Starcrash (1978)

Starcrash

Directed by Luigi Cozzi

Tagline: “The ultimate inter-galactic adventure”

Run Time: 92 minutes


NUTSHELL

A bizarre Italian "homage" to Star Wars that leaves you feeling that you were just run over by a bus. But your life will be the better for it. Starcrash is one of many Italian "Spaghetti Star Wars" of the late 1970′s as everybody in the world was scrambling to cash in on the latest (money making) craze. (This brief onslaught of films includes 2 fantastically funny films by director Alfonso Brescia: War of the Robots and, one of my favorite movies of all times, Cosmos: War of the Planets, which I hope to add to this site some day.)

Funnily enough, Starcrash features a young, and then unknown, 27-year old David Hasselhoff as Prince Simon. I just thought I’d mention that for everybody keeping score out there. (Hasselhoff had appearing only in one other film before Starcrash, namely Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1976) in which he portrayed a character named "Boner". No I haven’t seen that movie. And no, I don’t want to.)

SUMMARY

Open with gigantic white spaceship (named "Murray Leinster" giving a humorous nod to the sci-fi author of the same name) flying through, surprise, space. On the ship’s bridge, the navigator reports that they’ve entered the region of the "Haunted Stars…although we’ve been unable to find the secret fortress of the enemy."

(Well, that’s probably why it’s a secret fortress, you think?)

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Anyway, our golden-helmeted friend adds that it would be prudent to "be careful" since the ship is in the vicinity of the evil Count Zarth Arn…brrrrr! Did you get the chills too?

The ship’s Captain, obviously feeling a bit chatty, turns to the navigator and asks, "What is it like, this planet we’re approaching?"

"Nothing but ice and snow…a barren desert of whiteness."

(Does that mean the Sahara desert is a barren desert of yellowness? I’m just trying to figure this all out here…)

Anyway, since the opening credits haven’t come yet, this ship is most likely the throw-away plot device to get the story rolling and…yep, I was right: They manage to fly into a "force field", which we see as an overlay of a sped-up shot of red lava lamp goo! No, I’m not kidding.

So, ok, the ship is filled with wierd red balls and lights and wierd synthesizer sounds, all of which just can’t be very healthy, so they die, but not before some escape pods manage to fly away, so I’m guessing this all has something to do with something, but I can’t be sure. I’m still stuck trying to figure out what a "Haunted Planet" is.

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Cut to scrolling text, ala Star Wars, and man, this won’t be the last time Starcrash "borrows" from the superlative film that it’s er, "based" on.

Unfortunately for anybody who’s not an expert speed-reader, the opening scrawl rolls by so quick that’s it’s nearly impossible to keep up with, so, thanks to the advanced technology of my DVD player’s ‘pause’ button, I’ll go ahead and tell you what it says:

In a time before time [!], life existed in the Outer Galaxies.

Vast star nations prospered under the kind rule of the Star Emperor until…

The rise of the evil Count Zarth Arn, arch ruler of The Haunted Stars. In the secrecy of his hidden domain on the phantom planet the Count created the ultimate weapon, a weapon designed to destroy the very minds of those who would oppose him.

Knowledge of this weapon soon reached the Star Emperor.

An Imperial starship was sent to locate the Count and confirm the existence of such a weapon. The starship was destroyed.

It was an easy victory for the Count and proved that his Dark World was invincible [After destroying one ship?!], that the dark forces of evil could rise again and ultimately dominate the galaxy.

From the Haunted Stars to the Edge of the Universe, Count Zarth Arn would spread his terror and treachery. The time had come for rebellion.

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As you can see from the above screen shot, the computer programmers (assuming they had a budget that included more than one…) had trouble keeping the lines of text from overrunning the previous lines. This overlapping, along with the text’s scrolling speed, makes it damned near impossible for anybody to keep up with. Despite the run-on sentences and missing punctuation, I was happily surprised to see that there were at least no spelling errors. (Unlike this review, I’m sure…)

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After the headache inducing opening credits sequence, we cut to see our two star heroes and renegade smugglers, Akton and Stella Star (!). Zipping through space, doing something, or coming from somewhere, they notice that they are being pursued by another ship.

"It’s the cops!" shouts Akton. (Amazing, even police in distant galaxies are referred to as "cops".)

Police Chief Thor (you can tell he’s an alien because he has green face paint) and Police Robot El (as in "EL-ectric"…get it?) order Stella and Akton to come to a halt, but Stella, and boy you gotta love her spirit, smiles and yells to Akton "Full speed ahead!" (Yes, there’s a lot of yelling in the movie.)

