Star Crash (1978)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 25, 2010  | 
DVD
Shout! Factory (USA) | Region 1, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 92 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Starring: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, David Hasselhoff, Joe Spinell, Robert Tessier, Nadia Cassini, Judd Hamilton, Christopher Plummer
Screenplay: Luigi Cozzi
Country: Italy/USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
"Go for hyper-space!"

When I was a young fella back in the early 80s, when I went to the video store, the first movie I would look for was Star Wars, the second was Battle Beyond The Stars, and the third was this trashtastic monsterpiece, Star Crash. Now you have to understand, this was before I'd had any schooling in the greatness of trash cinema, before I knew who Joe Spinell was, before I'd ever heard of Luigi Cozzi, before I knew that Italy even had a cinema industry – up until then, I thought all films came from the UK or the US, except for those weird ones with words at the bottom of the screen. In other words, I came to Star Crash completely tabula rasa, with no preconceptions, and with no other desire than to be entertained by some popcorn-munching sci-fi fun. And it delivered, and man, I must have rented that tape nearly a hundred times. When I heard that Shout! Factory were releasing a 2 disc collector's edition of this cinematic master-stroke, I was as happy as a man with tits in his hat.

Star Crash rode in early on the wave of Star Wars imitators, and bears many similarities to that film (although not so many as fellow Italo-sci-fi schlockfest The Humanoid, which was so close to the blockbuster that Lucas actively tried to have it suppressed – try to find copies of it on eBay, if you doubt me), but also pays loving homage to the work of Ray "God" Harryhausen, the sci-fi classics of the 1950s (Invaders From Mars gets a rather obvious reference) and has a real sort of naïve, yet still sincere, charm. A crueler critic than yours truly would suggest that the script reads like it was written by a ten year old, but given I was about that age when I first saw it, that's no bad thing, because it spoke to me. Putting it simply: here was the movie I would've made when I was ten – space battles, laser guns, incoherent dialogue, giant moving statues, a cape-twirling villain, light sabers, killer robots, a heroine who spends most of the film in varying states of undress – even before I knew what sex was, I still understood the value of on-screen nudity. And how absolutely drop-dead gorgeous was Caroline Munro in 1979… Even thinking about her in this film makes me need to steady myself against the furniture.

So what we have here is a film that tries with an absolute zero of pretence or artifice to entertain you, and with that noble aim in mind, let us begin. Stella Star (the mind-meltingly babe-o-licious Caroline Munro) is a space pirate-cum-smuggler (that doesn't scan well…). Together with her sidekick Akton (evangelist-turned-B-star Marjoe Gortner, who refused to wear alien make-up for the film, much to Luigi Cozzi's disappointment), she roams the spaceways, trying to keep one step ahead of the law, clad in a very revealing patent leather bikini and thigh-high boots. Sorry, I've just got to readjust something…

Stella is effectively our Han Solo, which rather unflatteringly makes Akton our Chewbacca. What's even more disturbing is that Simon – played by David Hasselhoff before he became an internet meme – is our Luke. But what's awesome is that Joe Fuckin' Spinell (a legend and God among lesser, mortal men) plays Count Zarkon, our Darth Vader character. And play him he fucking does, with so much scene chewing relish that he actually does the "Mwu-hahahahaha" bad guy laugh, and twirls his fucking cape. Here is a man who is not only a great actor – here is a man who is gleefully having fun playing the role everyone wants to play – the Dick Dastardly-styled, over-the-top comic opera villain. I honestly waited for him to twirl his moustaches and say, "Curses, foiled again!" RIP, Joe, you were too larger than life and far too awesome for this puny world.

