Starcrashrecommended viewing

It gave me a star rash
★★★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1979
Director: 
Luigi Cozzi
Starring: 
Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Robert Tessier, Joe Spinell
The Setup: 
Some space bullshit that in no way resembles <strong>Star Wars.</strong>
Discussion: 

You know, some sciene fiction emerges from the tirelessly questioning human mind, asking us to probe within ourselves to ponder some of the most vexing questions facing mankind. And some science fiction emerges from the wish to rip off Star Wars.

Starcrash is the latter. Legendary among bad movies, probably because it is long out of print (not anymore, btw), this movie is a jaw-dropper a minute, and so ludicrously stupid and poorly acted that it soon becomes hilarious and never lets up.

Now, I started this movie while still drunk from having after-work drinks, and I later watched the rest in a less enhanced state of mind, and thus I can state with confidence that a healthy buzz is the ideal condition to fully optimize your Starcrash experience.

We begin with a a big ship flying over our heads in a manner that may bring Star Wars to mind. There are a number of shots throughout that directly replicate Star Wars. If Star Wars was made with laughably cheap models and effects and was incredibly dumb, that is. Through a starfield that seems to contain red and blue and green Christmas lights, the starship Murray Leinster majestically sails. Here we are introduced to Stella Star [Caroline Munro, who was in Maniac and was also Vulnavia Phibes in The Abominable Dr. Phibes!!!], our sensuous main character who apparently has access to Barbarella’s wardrobe. They find this derelict ship and explore, where I think they meet Akton, this blond guy who’s sort of an Italian William Katt. If I’m getting some of the details wrong, sorry, I was drunk. And it doesn’t matter, because this thing is impossible to follow anyway.

Anyway, after we hear a page for "Major Bradbury" [is this a tribute to Ray Bradbury? And does Ray Bradbury WANT a tribute from the world’s shittiest sci-fi film?], we see our villain, who is sort of like a Ming the Merciless with even stupider hair [Joe Spinell, also of Maniac], and sails on a big ship that is supposed to look like a giant hand. If you think the fingers of that hand are going to clench in—for no discernable purpose—well, you are a very canny customer indeed. Part of the fun of this movie is in studying the ships and trying to determine where the little parts came from. Me and my BF, who watched the last half with me, were like “Look, that’s one of those wire things that keeps a champagne cork on! Look, there’s a lock!”

Anyway, poor, sad Christopher Plummer, obviously at a low point in his career, comes out and begins his overacting activities as the Emperor. Those who would say this film is just like Star Wars take THAT: This Emperor is NICE. So it happens that the bad guy has made a weapon that is so large it takes an entire planet to conceal [not a weapon large enough to destroy an entire planet, mind you]. Stella and her C-3PO clone with the giant glans on his head and the Southern accent are assigned to go find “the third launch” for some reason, and they set off on their mission. You may notice that 9/10s of Stella's performance seems to be made up of her narrowing her eyes and shaking her head. She delivers a great deal of straightforward exposition in cleverly-written lines such as: “The distance we must travel is enormous! By using hyperspace, what would take two months will take us two hours!” They crash on this planet, and emerge from their ship, which some production assistants obviouly piled some sand behind in order to make it look like it crashed… and apparently just gave up after a few minutes. You are literally looking at something akin to a sand castle.

When you were watching Star Wars, did you ever have the thought: “What if all those stormtroppers were actually scantily-clad women?” If so, apparently you are not alone. So Stella has to fight them, as well as this giant robot that guards something or other. She then has to tromp through the snow in her high-heeled boots, accompanied by her penis-headed robot, to this ship. But the bald blue guy on the ship [he looks like a faded refugee from the blue man group] betrays her and doesn’t let her in, so she and her robot get frozen, but luckily the robot can maintain her life functions merely by holding her hand.

Remember Akton? The blond William Katt-type? Turns out HE’s on the ship, and he and the blue man have a big fight, only it turns out that Akton has some sort of powers, rendering him impervious to laser shots, and soon he kills the blue guy and brings the fully-frozen Stella in, where he microwave defrosts her with his ray. You will notice that her hair springs back to bouncy, blow-waved life after her experience as a popsicle.

