I was in relative ignorance about this movie until very recently. The Italian Star Wars-esque space opera starring Caroline Monroe is something that needs too be seen to be believed. Stella Stellar and her companion Akton live a life of tense adventure that ends abruptly when they are arrested by an evil Spock-like guy impossibly named Police Chief Thor and his Southern-twanged robot co-pilot Elle (often pronounced ‘AL’), Stella is put on trial then placed in prison but just as quickly escapes only to be picked up again by Thor and Elle… but this time it’s to do a job for the Emperor of the Universe… played by Christopher Plumber who took breaks from enjoying Rome to film a few quick scenes in which he stops time. Stella and Akton are reunited and along with Thor and Elle are placed on a mission to find a weapon hidden by the evil Count Zarth Arn on one of a few possible planets.
Too bad because the movie moves from scene to scene with the logic of a drunken grocery shopping session. The actors claim that something may happen and then it does and there are explosions. Stella fights space Amazons, a giant boy-girl robot, rampaging primate men and is almost frozen to death. She is rescued by Akton and meets the gold-plated masked Simon who shoots lasers out of his eyes until revealing he is not only the son of the Emperor of the Universe but also David Hasselhoff.
To my surprise, Marjoe Gortner who plays the curly headed Akton is actually a former evangelist. His performance is all over the place, at time he is almost background scenery and suddenly he starts shooting energy from one hand to the other, all alone on the bridge, to annoy the ship computer. In his battle with Thor he displays even more new abilities and becomes the all around superman of the film. It’s bizarre to say the least.
Was Starcrash inspired by Star Wars, Barbarella and Jason and Argonauts or is it a shameless rip off? You be the judge, but where Barbarella was an innocent, Stella Stellar is feisty and cocksure, where Jason and the Argonauts was a sweeping epic, this film features thrown together set pieces featuring dubious stop motion animation. Star Wars, a moralizing action adventure/coming of age story has scenes ripped from its frames for quick space battles and high concept pageantry. Ripoff or homage, Starcrash doesn’t really win out in either case.
From the script to the direction and slapdash performances, this movie is a head scratch-er. The John Barry (of Black Hole, Zulu and numerous Bond flicks) score is strangely out of place in parts and subpar to his other efforts in others. The production was troubled (as you may imagine), and had to be rescues from American International by New World Pictures. If this influenced the content, it may explain why there are lapses in logic mixed with over-explained exposition. It’s like the movie staggers about then sobers up, straightens its collar and tries to explain itself.
In any case, I have rarely had so much fun watching such a brilliantly thrown together movie as I did with Starcrash.
Recommended (with friends and/or cocktails).
Vintage 1978 trailer