Starcrash

Tagged: Film

Film (1978; vt The Adventures of Stella Star). Original Italian title Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione. Nat and Patrick Wachsberger Productions/New World Pictures. Directed by Lugi Cozzi (credited as Lewis Coates). Written by Cozzi and Nat Wachsberger with additional dialogue by R A Dillon. Cast includes Marjoe Gortner, David Hasselhoff, Caroline Munro, Christopher Plummer, Joe Spinell and Robert Tessier. 92 minutes. Colour.

Stella Star (Munro) and her humanoid Alien friend Akton (Gortner) are space pirates who rescue a survivor from a destroyed Starship shortly before being captured by the police of the Emperor (Plummer) and given life sentences. Starr is assigned to forced labour in the radium mines, losing most of her clothes at this point and wearing a revealing black-leather bikini for the first half of the film before regaining clothing. She and Akton are shortly pardoned and recruited to search for the Emperor's son Simon (Hasselhoff), who was aboard the same ship as the survivor they rescued earlier. The Emperor is at war with Count Zarth Arn (Spinell), who possesses the hidden Doom Weapon; Star is sent to find and destroy this Weapon while seeking the Emperor's son. Captures, escapes and recaptures follow, involving a race of Amazons (in league with Zarth Arn) and cannibalistic cavemen, leading up to a battle with the Count's forces which the Emperor loses. The title's "star crash" then takes place: Star and her Robot friend El send the Emperor's World Ship crashing into the Count's Spaceship. Stella survives by jumping out of the window and "space swimming" to safety moments before the collision, which destroys the evil Count and saves the Universe. Romance between Stella and Prince Simon will clearly follow.

Starcrash evidently hoped to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), though it is more an (apparently) unintentional satire on various past sf/fantasy films. Munro's Star is an arguably more sexy version of Barbarella (1968), and elements of Perry Rhodan and the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s and 1940s can also be traced. Gortner's Akton was to have been clearly alien, but he refused makeup, leading to confusion over exactly what his character is. The film contains intentional homages to the work of Ray Harryhausen (Cozzi said as much in interviews) but is nevertheless a mess, with hopelessly inept dialogue, poor special effects, and a very bad performance from Spinell. After New World Pictures complained about how much skin Munro was showing, she became clothed again at about the halfway mark, perhaps avoiding censorship problems when the film was sold to television. She did all her own stunt-work, and would have made an excellent outer space heroine but was let down by the script and effects. One nice touch, no doubt due to long-time sf/fantasy fan Cozzi, is that the starship lost at the outset is named the Murray Leinster. [GFi]

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