There’s an easy and overused comment thrown at critics who have gleefully written a scathing review of any movie. “Have you done better?” is the comment often bandied about. Or “what films have YOU made?” is another variant on it. Which is strange. I’ve never understood it. By that rationale, no one of us would be able to complain in a restaurant unless we could go through and cook the meal ourselves to a similiar or even higher standard. Nobody could review a book until they’d written one. You get the picture. I dislike that kind of reply to criticism and I view it as a petty retort with nothing substantial to back it up. HOWEVER, I do still think that way in my own mind sometimes. If I watch a movie that I feel is awful, inept, lazy and/or made by someone trying to just make a quick buck then I will have no problem, and may even take some small pleasure (I admit), in absolutely shredding that movie and warning others away from it. But if a movie has heart or just remains endearingly goofy despite numerous flaws my first thought tends to be “well, at least the people who made the movie got something made”. From that moment on, the movie pretty much has me onside.
All of this explains why I kind of love Starcrash despite knowing I shouldn’t. I will never rate it as an above average film but I will certainly never consign it to any “worst ever…” list. Because it’s just too easy to love. Please excuse my crude analogy but it’s like a cute puppy that has diarrhea – you’re stuck with a lot of shit but you also have a new cuddly pal.
Starcrash is, essentially, just a cheap and cheerful Star Wars rip-off. That wasn’t necessarily what writer-director Luigi Cozzi set out to make but it’s what the film became, due to studio demands and numerous decisions that were made. There are plenty of other influences in there (with one scene, in particular, calling to mind Jason & The Argonauts) but Star Wars is the inescapable shadow over everything.
The gorgeous Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner play Stella Star and Akton, repsectively. Stella is strong and smart and brave while Akton is her equal. Akton is also a little bit mystical but we won’t say that he’s a bit like a Jedi Knight because that would be unfair to the film. But entirely true. Stella and Akton are asked by The Emperor (Christopher Plummer) if they can find his son. There’s also need to stop the evil Count Zath Arn (Joe Spinell) and his scarily powerful weapon so big that it could be a planet. Hmmmm, maybe even a star of death. I wonder where that idea came from.
As you’d expect, most of the special effects on display here aren’t all that special. Some of them look like they were made by someone who was given a few rolls of foil and half an hour. In fairness, some of the onscreen work does just fine considering the obvious limited resources. But it’s no Star Wars.
The script by Cozzi, co-written with Nat Wachsberger and with additional dialogue by R. A. Dillon, is pretty bad but made worse by the delivery. The leads do their best but many of the supporting cast members deliver their dialogue as if it is being delivered by a stuttering autocue.
Cozzi’s direction is slightly better. At the very least, he keeps things moving along briskly enough and the film never gets boring despite how hard it is to actually invest in (what with it all being completely risible nonsene in almost every scene). A score by John Barry is definitely worth a listen for fans and one of the better aspects of the whole production.
However, I know what makes this movie work for me and that’s the sexy and beautiful Caroline Munro as Stella Star. Sure, there are others onscreen (including Robert Tessier, David Hasselhoff and someone stuck inside a robot costume that seems to try and blend C3PO with R2D2) but all I was interested in was the lovely Miss Munro. Even in low-grade schlock like this, there’s no denying her screen presence. Joe Spinell will, of course, also be a big draw for horror fans and it’s no surprise to find that this has become a bit of a cult favourite over the years. Where else would you see Christopher Plummer ordering the halting of time itself? Or see someone attacked by being rammed with a floating city?
DIRECTOR: LUIGI COZZI
WRITER: LUIGI COZZI, NAT WACHSBERGER, R. A. DILLON
STARS: CAROLINE MUNRO, MARJOE GORTNER, JOE SPINELL, ROBERT TESSIER, DAVID HASSELHOFF, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER
RUNTIME: 93 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA, ITALY