Shout! Factory // 1979 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 27th, 2010
Will blast you through the blackness of a hundred million nights!
The year was 1979. Star Wars had recently set the world on fire. Studios scrambled to capitalize on the film's popularity by churning out knock-offs. Few have achieved a cult status as weighty as Starcrash. Though it's quite possible many have made more sense.
If only these guys could have cribbed the opening title crawl from Star Wars. As such I was largely left baffled for a good twenty or so minutes. Here's what I was able to gather: a spaceship flying around the Haunted Stars is attacked by space hemoglobin, which turns out to be a mega-weapon crated by an evil count who wants to overthrow the benevolent Emperor and take over the galaxy.
Standing in his way is the beautiful Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and her cronies, who go on an intergalactic quest to find the missing ship and piece together the mystery to the count's diabolical plan. Our heroes meet Simon, the dashing and eyeliner-laden heir to the Empire (David Hasselhoff) and together they bring the fight to the Count and his evil minions by using the mythical Starcrash, which involves attacking from the fourth dimension or something, but as far as I can tell, it's just ramming a starship with a space city.
Leave no doubt in your head, Starcrash is moronic and corny and its theft of Star Wars is felonious (Lightsabers! Space fighter trench runs! Hyperspace!). But you, my friend, will absolutely get your money's worth. This is 92 minutes of unrelenting insanity; it's not boring, it's crammed with antiquated, but charming special effects and there are cavemen. Cavemen! Cavemen fighting robots!
Here then is my primer to the world of Starcrash and while I make no effort to convince you that this is a well-made film, or even makes sense, I defy you to come away from this review without a new-found respect for the Italian hallucinogenic market of the late '70s.
The Starcrash Glossary
Stella Star's navigator and an alien from a planet that apparently trades in Jheri curl hair softener for currency. Akton is super-strong, resilient to harm, aces with a lightsab -- uh, laser sword and can see the future. You would think this last ability might come in useful as far as strategy and tactics, but Akton refuses to disclose his precognition, making him both a useful ally and a miserable douchebag.
Stella and her crew tangle with a tribe of malicious Amazon alien women while searching a planet for the lost ship. They have lasers and a futuristic hideout and command a giant Amazon robot, though they have yet to unlock the mysterious technology of the sports bra.
Count Zarth Arn
He's the big bad, a megalomaniac determined to conquer the galaxy and if that means sending battalion after battalion of mustached, middle-aged Italian soldiers into a laser meat-grinder while unhelpfully screaming "Kill them!!!" in a high-pitched voice, so be it.
The wise-cracking robot with the Bonanza accent, Elle is one of Stella's most trusted companions. Strong, resourceful and skilled in hand-to-hand combat, Elle meets his death in rather graphic fashion, at the furry hands of some Neanderthals. He's eventually rebuilt and shows up just in time to be of little help in the end battle.
Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe
Christopher Plummer! Springs Stella from nuclear space prison and comes up with the Starcrash idea, the mechanics of which I'm still not crystal clear on.
The Count's last line of defense against Stella and Simon, save for, you know, shooting them in the heads when they're captured. He opts to let them live, leaving these bulky, uncoordinated robots to guard them. They are easily bested.
Count Zarth's stomping grounds. I don't recall seeing any ghosts there, so I'm guessing the Count just gave it a scary name to keep the neighborhood kids away.
The experimental overdrive system that allows starships to travel at insane speeds. The space-time effect of hyperspace looks like a close-up shot of a lava lamp.
Leather Space Bikini
This form-fitting, cleavage-flaunting outfit is Stella's primary get-up throughout the film and what it lacks in practicality and safety it more than makes up for in, well, leather.
The inhabitants of Zarth's home planet. They have a thirst for robot degreaser and were prepared to do some potentially NC-17 things to a captured Stella. Luckily, David Hasselhoff intervened, preserving the PG rating.
The Emperor's only son. He too is adept with a laser sword and even dresses like a Sith Lord, or, er, Evil Warrior Skilled in Space Magic. Simon and Stella fall in love, characterized by their warm hug at the end of the film.
Our heroine! Stella is the galaxy's best pilot and an infamous smuggler. She flies a sweet hyperspace-enabled starship, outruns the Galactic Police on a regular basis and can single-handedly defeat Amazon warriors in hand-to-hand combat. A little more practice and she will surely be able to take out your average Neanderthal. Maybe in Star Crash 2?
He's the Chief of the Galactic Police and is enlisted by the Emperor to aid in the quest. Later revealed to be a double agent, Thor attempts to kill Stella and Elle by stranding them on an ice planet. Though it is not explicitly stated, there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that Thor threw his lot in with the Count because he was promised a less-splotchy green make-up job.
Shout! Factory, in its continued series of Roger Corman releases, does right by the Starcrash fan base with this two-disc (Disc Two, the extras offering, is a DVD). The high-def picture (1.78:1) is solid, hit with the occasional flaw, but I'm willing to chalk that up to imperfect source materials. The trippy, hyper-colored look of the film comes across with verve on Blu-ray; it is an eye-flogging arrangement of over-produced visuals that sparkle in the boosted resolution. A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a fine supplement, effectively transmitting the cacophonous sound effects work and the genuinely solid John Barry score.
The extras stand out. The feature film sports two commentaries, with Starcrash expert Stephen Romano delivering the goods on each. The guy has a lot to say and is flush with anecdotes; he's worth listening to. You also get interviews with Caroline Munro and director Luigi Cozzi, a special effect featurette, a stills gallery, behind-the-scene footage with commentary, deleted and extended scenes (including an opening title crawl!), the official trailer with commentary from Eli Roth and Joe Dante, a 12-page booklet and the screenplay which is accessible through your computer. It's an awesome collection and only falls short of a perfect score because of the lack of a next-gen Blu-ray extra.
Starcrash is inspired cheese; campy, ham-fisted and illogical. It's also Z-grade schlock at its most hectic and sort-of a must-see. Fans should be more than satiated with Shout! Factory's loving treatment.
Not Guilty! Go for hyperspace!!!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Galleries
* CD-ROM Screenplay