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Akton quickly complies and sends the ship into a quick "jump" through hyper-space which gives them temporary respite from the ‘cops’. Stella’s relief is quickly blunted when she discovers that they’ve rematerialized next to a neutron star. (At least that’s what I think that big green ball is supposed to be.)

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Look out! It’s a neutron star!

Akton and Stella avoid the monstrous gravitational pull of the neutron star, an object with the strongest gravitational field in the universe next to a black hole, by simply detaching their ship’s cockpit-module and making a sharp U-turn.

After floating around for a while (there’s also a lot of floating in the film), Akton points out to Stella that they’re on the edge of the Haunted Stars. Without a pause, and pauses are certainly few and far between around here, Stella takes a gander at a one of the numerous computer monitors and shouts, "What in the universe is that?" A quick cut reveals a spaceship. (Stella didn’t recognize that?)

"It’s a..space ship!" Stella says. (Boy, you just can’t put one past her, eh? )

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"No, it’s a launch," Akton pedantically corrects her.

Somehow Akton and Stella determine that the ship’s power, excuse me, the launch’s power, is out. Stella dons her extremely clumsy looking space-suit to float over and search for survivors in the apparent derelict craft. As luck would have it, Stella does find a half-dead survivor laying in a hallway and brings him back to her ship where he keeps mumbling about "red monsters" and pleads with Akton to warn the "Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe" that evil is afoot.

With nary a warning, Thor and El pop up on a computer screen, again, and order them to surrender, again. (By the way, isn’t space, you know, big? How do these guys keep finding each other?) Anyway, Thor and El inform Stella and Akton that they’re surrounded by fighter ships. (A quick insert shot of 2, count ‘em, 2 ships seems to stretch the definition of "surrounded", in my opinion, but there you go.)

Realizing that they are "surrounded" Stella and Akton give up and resign themselves to their fate at the hands of the galactic authorities.

Cut to the Count Zarth Arn’s eeeeeeevil space ship. How do I know it’s "evil"? Why, because it’s black, and no self-respecting good guy would ever have a black space ship. Humorously, Zarth Arn’s ship is also shaped like a hand, and let me tell ya, I’m hoping that later in the film it’s going to transform into a giant fist. [NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: It does! Awesome!]

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Your helmet is just faaaaaaabulous!

Aboard the ship, manned by a crew uniformed in tight, black, patent leather outfits (because, you know, patent leather is just sooooooo practical), we see men scrambling around doing military looking stuff. (Much to my pleasure, I noticed that the ship’s bridge is composed of two levels connected by a fireman’s pole for sliding down from one level to the next! Brilliant!)

Stomping around looking eeeeevil and all, is none other than Darth Vader, no wait, I mean Count Zarth Arn.

"They found one damned survivor," a crew member reports in a rather informal manner, "They took him to the Imperial medical center but his brain appears to be thoroughly damaged." (Much like the people that wrote this script)

OK, I’m trying to figure this all out, and believe me, this movie is not helping. It looks like the survivor that Stella picked up was the sole survivor of Zarth’s latest attack. Apparently this survivor might spill the beans about Zarth attacking..whom? Who would he tell? What? Why?

Oh, screw it, let’s just watch the movie.

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Unhappy with the news of the survivor, Zarth summons a pair of silver robots to the bridge.

(On a side note, the robots are armed with swords, which seems pretty stupid since everybody else in the universe has a laser blaster, but, man, my head hurts, let’s not dwell on this.)

Anyway, Zarth charges the robots with a task and they "must not fail!" What is this task? Why, we’ll have to find out later because we cut to…

A golden head with tentacles floating in a jar.

Yeah, I saw that coming too. This movie is just so predictable.

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I guess this head-thingee is some sort of galactic judge because it’s addressing Akton and Stella in a wierd looking court room. As an absolutely horrid blue-screen lava-lamp background bubbles in the background, Akton and Stella stand at attention and receive their sentences. Oh, and I can’t help but notice that Stella is now clad in a very tight leather bikini with thigh-high boots. But hey, I’m not complaining.

It appears that the smuggling laws in the First Circle of the Universe are a bit stiffer than those on Earth as Akton is sentenced to 220 years hard labor while Stella is punished with hard labor for life!

Cut to the prison planet where Stella struggles (still in here super-tight leather outfit!) with dumping big plastic balls into a hole. Oh, sorry, they aren’t big plastic balls, they’re "radium".

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Your everyday, standard prison uniform.

After a few moments, the prisoners get a break (!), where Stella begins to complain about the radiation and its corrosive effect on her skin. (Uh…maybe you should put some freakin’ clothes on then?!) When a guard approaches too close to Stella, she grabs his gun and kills him. (Which is why you shouldn’t allow firearms in the prisoner area, you idiots!) Wow, before you can say "leather bikini", we cut to see Stella running for her life in some sort of a swamp. (How the hell did she get out of the prison?!) But really, where can you escape to?…it’s a prison planet!

