi), Nat Wachsberger, and R.A. Dillon (additional dialogue)

Wow! In the aftermath of the amazing Star Wars, in the next couple of years everyone was getting in on the act, from the other major studios (Universal's Battlestar Galactica hitting the big screen) to Roger Corman (Battle Beyond the Stars) to the Japanese (Message from Space) to the Canadians (The Shape of Things to Come) to...of course...the Italians! And here we have one of their efforts, dripping with fresh garlic and basil.
    Stella Star (Munro) and her partner Akton (Gortner) are Space Scoundrels, stealing their way across the galaxy, living a life of adventure and larceny. While escaping the Space Police after their latest caper, they end up rescuing the only survivor of a failed mission to stop the biggest Space Villain of them all, Count Zarth Arn (Spinell), in his bid to take over the universe. Stella and Akton take the rescuee home, but there they find themselves in an audience with the Emporer (Plummer) who enlists them as the B team to go after Arn and to look for his missing son at the same time. They don't particularly want to be heroes, but with Arn threatening everyone everywhere with his giant Space Superweapon, they have little choice.
    Of course, it's not just a matter of flying over there and doing something. No, it's going to take several stops along the way, picking up the necessary personnel and equipment needed (kind of like the levels of a video game). Thankfully Stella and Akton have robot Elle (body of Hamilton, voice of Camp - which is funny, because together that makes Hamilton/Camp, which is Camp's full name!) to help out and provide strange Southern accented comedy relief. And Stella's ready for action in a series of outfits that all together took at least a yard of material to construct; with my favorite being the clear inflatable sumo wrestler suit she wears over a bikini, although she apparently lost the air pump somewhere. Along the way they'll meet Amazons, giant stop motion robots, little dogfighting spaceships, and Zarth Arn's big giant spaceship which looks like a flying hand (how I wish it would have given Our Heroes the finger in there somewhere!) and they'll eventually discover that the emporer's son is played by none other than The Hoff in his second movie role! Will they be able to stop the evil Count and save the universe? Mama mia, what do you think?

You know, they could have used the pump from The Hoff's hair for Caroline
Munro's sumo suit...
One of the goofiest Star Wars ripoffs to come down the pike, this flick is pretty incredible. The production design and special effects obviously were a labor of love for director Cozzi (who had a hand in every aspect of this thing behind the camera). They are very bright, and super colorful, and even charming in their simplicity and old school budget consciousness. The star fields feature stars that are bright red, green, blue, and yellow, and there's lots of stop motion animation, both in the creatures and robots, and even in some of the spaceship effects. So your eyes always have something to take in, making this a visually fun flick. Then we get to the ears, and not so much. The script is even worse than you might imagine, and when you add in the weird mix of matched and mismatched voices (Hassellhoff, Gortner, and Plummer supply their own voices; Munro and Spinell do not) it is a bit of a chore making it through any dialogue scene. A couple of samples:

The Emporer: 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!

or this little exchange that will have you scratching your head in wonder:

Stella Star: So you see into the future. All these years you never told me. Think of all the trouble I might have avoided.
Akton: You would have tried to change the future, which is against the law. So therefore I can tell you nothing.

But then getting back to the weird and wonderful, they somehow managed to get John Barry (composer of twelve James Bond soundtracks!) to do the music, so the score is much more awesome than you'd expect from an Italian Star Wars ripoff. All in all, there aren't many other movies out there like Starcrash (and most of the ones that are were also directed by Luigi Cozzi) so this one is a solid recommendation as a lesson in just what Star Wars did wrought back in the three or four years after its release. Sadly, despite being so far out, and apparently doing pretty well at the box office, the planned and announced sequel Stella Star sequel Star Riders was never made. But there's still one adventure of Stella Star, and I say you should check this one out!

Let's Get Out of Here?

Very roughly around 1:23:00 Hamilton Camp gives voice to the idea the robot is ready to go.

Eye Candy?

Oh my goodness yes.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Starcrash is like Cinema Carbonara - maybe
not so good for you, but irresistible nonethless!"

 And there you have it. Until next we meet, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!