Friday, October 14, 2016

Starcrash (1979)

 photo starcrash-uk-front.jpg

Dir. Luigi Cozzi, starring Caroline Munro 

Review by Goat Scrote

     "Starcrash" is one of my favorite "so bad they're good" movies. This campy Italian rip-off of "Star Wars" (1977) is a garishly cheesy masterpiece. It also includes generous helpings of "Barbarella" (1968), "Planet of the Vampires" (1965), old "Flash Gordon" serials, "Invaders From Mars" (1953), and even "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) and the various 70's "Sinbad" movies thrown into the mix. It's a shamelessly cheap and silly fantasy-movie smoothie being poured into our eyeballs.

Things would come full circle when Lucas ripped off this
Jedi vs. droid fight scene in "Phantom Menace".

     The story insults our intelligence ferociously, like a planet-killing death ray of pure stupidity. It's a movie where imagination is not bound by things like logic or physics or basic tenets of storytelling. One ridiculous image after another is painted across the screen in bright psychedelic colors for no deeper purpose than to try to cash in on the success of other, better movies. It’s the kind of science fiction you might expect from an enthusiastic but slightly dim child well into the third day of an epic espresso-and-80s-cartoon-reruns binge.

The Thousand-Year Eagle can make the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.

     The opening shot of a starship flying past the camera is directly lifted from "Star Wars", but without the excitement and wonder. This hilariously cheap special effect looks like it was accomplished with pieces from model kits, spray paint, and a cosmic panorama of christmas lights. The vessel is attacked by an incomprehensible camera effect which is supposed to represent glowing red space monsters. At least the movie doesn't put on airs, it lets you know right away that it's shit.

My God, it's full of stars! And model parts!

      They even have an introductory text scroll to let us know what’s going on. Basically there’s this guy Darth... pardon me,  Zarth... Arn (Joe Spinell, of “Maniac", 1980) who is a real space jerk. Count Zarth Arn is a Ming the Merciless type villain who is way too smug and self-satisfied about being the most sinister guy in the galaxy. He reminds me of a live-action version of the Monarch from The Venture Brothers cartoon, minus the wings and eyebrows. The Count flies around in a giant claw-shaped spaceship which curls up into a fist when he goes into battle. Don't lie, you know you want one too.

Arn's minions wear
 standard-issue 'I'm With Stupid'

"Maniac 3: The Search for Pizza the Hutt"

     Christopher Plummer tries to bring dignity to his role as the benevolent Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe, but you can see him wondering how in the unholy fuck he ended up in the clutches of director Luigi Cozzi (alias Lewis Coates). Most of Mr. Plummer’s scenes were completed in a day, so at least he didn’t have to suffer long. He actually ends up delivering some of the funniest lines in the film during his brief appearances. And his outfit is so shiny!

JJ Abrams was inspired by
Cozzi's brilliant use of lens flare.
I took too much nyborg, how am I
gonna pass the Imperial drug test

     Marjoe Gortner plays Akton, a mysterious but wise spaceman with mystical powers and a lightsaber. What an original idea! Gortner and his bizarre real life are the subject of the 1972 documentary "Marjoe". Beautiful B-movie queen Caroline Munro plays his buddy Stella Starr, a sexy spaceship pilot, smuggler, and lovable rogue. Han Solo with boobs, basically. These hardened space-criminals take childlike delight in flying their ship around the cosmos avoiding hazards like space police and dime-store special effects.

I wonder if Zarth Arn and I will ever
work together in a Bill Lustig
 slasher movie?
William Katt does a spot-on
impression of Marjoe Gortner.


The space cops in pursuit are Chief Thor (Robert Tessier) and his robot sidekick Elle (voiced by Hamilton Camp, who has a giant stack of voice work and acting roles to his name). In Christopher Plummer's advanced, galaxy-spanning empire, police droids are built to resemble penises and programmed to speak with the comical twang of a western-movie stereotype.

There's an alien face-hugger 
on my rump and I think I just felt

it implant an embryo!
Be honest. Who has prettier eyes,
me or golden boy up there?

    The cops eventually catch up with the joyriding pair of criminals and toss them in the clink. Stella stages a prison riot to cover her own escape, silently ditching her poor dupes while they eat hot laser from the guards. That bitch is hardcore! Akton and Stella are then conscripted into helping Thor and Elle track down survivors from the ship which was gobbled by red space blobs in the opening scene. David Hasselhoff (in his second film role) plays Prince Simon, who is the son of Emperor Plummer and the sole survivor of the crashed ship. His special weapon is a scary mask with laser eyes. Pew, pew!

Welcome to Burger Overlord.
Please speak into the drive-thru droid to place your order.
     The heroes fight space amazons riding space horses, mutated space cavemen, and a stop-motion giant robot with space breasts. They face a shocking betrayal and other trials during their quest to save Prince Simon. There's an alien judge who looks just like the evil chief Martian in the original “Invaders from Mars” (1953). Stella visits a planet where the temperature falls “thousands of degrees below freezing", or way below absolute zero. She escapes icy death by holding hands with the robot. None of it makes a lick of sense. 

Love child of Krang from "Ninja Turtles" and the
chief alien from "
Invaders from Mars"?
...and Ray Harryhausen
spins in his grave 1000 times.

      The spaceships are equipped with ordinary plate glass windows, and when they break and are exposed to the vacuum of space… nothing happens. Torpedoes punch through into the interior of a ship but instead of exploding into balls of nuclear fury, some guys in ridiculous outfits jump out of the missiles and start shooting people with "rifle rays".
     Relax and let the absurdity flow through you.

Throbbing Gristle  cover band.

     After an Imperial offensive against Zarth Arn's mothership fails, the villain prepares to unleash his "Doom Machine" on the homeworld of the Empire. This super-advanced civilization has time-stopping technology and all sorts of other zany space-opera shit. Somehow, though, they just can't figure out how to stop the dopey bad guy. The best option they can come up with is to crash an entire space city into the Count's awesomely evil starship, the "star crash" of the title. I imagine the ensuing collapse of the space-insurance industry and revolt against the Emperor and his idiot generals would throw their civilization into a new dark age. I’m just speculating here, though. Maybe it worked out fine.

Count Zarth Arn will fist-fuck your planet into space dust!

     Multi-Oscar-winning composer John Barry did the score, so the music is better than it has any right to be. Rumor has it that the producers wouldn't show clips of the film to Barry out of fear that he would quit on the spot.
I find this movie quite funny in its own inept way. It has an oddly innocent charm to it, almost as if it was made for children... even though Caroline Munro's outfits were certainly aimed at grown-ups. As with most bad movies, it’s more fun if you invite friends to make fun of it with you.

     Verdict: One of the most entertaining bad movies I have ever seen. Check it out.

     Drinking game: Take a shot every time you notice something lifted directly from another film. (Keep a bucket handy.)

"Prepare to feel the sting of THE MONARCH!"

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