Back outside we see a ship descend (in a special effects sequence that would make Burt I. Gordon drool with envy) and Stella, having no choice, takes her chances and runs inside. Much to her chagrin, Stella discovers that the ship is crewed by none other than Thor and El. Stella, realizing that her goose is cooked, surrenders and resigns herself to being taken back to that "prison hell" from which she managed to escape while on break (!) after a mere 12 hours of being in custody…yeah, what ‘hell’!

Fortunately for Stella, El informs her that her sentence has been "cancelled". (I assume that means "commuted" in the First Circle of the Universe.) It turns out that El is to accompany Stella on a super-duper-secret mission to free Akton, which seems strange because, well, why can’t they just "cancel" his sentence as well? He was sentenced by the same court, wasn’t he?

OK, a quick rocket trip to the other prison planet and we immediately cut to see the prison’s Warden releasing Akton as a gift (!?) (wtf?)

So off they go…flying into space again. But they only have 2 hours to get there…(WHERE??!!)

Good grief! Did anybody see a plot laying around here anywhere?

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Thor and Stella chillin’ on the bridge.

Oh, and this picture is vital to this review.

I can’t think of any other reason I would include it here.

Really. I can’t.

OK, it seems that they’re heading to the Imperial flag ship. You can tell it’s a Good ship because it’s gold colored. Or made of gold. Or something.

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The Imperial Plastic Model. I mean, Flagship.

Along with the The Emperor. Or at least his hologram. Or something.

Once Akton and Stella cruise into the vicinity of the Imperial Flagship, The Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe (that must get tiring saying that every time you introduce the guy) projects a holographic image of himself onto the ship’s bridge. (The Emperor is played by veteran actor Christopher Plummer, who is really slumming it here in this film. I can only hope he was on vacation in Italy for a week and volunteered to be in the film for a quick pay check.)

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Another crucial screen shot.

After introductions are made, the Emperor explains that Akton and Stella are the only ones that can save the universe, since Stella and Akton are the best pilot and best navigator, respectively,in the galaxy. (Uh, yeah. Suuuuuuuure they are. I guess that’s why Akton hyper spaced next to a neutron star.)

After flattering Stella and Akton, the Emperor explains that Count Zarth Arn has created a weapon "so vast, so…huge, that it would take an entire planet to conceal it."

Wow. I guess size does matter.

OK, now it’s all falling together. Let me see here, the guy that was rescued in the beginning was the survivor of a mission sent out to find Zarth’s doomsday weapon, which is supposedly stashed on "the Count’s Secret Planet". Since Stella and Akton found the guy, this somehow makes them qualified to continue the mission. Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense, but just go with it. So, yadda yadda yadda, they have to fly into the Haunted Planets and find this planet, the huge weapon, and destroy it all. They also have to find the missing ship that was originally sent out on the mission because the Captain was….<GASP>…the Emperor’s son!!!

After accepting this noble task, Akton astutely concludes that they should calculate the probable location of the Secret Planet before setting out. Being the galaxy’s best navigator, he wisely takes into account "The pressure of the solar winds, and the attraction of the nuclear orbits."

(Man…this guy is good!)

After some more nonsense, Akton explains to the others, via a some nonsensical cartoon lights in his hand, that the planet must be in 1 of 3 possible locations, sooooo, let’s get started then, shall we?

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The galaxy’s best navigator. Yessirree.

First stop: The Haunted Stars.

So, let me see what’s happening here, because, man, this movie really moves fast, and if you can’t keep up with it, well, it ain’t going to stop and wait for you.

Akton and the others finally reach the first of the locations: a greenish-looking planet.

"Thor and I will wait in that canyon," Akton says as he points to the planet on the view screen. (Oh, it’s that canyon. Well, thanks for narrowing it down, Akton.)

Meanwhile, Stella and El suit up and head out to look for…I don’t know, the weapon, the Prince’s ship…who knows. Anyway, like I said, Stella and El hop into the "Space Shuttle" (actually, just a plastic box) and descend to the planet’s surface.

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After flying around for literally 10 seconds, Stella spots one of the escape pods and sets the shuttle down on a very, very Earth-like beach. A cursory search quickly reveals a "planetary artifact" laying in the sand. Stella picks it up and concludes that it’s a primitive "laser spear". (A laser spear?)

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Stella examines the <cough> laser spear.

El, realizing that the planet is inhabited, quickly gets nervous. You see, El always gets nervous. That’s what makes him so (non) funny. He also speaks with a very, very bad Western accent. You know, the kind where "fire" is pronounced "fahr" and so on. And if you guessed that I got really, really sick of this accent after 2 minutes of the film, you are correct.

