aka Scontri Stellari Oltre la Terza Dimensione
Written by Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates) and Nat Wachsberger
Directed by Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
The galaxy is threatened by a secret weapon from a mad dictator – something that projects red blobs into ships! The horror, red doesn’t go with most peoples’ outfits, which drives them mad. Or maybe the red blobs themselves drive the people mad. Whatever the case may be, the galaxy is in danger, so who’re you gonna call? Obviously two random smugglers! Wait, WHAT? It’s Italy, baby!
Starcrash is one of those films that if you love bad movies, you have to watch it. It’s the law. Bad Movie Law. That’s totally a thing. Because Starcrash is freaking awesome! There’s so much to love from every direction of cheese! We got crazy costumes, scantily clad space babes, a ridiculous robot, David Hasselhoff, light sabers, model spaceships (complete with model sprues glued to the outside!), fireworks explosions, blobby weapons, giant titans, dodgy dialogue, traitorous goons, amazing amazons, kooky cave dwellers, a hand-shaped space station, and scene-chewing villains. Mix that together and Starcrash crashes all over the screen with top notch entertainment!
Star Wars that is totally not Star Wars was a brief specialty in a lot of local movie production hot zones. Italy managed to produce more than most, thanks to Italy then being a source of hundreds of cheap films pumped out. While that system was slowly breaking apart, it was still cohesive enough to produce a good amount of science fiction junk that could cash in on Star Wars. Starcrash manages to be 1000% times more 1970s while still being an entertaining film that is a lot more swiftly paced than most of the Italian Star Wars ripoffs (the rest are almost universally long and terrible)
Starcrash was the vision of writer/director/producer Luigi Cozzi, who is well known to genre fans for a host of things he’s been involved with, including a recut version of Godzilla dubbed “Cozzilla” by fans. So it’s ridiculous and campy, but has enough action and big names thrown in to get people interested in seeing it.
Our intrepid smugglers are Stella and Akton, who are captured as soon as they are introduced and tossed in separate prisons. Stella manages to break out of hers in the middle of a riot, but it turns out they were letting her out anyway, to team with Akton and some police to save the galaxy. Stella’s favorite hobby is wearing outfits that barely cover anything, especially when it is time for away missions. Akton is not quite human and has all sorts of magical powers that deus ex machina the heroes out of whatever jam is going on (except the one that got them tossed in jail, naturally!) He also plays with an glowy light tool that we all know will be used as a lightsaber later in the film.
The police accompanying them are the ones that captured them in the first place. One is a cop who is basically Yosemite Sam in robot form named Elle, and the other is the grumbly Thor, who turns out to be a traitor working with the evil Count Zarth Arn. We know Zarth Arn is evil because Zarth sounds like Darth. But this is totally not Star Wars. The mission is ordered by the Emperor himself, whose only son was on the ship we see in the prologue being attacked by the red blobs and is presumed lost/dead. But he’s played by David Hasselhoff, and you don’t have to be German to know that means he’ll show up alive later in the film! And if they take down that darn Zarth Arn and save the galaxy, that would be cool as well.
Part of the fun of Starcrash are all the stories that built up around them. True or not, they have become true enough in the minds of many that they are accepted. Reportedly, Luigi Cozzi hadn’t even seen Star Wars when he began writing, but did have a copy of the novelization that he drew off of. This explains why some of the details sound fine when you read about them, but when they are visualized on the screen, everything turns bonkers! Cozzi also has said that Star Wars totally didn’t influence Starcrash, which sounds an awful lot like covering your butt in case an lawyer is reading. Add to that Cozzi saying he wanted to do Sinbad in space, which explains the stop-motion creatures and possibly Caroline Munro’s casting (she was in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad!) Caroline Munro’s Stella Star kicks all sorts of butt and is a righteous space jockey as well. She’s obviously Rey’s mom! Both Caroline Munroe and Zarth Arn himself, Joe Spinell, would reunite in Maniac. Akton (played by former child evangelical preacher turned actor Marjoe Gortner) is that type of new age character that pops up a lot in 1970s science fiction, as you got to expand your mind at the same time you are gunning down evil troops of an astro despot, and he’s filled with a type of child-like bemusement at everything, while still knowing his ultimate fate and the fate of everyone else. Christopher Plummer plays the Emperor as this amazingly divine being of good, a master class of chewing the scenery while playing a noble character instead of a crazed villain. He mentioned he would take whatever the part just to get a trip to Rome, because Rome rules, don’t you know?
Starcrash is campy fun delight, if you are into ridiculous, bonkers films, you will be entertained. If you are looking for some sort of serious scifi joint, then keep looking, this is the wrong galaxy, buster! Starcrash is popular enough at this point that it has become a low-key cult phenomenon, which means it now has a much better release than the old VHS tape I originally saw it on, in better formats than a lot of actually “good” films (and it was even turned into an episode in the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000!) But none of them are Starcrash, and this is one film that will continue to leave a lasting legacy just because it is a unique force in movies, a type of hypercamp that makes it among the top notch cult films out there.
Rated 9/10 (storm troopin’, sets by Color Blind, hand magic, warp factor video toaster!, not My Little Pony, golden monkey mask, good dental hygiene, saber saber, saber slashy)
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