I was in kindergarten when “Star Wars” came out in theaters. I remember my father and I sneaking out of the house to see it, so that my brother, who was two years younger, wouldn’t know we had gone. My parents felt he was too young to see it yet. That night changed the rest of my childhood. From then on I was totally obsessed with “Star Wars.” That film changed the movie industry, as well. Now, science-fiction was big business again and moviemakers rushed to churn out their own versions of Lucas’ universe. Which brings us to today’s film, released the year after we first went to that “galaxy far, far away,” 1978’s “Starcrash.”
In the far reaches of space, a smuggler named Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and her navigator Akton (Marjoe Gortner) spend a lot of time on the run from the space equivalent of the fuzz. Though they manage a thrilling escape through hyperspace, they are eventually nabbed by Thor (Robert Tessier) and the police robot Elle (Hamilton Camp). As punishment for her crimes, Stella is sent off to some sort of underground mining facility to carry around glowing white spheres while wearing a leather bikini. But this is Stella Star we’re talking about here, it doesn’t take long for her to escape.
However, Thor manages to capture her again. But this time she is surprised to learn that she, Akton, Thor and Elle are needed by the Emperor (Christopher Plummer) for a very important mission. They need to travel through the Haunted Stars and find the secret planet of the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell). It seems that the Count is working on a horrible weapon that will enable him to take over the universe. They need to stop the count and hopefully find the Emperor’s son, who was lost in his attempt to stop the Count.
They begin searching various planets to try and find the escape pod of the Emperor’s son. This leads them to a world ruled by a race of amazon women. Here they are chased by a giant stop-motion robot in a scene that shamelessly rips off Ray Haryhausen’s work on “Jason and the Argonauts.” They then find wreckage of an escape pod on a snow planet. While there, Thor attacks Akton and leaves Stella and Elle out in the snow to die. But Akton, who seems to have some sort of force-ish powers turns the tables and is able to rescue his friends.
More wreckage is found on a third planet. While investigating, a race of cavemen destroy Elle and capture Stella. But, a strange, masked figure comes to save her. When he removes the mask it’s….wait for it….David Hasselhoff. It turns out, he’s Simon, the Emperor’s lost son. He and Stella soon run into more trouble and are saved by Akton with his…get this…laser sword, or shall we say “lightsaber.”
Akton soon reveals that the planet they are on is the Count’s secret world. They find the Count’s lair and are quickly captured, which is just what he planned on. Now they will serve as bait to lure the Emperor to the planet…then, the Count will blow the whole thing up! In the end, it all comes down to a huge space battle to ensure that evil does not rule the galaxy.
Almost everything about this movie is ripped from another film that did it 1,000 times better. The special effects are absolutely bargain basement. The ships look like they were assembled using leftover pieces from kids’ snap-together model kids and the distant stars of deep space look like they were created with strands of multi-colored Christmas tree lights. There are several stop-motion robots that have a cool design, but move in a herky-jerky style. I feel kind of bad just slamming on the effects. They are cheesy, but I’ll at least give them an E for Effort.
The cast is such a strange mix, I almost can’t describe it. Caroline Munro is gorgeous, there’s no denying that. But her performance is stilted and just doesn’t flow. Marjoe Gortner, the former child preacher, also turns in a somewhat robotic performance. It might have fit better had his character actually been a robot. Meanwhile, the actual robot in the story, speaks with a strange southern style voice that sounds a bit like a friendly version of Full Metal Jacket’s Sgt. Hartman. Oh, and let’s not forget The Hoff, who stares at everything with bizarre doe-eyed expression, not to mention too much eye makeup. And then there’s Christopher Plummer, who gives it everything he’s got despite the ridiculous material. His breathy delivery gives his scenes and over-the-top seriousness and half makes you think he might launch into singing “Edelweiss” at any moment. Bottom line is, this cast is all over the place. But, that does help bring a certain strange sort of charm to the film.
“Starcrash” is grade Z sci-fi, in every possible way. However, I challenge you not to have fun with it. It may rip off tons of other films, but it’s anything but malicious. It does live up to it’s title, though, I’ll give it that. It takes place in the stars, and it’s a “crash” of major proportions. But, like with most crashes, you just can’t look away.