Well, what do you know. El was right. "Look!" he shouts, "Amazons! On horseback!"

Yep, riding around the bend come 3 scantily clad women on horseback. Yeah, horses and Amazons are pretty common throughout the galaxy. Oh wait. They must be ‘space horses’ because they’re stained red and have horns glued onto their heads behind their ears. And no, I’m not kidding. It’s that bad.

Anyhoo, the Amazon Queen orders Stella and El to be captured and escorted back to her royal palace so she can take her revenge. (Huh? Is this a sequel or something? What the hell?!) Moving right along, El gets zapped and an entertaining, and far too brief, cat-fight breaks out between Stella and the Amazons. After a delightful, bikini-rich tussle, Stella winds up being recaptured, so I’m not sure what the point of it was besides maybe just showing some more footage of Stella bouncing around..ah, yes. Of course. Never mind.

 

Accused of being a spy, Stella is ordered into the "Mind Probe". Before Stella’s probing can commence (easy, boy, easy), El jumps out of nowhere and frees her from the Amazon guards. After a super-exciting escape sequence (read: zzzzzzzzz), Stella and El manage to return to the beach and make a run for it. Unfortunately, the Amazon Queen has activated a gigantic metal "guardian" complete with sword and humongous metal boobs! (Good grief, I nearly spit the beer out of my mouth when I saw that. What a movie!)

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Via some mediocre stop-motion animation (never mind the shadows that the guardian casts on the "sky" in the background), the Guardian stomps after them in pursuit but Stella and El manage to outrun the thing, even though it’s like 400 feet tall and must cover a football field in a single stride.

Just when you think it’s curtains for our friends, Akton arrives out of the blue in his spaceship and blasts the Guardian with some laser beams…that was…TOO close! Stella and El hop aboard and the gang zips off into space. (I’m not kidding, things happen that fast!)

Oh boy, I guess they weren’t safe after all. The Amazons launch an attack with the "air ships", which is a strange way to refer to them since they are, after all, in space, but never mind. Thankfully, Akton’s ship has reached "full battle speed", whatever the hell that means, and Stella and the others make quick work of the Amazon spaceships in a vicious laser battle.

(I especially enjoyed the scene where Stella shouts "One more! There’s one more!" as three ships fly by! I guess the FX crew forgot to read the script for this scene.)

"We’re down from six to five," Stella reports even though she just got through saying that there’s only 1 ship left, so, man, I just dunno…

("Three ships approaching from the right!" Akton shouts as we see a single ship fly by! LOL! This is just too good! Maybe that was the footage that was supposed to be used when Stella said "One more". Sadly, we may never know.)

After blowing up the last ship, or last 3 ships, or whatever, Akton happily informs Stella that he’s found the last escape pod and, Tada!, the wreckage of the Prince’s ship.

Getting down to brass tacks, Stella asks Akton what the next planet’s surface is like.

"Red fogs, high winds, and low gravity," Akton replies, "however, the entire planet is covered with ice and snow."

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? But there is a catch: when the sun goes down the temperature "drops thousands of degrees."

(Hmmm, since absolute zero, the coldest anything can physically ever be, is around 400 degrees below zero, I’m going to have to call bullshit on that, Akton.)

"Sounds like a real garden spot," Stella quips, "but you know what I say…I don’t care!"

Yeah, that sounds like just the thing the galaxy’s best pilot would say in a situation like this.

Anyway, cut to Stella and El stomping through the snow. (Akton, as usual, stays behind in the ship…wimp.) I also couldn’t help but notice that it’s a nice clear day, so lets look back at Akton’s description of the planet:

Red fogs (nope)

High winds (nada)

Low gravity ( nope again)

Well, Akton is the galaxy’s best navigator, not the best weatherman, so let’s cut him some slack. (Again, maybe the FX crew hadn’t bothered to read the description of the planet in the script.)

StarcrashOnce again, after about 10 seconds of recon, Stella and El find a crashed ship. Remembering the whole "thousands of degrees below zero" warning, El notes that the sun is going down and suggests to Stella that they’d better start their long walk back to the ship and skidaddle ASAP.

Uh, yeah, good idea. By the way, why didn’t you just recon from Akton’s ship and then just have him put you down close to the wreck? Or just call Akton and have him pick you up where you are? Or…Or…Or…

Oh, because then they wouldn’t be trapped out after sundown in a scary deep-freeze sequence. Oops. Sorry if I gave that away.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, Akton chats with the ship’s computer. For some reason the computer looks like a giant, white brain sitting in a frying pan. Seeing that it’s about time for a plot twist, Thor (the green-skinned cop) sneaks up behind Akton and whacks him over the head.