Then they take to space and fly to some other planet, but find that a lava lamp has invaded their ship and they must contend with a bunch of glowing bubbles that give them a headache. They land, and Stella and ol’ glanshead find the third launch, but the local cavemen attack and smash the robot to bits. Stella, who bade her trusty companion a moving goodbye before she froze, telling him that he was her closest and dearest friend in the whole universe, doesn’t seem phased in the least that he has been brutally reduced to transistors. She finds the inside of the ship where the massive weapon is [apparently the lava lamp was part of the weapon], and she also finds: THE HOFF!

That’s right, baby, David Hasselhoff is here in all his dewy, pre-Baywatch glory, and soon you’re wondering whether Stella will end up with Katt-clone Akton or The Hoff. On the crotch front, btw, you will note that while Akton has a little red triangle right between his legs, The Hoff has what appears to be a cameltoe! Poor Stella better choose correctly, or she might be in for a surprise. One of the best moments is when Hoff says “I’m the last survivor of [some shit]” and Stella skeptically asks “Are you REALLY?”

So then they blow up the planet / weapon and you think “okay, so this is finally over,” but no. You see, we haven’t yet had a space dogfight against the giant enemy starship, which we must do. So then the good guys launch their fighters, and approach the big ship that looks like a hand, which draws its fingers into a fist for no tactical purpose. The POV shots approaching the surface of the Death Star are faithfully replicated here, and there’s a bunch of laser fire that never seems to hit anything, and when ships explode they do so with bursts of sparks that look like they are available to the public around July 4th time.

One strategy the good guys have is to load a bunch of troops into a torpedo and shoot them into the enemy ship, whereupon they emerge and start a-fightin’. The thing is, they smash in through the windows, leaving a huge broken window open to space and… isn’t that kind of a problem? I suppose there’s some force barrier we don’t know about. That keeps space out but lets torpedos in. Anyway, things are looking dire for some reason, so Christopher Plummer, whose every appearance makes you say “poor Christopher Plummer,” decides that they only have one option [whisper it portentiously:] “Star crash.” Which is just to ram a spaceship into the big one. So Stella and her faitful robot, who has been reassembled as we knew he would be, go off in this other ship and aim it at the big fist ship. Then, before it’s about to crash, they jump out the window. Into space. Stella is wearing this bubble thing on her head, and she sort of swims [through space] with her hands doing this funny waving motion. But by now anything you see will make as much sense as anything else.

So it turns out that Stella and The Hoff are going to be our lucky couple, and after poor, poor Christopher Plummer does a highly overdramatic outgoing speech, we’ve finally made it through.

As I said, I watched this in two parts. The parts I watched while drunk were approxiately 2.7X more amusing than the parts I watched while sober. The lesson is: be drunk. This is one of those movies that starts ridiculous and just keeps going, which can be good while drunk and in the company of friends, but can also just become wearying. This one never got as tedious as something like Supergirl, but eventually you’re just so used to everything being ridiculous that it kind of loses its impact.

On the plus side, however, lasers and spaceships and robots and explosions are all pretty cool, no matter how poorly rendered they are, and if you were a kid during the Star Wars era, this movie might help you reconnect to that time when you were 11 and would watch and consider seriously ANY movie that contained spaceships.

One other thing. This film really makes one appreciate Star Wars, and realize that a lot of the impact of Star Wars was not so much the story, but just its entire sci-fi vision of these massive ships moving through space, these cool little star fighter things… just the whole milieu. Sort of the same way that Blade Runner is important in one whole way just for its vision of the future society, regardless of the story. And with this revelation about Star Wars, one is faced with how very influential 2001 was on that film and many that followed… because that whole thing about huge ships slowly whirling through space ultimately originated in 2001. I addition to the sort of symmetrical spaceship interiors and stuff like that that just became standard from then on. So there’s that level of interest as well.

So there ya go. This was decent and I’m glad I saw it, but I would put this in the second tier of bad movies, not the first. It just doesn’t all gel together and stay interesting in a way something like Barbarella does. Eh, so there ya go.

Should you watch it: 

If you are really into Star Wars rip-offs or you gain mirth from the eternal source of amusement we know as The Hoff.