The Way of the Word

11. April 2010

Review: Star Crash

Filed under: movies,review — jensaltmann @ 16:52
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Italy, 1979. Directed by Lewis Coates. Starring Caroline Munroe, Marjoe Gortner, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer. Runtime: ca. 90 minutes

The benign Emperor of the galaxy (Christopher Plummer) hires the space smugglers Stella Star (Caroline Munroe) and Acton (Marjoe Gortner) to find and destroy the mega-space-weapon of the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell), and to rescue the emperor’s son (David Hasselhoff). Stella and Acton succeed at their mission, but that is the problem: because the Doom Machine was just a trap for the Emperor — who walked right into it. The only way to wrest victory out of the hands of defeat is — the Star Crash.

Before I say anything about this movie, I want you to watch the trailer.

Done? You’ve seen that this trailer shows off the three reasons to see the movie: Caroline Munro in a space bikini, the awesome John Barry score, and some of the craziest set designs in the history of sci-fi.

I mean, really: a space fortress that looks like a hand, and clenches into a fist when it enters battle formation? Not to mention the space city at the end of the movie.

Star Crash was one of those sci-fi-movies that tried to cash in on the sci-fi craze of the late 1970s, which had been triggered by Star Wars. In fact, it copies quite a bit from Star Wars: the planet-sized megaweapon, the adventurous and heroic space smugglers, lightsaber battles, droids, a major war between the forces of good and evil…  (However, if anyone wants to make a case that Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones borrows quite a bit from Star Crash in return — who am I do tell you wrong? ;))

The acting ranges from horrible to phoned-in. Munro and Gortner don’t even really try to act (I’ve seen better performances from both in other movies), but rather ham it up to the max — but that with a wonderful and hilarious energy. Christopher Plummer phones it in to an extent where the viewer wonders just what blackmail materials the producers had on him to make him play in this movie. Joe Spinell as Count Zarth Arn embodies every cliché of the evil supervillain that he could find, which happens to make him the acting highlight of Star Crash. And please find a moment to feel sad for David Hasselhoff, who seemed to actually take his role as Prince Simon seriously enough to make an actual effort at acting. He’s the only one in the movie who does.

Star Crash pays homage to a great lot of movies beyond just being an apparent Star Wars parody. The giant amazon statue is very reminiscent of the work of SFX-legend Ray Harryhausen, and probably gave Ms. Munro a few Sindbad flashbacks, although the inspiration was probably taken from Jason and the Argonauts. The costumes appear to be hand-me-downs from the 1930s and 1940s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials.

The special effects are laughable, as you know if you watched the trailer when I told you to. The lightbulb space vista, the lava lamp monster generator, the spaceship battles… I’ll happily admit, however, that the director and the producers put a lot of love into this movie. Sadly, they did it ineptly. But the love shines through.

The worst thing is the writing. I’m inclined to say that the cast are better actors than they seem since they can say their lines without cringeing. Then again, the cast includes accomplished screen presences like Christopher Plummer and Joe Spinell, so you can consider that a given. The writers knew nothing about science (“The temperature drops thousands of degrees.” — That would be way below absolute zero.) (And let’s not forget the troop transport torpedos that crash through the count’s space fortress’s window without causing explosive decompression,), halfway into the story, Acton morphs first into a deus-ex-machina on two feet and then into Exposition Man.

And nothing, absolutely nothing, beats Christopher Plummer’s line: “Imperial battleship… Stop the flow of time!”

So… Should you see this movie, or will it destroy your brain? The latter, probably, but that is exactly its attraction. Star Crash is Trash of the highest order. It is a somewhat ambitious but incredibly awful waste of celluloid. And yet, you won’t be able to stop watching. It is so bad, so utterly horrible, that it becomes — fun.

I can not in good conscience recommend this movie to anyone, but at the same time, I can’t warn you away from it. Just let me remind you of the main reason to watch it:

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