Please give me a moment to compose myself after this incredible shock of Thor’s treachery.

Thor gleefully turns on the ship’s radio and reports to Zarth Arn that Akton is dead and Stella will be frozen as soon as the sun goes down. Zarth Arn indulges in an evil chuckle as he assures Thor that he will be promoted to "Prince of the League of Darkness" (!) upon his arrival back at the ship.

Back outside, Stella and El, having hiked back to the ship, quickly realize that they’ve been betrayed when Thor refuses to let them onboard. With no other choice, El and Stella trudge off into the wasteland to try and come up with a plan.

"It’s no use, we’re going to freeze," Stella groans. (Way to keep a stiff upper lip, Stella Star.)

Not surprisingly, El suggests a cockamamie plan to Stella: plop down in the snow and freeze, so that she’ll enter a state of suspended animation. When the sun comes back up, he will thaw here out again. (Now there’s a job I wouldn’t mind having…)

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There’s so many things I could say about this plan right now, but my brain hurts too bad to think of anything. And what’s the point anyway of pointing out the flaws? You just know the plan’s going to work no matter how crazy.

Meanwhile, Thor tries to take off but quickly discovers that the ship’s engines aren’t responding. Understandably flustered, Thor has no choice but to tuck his tail between his legs and report this unforeseen delay to Zarth Arn. Fortunately for us, Thor’s moment of inattentiveness gives Akton a chance to regain consciousness and attack.

"This time I’ll make sure you’re dead!" Thor growls as he takes a wild swing at Akton’s noggin. (Hey, Thor, maybe you should have done that in the first place, you idiot.)

Anyway, after a perfunctory fist fight, Thor has a light-bulb moment and decides to finish things off by grabbing a laser gun and opening fire. To his great surprise, the laser beams have no effect on Akton.

"WHAT?! Nobody can survive these deadly rays!" Thor shouts in shock, which, given the current circumstances, seems like a rather dubious claim to be making.

"These deadly rays will be your death," Akton retorts in a moment of great profundity as he uses the ‘force’ to redirect the laser beams back at Thor and kill him.

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After dispatching Thor and regaining control of the ship, Akton finds El and has him bring Stella inside where he announces he will use his ‘powers’ to thaw her out. (heh heh…)

"Close the hatch," Akton orders, which seems like a good idea since the outside temperature is minus 2000 degrees.

With the hatch safely closed, Akton dims the lights, raises his hands and sends out some multi-colored sparkles in Stella’s general direction, which I must conclude is a manifestation of his "powers". I hope you’re sitting down when I reveal the shocking conclusion to this scene: Stella thaws out and is A-Ok.

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Thaw, baby, thaw!

Back to the other problems at hand, the ship’s engines.

"They just won’t fahr," El shouts in frustration. (Man, I hate that robot.)

StarcrashStella, dressed in yet another skin tight, highly revealing outfit (complete with knee-high, stiletto boots with bright red trim!!!), smiles with relief when Akton reveals the reason the ship won’t take off: he removed the ship’s reactor (about the size of a flash light, because, hey, it’s the future), and stashed it in his pocket. (Boy, Akton, putting a nuclear reactor in your pocket? I hope you weren’t planning on having any kids.)

"So you knew about Thor!" gushes Stella in admiration, "…So you can see into the future!"

Now, that’s a prrrrrretttty large deductive leap, especially when even I, an addled-brained, beer-drinking, 40-year old man saw that coming about 30 minutes ago. Hell, maybe I have ‘powers’ too…anybody need to be thawed out?

"You’ve been hiding this for years! Think of all the trouble I could have avoided!" Stella justifiably points out to Akton.

"You would have tried to change the future…and that’s against the law," Akton retorts.

(I’ll go ahead and file that into my "Too Stupid To Comment On" folder for right now.)

Well, let’s see now, yep, it’s off to the third and final planet. I wonder if they’ll find the Prince there…

As Akton and the others approached their final destination, they are hit by a "high-energy beam", as can easily be seen by the sped-up lava lamp overlay footage added to the scene in post-processing. This beam has the curious effect of frying El’s circuits (yea!) and causing Stella to grab her head and shout, "Owww…mah hehhhhd…mah hehhhhd!" (Say that out loud in your cheesiest redneck accent and you’ll see what I mean.)

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"Owwww…mah hehhhhd!"

After a brief moment, Akton laughs and tells Stella, "You can relax, the attack’s over!"

"I thought I was going to go insane," Stella says. (I’m right with you, sister, I’m right with you.)

"We’ve just survived an attack of the most powerful weapon in the ennnnnntire galaxy!" Akton bubbles.

