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September 21, 2010

Starcrash (aka, The Adventures of Stella Star)

(1978, Dir. by Luigi Cozzi.)

OK, there's no reason to sugar coat it.  I've been lusting after Starcrash for years, and my intention was entirely to see Caroline Munro headline a spaghetti sci-fi rip-off of Star Wars.  Maligned by some as one of the worst films of all-time, the film has built enough of a cult following to earn a Blu-Ray release via the fabulous Shout Factory, who have lovingly restored many of b-movie genius Roger Corman's productions in the past couple of years.  Shout's two-disc blu package paints the film in a positive manner, with a passionate booklet essay by "Starcrash Historian" Stephen Romano - who also provides TWO separate audio commentaries on the disc.  I've never heard of Mr. Romano before tonight, but - as someone who laps up every episode of Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century and considers Flash Gordon to be one of the most amazing motion pictures ever - I can tell we're men of the same heart.

Unsurprisingly, I found myself immediately enthralled by Starcrash when I finally rolled the film tonight.  And it wasn't just because of Ms. Munro.  Now, I will admit that her wide eyes and thin outfits definitely helped the film out - I could easily consider the film to be Flash Gordon's sexy older sister - but the film's frantic energy as it barrels out of control toward its silly plot did more than enough to hold my attention captive.  It wasn't until about halfway through the film that I realized that I had absolutely no idea what was going on in the film's plot; I was too wrapped up in the strange characters and settings that kept popping up during the adventures of Munro's Stella Star.

Though Munro is certainly the Sun in Starcrash's galaxy, the stars that rotate around her do their parts to make the film a blast.  Marjoe Gortner - a former child evangelist who starred in The Food of the Gods - gets top billing as Stella's co-explorer Akton, but his acting definitely plays second fiddle to his strange orange perm hairdo.  (I'm unsure why, but I could see Gortner's character succeeding as a "Buddy the Elf" type character in a land of Oompa Loompas.)  A young David Hasselhoff shows up late in the film to challenge Gortner for the Puffy Haircut Championship of the World, and both men get to do battle using weapons that could only be described as... well, lightsabers.  Also adding to the madness are Joe Spinell (who would star with Munro again in Maniac and The Last Horror Film) as the cape-wearing Count who's behind the evil plan (whatever it is), and Christopher Plummer (getting paid a ton of money for 1-3 days work) as the Emperor of this haunted galaxy.

As Stella Star and her robo-friend Elle (played by Munro's real-life husband) jump across a series of stars, they run into a slew of opponents which include, but are not limited to:
  • Troglodytes,
  • Amazon women,
  • A giant robo-knight with a sword (and what look like nipple rings),
  • Skeleton-robots called Golems,
  • A bald and green fellow called Thor.
Needless to say, there's a lot to smile about in Starcrash's ridiculous journey.  But just when you think it's all silliness, the film takes some oddly respectable turns.  Most notable is the musical score - from five time Oscar winner John Barry - which gives the film a big-time sci-fi epic feel.  Plummer's appearances to explain plot points also add credibility, because he's the kind of actor who could make a phone book sound thrilling.  What he's saying makes no sense, but he sells it beautifully.

I'm probably not going to remember those things as much as I'll remember Munro, of course.  The images of her fighting off nymphs, hanging upside down over a fire, or flying through space with a fishbowl over her head are all I really need.  I'm probably going to revisit this one often on their merits alone.  But when I do jump back into the film, I'm ecstatic to say that I'll probably start remembering the other things I loved about Starcrash.  That's a major victory, because what I thought might only be a cheesy diversion definitely looks like it could become a go-to piece of trashy b-movie magic in my collection.  If you have any love for this kind of ridiculous sci-fi epic, Starcrash is a must see.

(Random Note: The title of this film in the Philippines was Star Battle Encounters.  I guess Wars was taken.) 

(Final Note: The second disc of the blu-package - which is also full of deleted and alternate scenes and featurettes - includes a near 75 minute interview with present day Munro.  I don't often say Cougar, but in this case....MEOW!)


stonerphonic said...

nice boots!!!

Morgan said...

Caroline Munro is so beautiful. She's in her sixties now and she still looks like she's twenty. She's one actress that I could say I'm jealous of.

venoms5 said...

I haven't seen this since I was a kid and plan to pick up the DVD and Blu disc despite Cozzi's movies generally being kind of bad, but in a good kind of way. He used to be a contributor to Famous Monsters of Filmland and you can tell he puts his heart and soul into his movies.