Sorry – I'm getting sidetracked, but I hope my enthusiasm for Star Crash is contagious, because I really do like this film. Right – the plot. Count Zarkon is pitted against the Emperor of the First Circle Of The Universe (Christopher Plummer – no, really! And he seems to be channelling William Shatner; with a pause…in between…every…word or two…for…emphasis – he's our Obi-Wan character, by the way). Stella and Akton have been caught by the Emperor's cops Thor (a green bald dude), and Elle (our gun-twirling C-3PO with a Southern drawl – actually played by Caroline Muro's hubby at the time, who apparently was not best pleased by some of the romance scenes she has with The Hoff, later in the film). After being sentenced to life imprisonment by the alien head from Invaders From Mars, she's hurled off to Nocturne 2, to do slave labour in a nuclear reactor – in her leather bra and panties, and thigh-high stiletto heeled boots. Standard prison-wear? That's the best deterrent against crime I can think of – I'd look ridiculous in that outfit…

But as Thin Lizzy once said in their wisdom, "Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak", and who else would lead it but our gal, Stella? Scorning the laser guns and energy whips of the guards, fiery-eyed Stella wobbles her bottom quite prettily to freedom, and a conveniently-landing ship containing Thor and Elle who have papers for both Stella and Akton's release, why not? Turns out the Emperor wants our dynamic duo to find his son, Simon (The Hoff), who went missing on a previous mission to discover the Count's secret planet-sized weapon (Death Star, anyone?), and to fight evil as well, by destroying said weapon.

So, it's off to the Haunted Stars we go! Wait…how do you haunt a star? No time for questions (or logic), because Stella and Elle need to be attacked by amazons and taken to their queen. At this juncture, can I just say that the sight of watching a leather-bikini clad Caroline Munro wrestling with busty amazons in a similar state of undress is a good thing? Now we can proceed. After Stella and Elle's daring escape, Queen Corellia sends The Guardian after them – this would entail a potentially copyright-infringing female version of Talos, the giant bronze man from Harryhausen's Jason And The Argonauts, but with giant metal boobies, hunting them down.

Another daring escape ensues, but then the amazons give chase in their fighter ships – and we'll be seeing these Zarkon-loyal ladies later in the film as well. During this scene, if you're not thinking of the bit in Star Wars when Luke, Han and co flee the Death Star, then you're not thinking. That battle over, and it's off to the ice planet!

"This galaxy is wild and hostile…"

It's about this point that Thor reveals himself to be a right cunt, in league with Count Zarkon, bushwhacking Akton and trying to steal the ship, leaving Stella and Elle to freeze to death. Cue: an awkward scuffle between Akton and Thor ("Stop! No-one can survive these deadly rays!"), and Stella's imminent reiteration into the story.

"My circuits! My circuits are failing!"

As our crew get closer to their destination and land on yet another barren, lifeless wasteland, the stakes start to rise, Elle gets kicked to the curb by a bunch of troglodytic Neanderthals, and Stella, in some pretty dire straights, is rescued by David Hasselhoff – who can fire laserbeams out of his fucking eyes! Turns out he's the son of the Emperor – not that he tells anyone for a while, as he's not too sure who's on who's side at the moment. But that's okay, because Akton turns up to save the day with his light sabre – which is also the point where our heroes realise that the planet they're on is the Count's secret hideout-cum-battle station. It's probably worth mentioning at this point that while Luigi Cozzi had been commissioned to write something akin to Star Wars, he actually hadn't seen Lucas' film as it hadn't been released in Italy at the time, and had only read the novelisation just prior to his submission of the script for Star Crash. Not a bad effort, when you consider it.

Anyway, this is about the point when Count Zarkon turns up again, cackling wildly, to taunt our heroes and let 'em know that the Emperor is on his way, and that they're all going to be blown to hell. And while they wait, Stella, Akton and Simon get to deal with Zarkon's golems – deadly skeletal robotic warriors rather reminiscent of the skeletons from Jason And The Argonauts.

Zarkon's forces are amassing to battle the Emperor (Zarkon's battle station can turn into a giant metal fist, which is pretty fucking cool), but the Emperor isn't going down without a fight – which leads us to the big Death Star battle of the film, and the point where your breathless narrator leaves you, to gaze in awe at Joe Spinell's incredible, nay awesome overacting, Caroline Munro's cleavage, Christopher Plummer's complete befuddlement at what's going on around him, The Hoff's bouffant hair-do, the shameless riffs on the Death Star attack scene – well, everything, really. Plus, you get to find out where the film's name comes from, and hear Joe Spinell talk about his "doom machine". I wish I had a doom machine.