Really, now: the most powerful weapon in the galaxy??!! And all it does is make you say "OWWWW…mah hehhhd!"???

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After arriving on the planet, and just like the previous 2 planets, Stella and El immediately find the crashed escape pod after the briefest of searches. From the shot above, I’m guessing that the director was trying to use a foreshortening trick to make it look like the ship is really far away, deep at the bottom of a crater, but it’s…well…just not working. The ship is obviously, and I mean, obviously about 4 feet long and made out of styrofoam. And, ok, hey, I’m no FX expert, and I really couldn’t do any better, but come on…this is bad!

El insists on going first and investigating the ship alone. Once at the bottom of this <cough> gigantic crater, El and is attacked by a bunch of cheaply made-up mutants armed with, and I kid you not, whale bones and garden hoes!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the director.(I kid! I kid!)

Despite El’s super-titanium exoskeleton which recently survived an attack by the galaxy’s most powerful weapon, the mutants quickly smash him to bits with their hoes! Stella, naturally, is taken prisoner and carried deep underground into the filthy warrens of the planet’s inhabitants.

And holy crap, I swear, these mutants are the exact same dudes from Cave Dwellers! (The ones that capture whats-her-face and chop out the other guy’s heart and eat it. What? You haven’t seen that movie? Shame on you!)

Anyway, with Stella trussed up and hanging upside-down from a long piece of metal, the mutants celebrate their recent victory, and I’m assuming, soon-to-be dinner.

Suddenly, out of nowhere (as with everything in this movie), some guy pops up wearing a metal mask that shoots laser beams out of the eye holes. (Did you expect anything less?) The mask’s owner immediately sets to work by zapping the mutants and driving them away.

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After the mutants scurry off into the deeper caverns, Laser Man jumps down and runs over to Stella.

"Relax, I’ll cut you down," he says…and..

.wait a minute…

I think I recognize that voice…

oh no, it can’t be…

please,…no

AYYYYYEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

DAVID HASSELHOFF!!!!!

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AYYYYYEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

AYYYYYEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

OK.

It’s 3 hours later and after a long talk with my therapist, I ready to continue with the review.

Stella discovers that Laser Dude is in fact the Emperor’s missing son, Prince Simon. The Prince, familiar with the dangers of the caves, suggests that they keep moving before the cave men come back. Soooooo, with his "laser shield mask" (his words, not mine) in hand, Simon and Stella head off deeper into the caves, which seems rather counter-productive, but there you have it,

As expected, they are immediately ambushed by a bunch of cave people. Simon drops his laser mask, grabs a convenient whale bone from the floor (!) and starts whacking away at his attackers. Stella joins in but the pair are quickly overpowered by the numerous trogs. Thankfully, Akton has shown up Just In Time, and whips out a light saber!

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Uh, Mr. Lucas, I’d like to report a theft…

Obviously, whale bones are no match for a light saber, so Akton quickly dispatches the cave men with a few wild swings of his

scintillating

light saber.

After whooping some troglodytes ass, Akton explains to everybody’s disbelief (mine as well) that this planet is actually the…drum roll…Count’s Secret Planet. Hey, just go with it. Don’t think about it. It’s a lot less painful to watch the movie that way.

Sooo…zippidee-doo-dah, zippidee-day! Stella, Akton, and their newfound friend, Prince Simon, head off to find the Count’s evil hideout and destroy this so-called super weapon.

"This is the Count’s secret domain," Akton tells the others after walking through the caves for 5 seconds, finding a metal door, and going inside. Wow. That was easy. "This will take us to operation headquarters," Akton continues.

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Upon arrival in the aforementioned operation headquarters, which looks like a futuristic laundry matt, Stella, amazed as usual, says, "Incredible! Fantastic! Pre-programmed computers!" as she strolls through an array of laundry machines. (And yeah, I know, I know: ‘Pre-programmed computers’ as opposed to….?)

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Anyway, Akton rambles on and on about the machines and how they are responsible for projecting the "red monsters" into people’s heads and "driving them insane with fear." (This description of the machines may be a subtle reference to the superlative Forbidden Planet and its Krell machinery, but just the thought of trying to compare those two films is enough to drive me insane.)

StarcrashRight on schedule, in bursts Zarth Arn along with a squad of leather-clad toughs lead by those 2 goofy, clunky, sword-wielding robots. After an initial bout of prerequisite gloating, Zarth Arn chortles with glee that in 1 hour the planet will be reduced to "ashes and cosmic dust….forever!" (Ooooookay.) Oh, and Zarth Arn has lured The Emperor to the planet as well, so he’ll be killed along with the others and blah blah blah. Happy with the way things have turned out, Zarth Arn indulges in one last burst of maniacal laughter and exits the control room, leaving the two robots to guard the prisoners "until the end".

