1/12/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
Starcrash: The Adventures Of Stella Star (1979). region 1 DVD: pub: Shout! Factory SF11658. 2 DVDs 92 minute film with extras. Price: about $12.00 (US) if you know where to look). Stars: Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, Judd Hamilton, David Hasselhoff and Christopher Plummer.
check out website: www.shoutfactory.com
‘Starcrash’ was created in the wake of the first ‘Star Wars’ film but on a much more limited budget. Special effects wise, the quality is a cross between what we expected before George Lucas’ creation and probably about on par with the BBC’s later ‘Red Dwarf’ rather than ‘Blake’s 7’. At the time of its release, it was supposed to be taken seriously although through modern eyes, if you treat it as high camp, it ends up being a tad funny. I mean, the villain of the piece declares he’s going to be king of the universe by midnight. All well and good, but he is in the middle of space so there is a question as to which planet’s midnight is he referring to. From all the extras, explanations abound that ‘Starcrash’ was supposed to be taken tongue-in-cheek. Maybe we did take film SF a little too seriously back then although there wasn’t much comedy SF at the time so that had to be expected.
Stella Star (actress Caroline Munro) and Akton (actor Marjoe Gortner), imprisoned for various crimes are released under the order of the Emperor (actor Christopher Plummer) to use their skills to track down the evil count and his phantom planet and hopefully his missing son. What follows then is passage across three possible planets with a variety of dangers, a Harryhausen homage and nearly impossible odds. Unlike the Lucas films, ‘Starcrash’, other than being polished for DVD released, hasn’t been altered. In one respect, had the spacecraft velocity been slowed down, they would have looked more ominous. Considering the number of optical laser blasts used, it’s pretty obvious where a lot of the expense went although the way the laser guns blow holes in people is actually very well done. You can believe they were terminally zapped.
Oddly, although Stella is the centre of attention, a lot of the time she ends up being a bystander to the action around her and more ‘Perils Of Pauline’ a lot of the time. Akton is the nearest thing to a deux ex machina and you’re left guessing as to who will survive to the end. The acting, a lot of the time, is at best occasionally wooden, although whether that is the blame of the actors or director Luigi Cozzi (aka Lewis Coates because the producers thought no one would believe an Italian made the film) not getting them to do enough.
The extended interview with Luigi Cozzi is actually very illuminating in that ‘Starcrash’ was a script before ‘Star Wars’ came out but it was the sudden need for SF films that gave it the green light. The most Cozzi could look at at the time, cos ‘Star Wars’ hadn’t reached Italy, was Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation which he had in his SF collection. To his credit, Cozzi pointed out that he had no intention of cloning the Lucas film and was more influenced by Harryhausen than any other special effects team. In many respects, had he tried to do that, the special effects budget would have rocketed. For a GBP50,000 budget, ‘Starcrash’ more than made its money back. It is a bit of a misnomer calling it a Roger Corman Production because he wasn’t involved in it and was only its American distributor but if saying that gets a film out on DVD, go for it.
The Caroline Munro interview is over an hour long and covers her career up to and including ‘Starcrash’. In it you learn that she was one of the possible candidates for being Ursa in ‘Superman II’ which I hadn’t known. It’s a shame that a full film list of Munro’s career isn’t included nor show the photos from her ‘Lamb’s Navy Rum’ adverts but I guess copyright problems might have prevented that. Caroline Munro is still very pretty and anyone knowing where she’s getting her elixir from can combine it with the one I use. She also does a promo for this DVD at the end of the interview which demonstrates how much of an eye-talker she is.
If you’re going to buy a copy of the ‘Starcrash’ DVD and have a multi-region DVD player then this is the one to own as the British release lacks the extras and is probably the most famous Italian SF film to date.
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