Mere words cannot express how much I love Star Crash. The dialogue ("scan it with our computer waves!") is dire, everybody acts every scene as though they've just snorted a great big bag of cheap wiz, the effects look like they were made by a grade 3 class (I kept expecting to see macaroni…), but damn it all, the film has heart and plays itself deadly serious and yet like a pantomime at the same time. No tongues in any cheeks here. Everybody seems to be having a whale of a time, and like I said before, enthusiasm is contagious. You can't help but have fun while watching this. Unless you're a totally joyless cock, that is.
Video
The years have certainly condemned Star Crash picture-wise, but those magnificent bastards at Shout! Factory have risen to the challenge to give you about as good a picture as you could hope for. There was one scene when Stella and Elle were on the world of the amazons where it seemed that they were using another source than the original negative, but otherwise this was the best I'd seen this film look. Period. The colour palette was bright and vibrant, the image was reasonably sharp – certainly those tufts of hair on the sides of Joe Spinell's head were in superior definition – I was impressed.
Audio
Again, I had no complaints. John Barry's score sounded great, the space-tastic special effects sounded lovably clunky – with the volume cranked, this should annoy the piss out of your neighbours admirably. Although I must say, some of the ADR was more than usually noticeable on the soundtrack. Not a criticism, just thought I'd mention it.
Extra Features
This is an embarrassment of riches. Seriously, and with none of my usual hyperbole, this is as about as complete a package as you could want for Star Crash. Right – so what do you get?

Disc One:

An interview with Luigi Cozzi – this is excellent and is required viewing for fans of the film, or Cozzi fans generally.

An analysis of the film's score – no, seriously!

Commentary 1: Stephen Romano (who apparently loves this film even more than me) provides a history of the film and generally talks it up (this is feature length, by the way).

Commentary 2: Romano again (the lucky bugger) analysing the film and telling anecdotes about its production, too (feature length again).

A photo and storyboard gallery.

A promo art gallery.

A fan art gallery – we're heading into scary waters here, people…

The theatrical trailer with a trailersfromhell.com commentary by Eli Roth (oh, shut yer yaps, you're just jealous that THAT fanboi made it big before you), and an exclusive commentary by Joe Dante.

TV and Radio spots.

What? That wasn't enough for you? Well, cop this!

Disc Two:

An interview with Caroline Munro (she's a bit dithery, by her own admission, but it's still interesting to hear about her career, as a model, and as an actress – and in the film at hand; and it's a long and involved piece of work).

17 (count 'em, sevenfuckin'teen) deleted scenes – which effectively gives us what was in the international cut of the film (the version on the disc is the US cut – and as that's Roger Corman's preferred cut, that's good enough for me!) These scenes are presented with huge black borders on all four sides of the image.

The complete original screenplay, with original storyboards and conceptual art (for both Mac and Windows OS).

A 20 minute behind the scenes featurette with commentary (not really essential by any means).

Footage of how the special effects were made, in an exclusive featurette just for you!

What? You want more, you ungrateful sod? There's a 12 page booklet that comes with it, written by Stephen Romano – informative and entertaining. I honestly don't think that Shout! Factory could have done more, unless they actually got David Hasselhoff to come to your house to talk you through the movie… Ooh, now there's a scary thought.

You want even more?! You also get a reversible cover, although I must say that neither design really Rogered my Hammerstein.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If you aren't punching the air while you watch this and yelling out, "Whoop, whoop, whoop!", then I hate you and I hope you die in a fire. My life generally sucks, but there are things that can make it un-suck, and one of those things is Star Crash. If you're a fan of trash cinema and you don't own this completist's wet dream, hang your head in shame. SHAME!!! A fantastic release of an essential sci-fi/exploitation trash-fest. I cannot rate this highly enough.

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