Yeah. Smart plan, Count.

Another shocker here: Akton and Prince Simon quickly dispatch the two robots in a veeeeeery chintzily produced, but quite energetically acted, round of light-saber dueling. Unfortunately, Akton gets cut in the arm by a sword, which, for some reason, proves to be a fatal wound. (Naturally, Akton’s death is pretty much a done deal since room must be made for Simon to hook up with Stella before the film’s end.) Like I was saying, Akton dies and disappears in a flurry of cartoon light.

Chugging right along with the Plot-O-Matic, in comes the Emperor and a teary reunion with Simon ensues. After a brief hug, Simon breathlessly informs his father that, "We have to get out of here! The planets going to explode in 48 seconds!" Which is a pretty impressive feat of mental time keeping considering all the crap he’s been through since he found out the planet was going to blow up. (And by the way, didn’t the Count say it would be an hour before the planet exploded, and now there’s only 48 seconds left?)

The Emperor smiles a knowing smile and says, "You know something my boy, I wouldn’t be Emperor if I didn’t have some powers at my command!"

(Takes a deep breath, puffs out his chest, and shouts)

"Imperial Battleship…Halt the flow of time!"

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK. I think my brain has now crawled down my spinal column and is taking refuge somewhere in the warm, safe depths of my large intestine.

Upon this command, the Emperor’s ship fires a green beam at the planet and, yes folks, stops the flow of time.

"In the space of three minutes, every molecule on this planet will be immobilized," the Emperor says as everybody flees the room, which seems to negate the whole every-molecule-immobilzed theory he was just talking about. Maybe it just freezes eeeeeeevil molecules.

"Three minutes are enough father," says Simon after standing around wasting nearly 20 seconds admiring the green glow from the Time Stop Beam. Well, since even a lobotomized hamster would know that they’re going to make it safely off the planet, I’ll just say that…they make it.

Back on the Emperor’s ship, the powers-that-be decide to launch an immediate attack against Zarth Arn since he thinks that all the good guys are dead and he’ll probably have his guard down. At least that’s what I think the plan is. Sorry. I was getting a beer and didn’t quite catch all of it. But really, does it matter?

After a way, way, way too long scene watching the Imperial ‘legions’ shoot off into space to do battle, we cut to see Zarth Arn chilling on his ‘hand-ship’ with his harem. A breathless lackey quickly informs him that, "An entire space fleet is approaching…"

"WHAT???!!!" the all knowing, all powerful, soon-to-be ruler of the Universe shouts in complete surprise.

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After composing himself, Zarth Arn stalks across the room and announces "We will destroy the Emperor completely! By sunset, I’ll be the new Emperor!"

Well, I’m not entirely sure how you have a ‘sunset’ when you’re in outer space, but I’ll give him points for his enthusiasm.

With that being said, the Count’s ship closes its ‘fingers’ transforming the vessel into a gigantic fist. (And gentle readers, it is a beautiful sight to behold.)

Now follows the inevitable Darth Star Battle sequence, well, if this had been Star Wars it would have been. In this film, however, it would be better described as plastic models flying around with flashing green lights and ear-piercing synthesizer sounds. This incredibly blatant rip-off of the first Death Star battle continues for nearly a minute and a half, which doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it’s more than long enough.

Watching from his ship, the Emperor initiates Phase 2, which ranks in my Top 5 Goofy Movie Moments. (And that should say a lot.)

Believe it our not, Phase 2 involves loading pairs of soldiers into what looks like gigantic golden dildos and shooting them directly at the Count’s ship where they crash through, I swear, plate glass windows !!!! onto the ship’s bridge where a hatch pops open and the soldiers jump out with laser guns blazing.

Seriously: find and buy this movie just for this scene. It’s unbelievable.

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Torpedo attack!…indeed.

Anyway, the Count’s fighter ships finally arrive for battle after being…somewhere. Unsurprisingly, the ships look exactly like the Amazon ‘air ships’ from earlier in the film, if you see what I’m getting at. Sooooo…here they come, and as they fly by the camera the sound of a screeching hawk (!) is foleyed into the sound track to add to the general sense of amazement.

Back on the Count’s bridge, all hell has broken loose because of the torpedo attack. Both friendly and enemy soldiers drop like flies as laser beams fly in every direction, while the Count stands around shouting at the top of his lungs the always helpful order to "Kill! Kill!"

And really, this scene goes on and on

and on

and on

and on…

You’d think that watching 2-man golden dildos smash through a space ship’s plate glass windows would never get tiring…but it does. Really.

(I really like the scenes of soldiers who get shot and have their ‘squibs’ explode but they forget to "die", and vise-versa…great stuff!)

After nearly 6 minutes of this nonsense (…six minutes!) the Imperial attack appears to have failed. The Emperor, watching the entire battle via closed-circuit TV (HOW?!), rolls his eyes in an absolutely classic look of utter embarrassment and disgust at his soldiers’ performance. (I can’t get a screen-shot of it because it happens so fast, but believe me, it’s beautiful!)

Feeling pretty good about the latest turn of events, Zarth Arn decides to point his planet-busting weapon (sound familiar?), which he calls the "Doom Machine", at the Emperor’s home planet. Realizing that this could be the end of things, the Emperor has no choice but to engage Operation Starcrash…"a fourth-dimensional attack."

StarcrashSaid attack will be attempted by employing the "Floating City." And, reader, if you’re wondering what in the hell he’s talking about then join the club. Ok, after a little more exposition it becomes (a little) clearer: Simon and Stella are to fly over to the Floating City and set its course towards Zarth Arn’s ship, thus ramming it and destroying both in the process. I’m not quite sure how that qualifies as a "fourth dimensional" attack, but let’s not split hairs so late in the game.

(And why do Stella and Simon have to go on this dangerous mission? Oh, that’s right. Stella’s the galaxy’s best pilot and Simon is..well…he’s David Hasselhoff.)

"If everything goes smoothly, I’ll try to eject myself as soon as I re-enter space," Stella reassures Simon as she prepares to fly over to the recently evacuated Floating City. Ahhhh, but she won’t be going alone, a recently repaired and refurbished El will be accompanying her. (The last I remember of El, he was hacked to pieces by the mutants and left strewn all over the wasteland, so once again, I’m a bit fuzzy on when and how he was put together again.)

"Get ready to ease out of orbit," Stella orders El as they approach the Flying City on a direct course, which sort of contradicts the definition of ‘orbit’, but whatever.

Back on Zarth Arn’s ‘Fist’ ship, a lackey hurries to his master and reports that "a floating ship is about to crash into us!" (Isn’t the ‘floating’ part a bit redundant since they’re in space? Oh, never mind.)

"WHAT?!" replies Zarth Arn, once again caught with his pants down. (God, I love it! This guy really needs to hold a few more status meetings…sheesh!)

In a futile gesture to destroy the ship, Zarth Arn sends out his fighters, i.e., we see a replay of the same space-fight scenes that we saw in the previous fight scenes, but at least it doesn’t last as long.

Realizing that time is short, Stella dons a plastic space helmet, and with El close behind, hops out an air lock into open space. But don’t worry, Prince Simon has promised to find them and bring them to safety, which is totally realistic because space isn’t that big.

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Sooooo…let’s see. The Floating City crashes into Zarth Arn’s ship and both explode in a storm of sparks, flames, and smoke, and I’m betting the guys that spent the weekend putting together these plastic models were pretty pissed about it.

We next see Stella propeller herself through space by, and I swear I’m not making this up, using her arms to swim the breast stroke!

Swimming.

In space.

I LOVE THIS MOVIE!

"Simon, we’re over here!" Stella says into her radio with a wave of her hand as Simon flies by at 75% the speed of light. Nevertheless, Simon sees her, stops, and brings Stella and El back on board to safety.

("Over here"…??!!)

Cue triumphant, yet somber, music as we cut to the Emperor who delivers the film’s final words:

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Well, it’s done.

It’s happened.

The stars are clear. The planets shine.

We’ve won.

Oh,…some dark force, no doubt, will show its face once more,

The wheel will always…..turn.

But for now, it’s calm.

And for a little time, at least, we can rest."

 

Yes. Let’s get some rest. We all deserve it.

The End

Dennis Grisbeck (Jan 2009)

Afterthoughts

Don’t get me wrong, Starcrash is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Yes, it’s goofy, but boy what a ride. The actors who played Akton and Stella Star (Marjoe Gortner and Caroline Munro) are never lacking for enthusiasm, and gosh darn it, they genuinely look like they’re having fun…and how couldn’t they be having fun working on a twisted genius project like this?

The FX aren’t impressive, but they’re certainly par for the course for a sci-fi cheapy like this. The space ship models looked a bit too plastic and ‘new’, and they background stars were very obvious just colored lights, but I have to admit that I don’t recall seeing any other outer-space sequences with so many different colored stars, so I’ll give them points for originality.

Oh, and Caroline Munro is absolutely gorgeous. But I guess you knew that already, didn’t you?

Believe it or not, I’d highly recommend this movie for your library. Snoop around on eBay and pick it for a few bucks, you won’t be disappointed.

Read more about Starcrash at

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3 comments to Starcrash (1978)

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