|Directed by||Luigi Cozzi|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Edited by||Sergio Montanari|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
Starcrash is a 1978 American science fiction adventure film directed by Luigi Cozzi and written by Cozzi and Nat Wachsberger. The cast included Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, and Joe Spinell.
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In a distant galaxy, a starship searches for the evil Count Zarth Arn. Closing in on a planet, the ship is attacked by a mysterious weapon (a red blobby field) which drives the crew insane. Three escape pods launch during the attack, but the ship crashes into the atmosphere of the planet and is destroyed.
Meanwhile, smuggler Stella Star and her sidekick Akton run into the Imperial Space Police, led by robot sheriff Elle. Akton and Stella escape by jumping into hyperspace. When they emerge, they discover an escape pod from the attacked starship, and in it, a sole survivor. Before they can escape, they are apprehended by the police, who tracked their hyperspace trail.
Tried and convicted of piracy, they are each sentenced to life in prison on separate prison planets. When a riot breaks out at Stella's prison, she uses the diversion to escape the prison, which explodes shortly afterwards. Police Chief Thor recaptures her and she is taken to an orbiting ship, where she is reunited with Akton. They are contacted holographically by the Emperor of the Galaxy, who thanks them for recovering the starship survivor. They are offered clemency if they help find three more missing escape pods, one of which may contain the Emperor's only son.
The Emperor is in a feud with Count Zarth Arn, who has a secret weapon hidden away on a planet somewhere. The weapon has immense power, and he can use it to take over the galaxy. The Emperor orders Stella and Akton to find the Count's weapon, and find and rescue his son. With Chief Thor and Elle accompanying them, Stella and Akton set off on their quest.
They have a long way to travel, but Stella excitedly notes that hyperspace can make a journey that would've taken two months take only two hours. They quickly arrive at the location Akton computes for the first escape pod.
Stella and Elle take a shuttle from the spaceship and land near the pod on a sandy, rocky beach. There are no living survivors. Stella meets an amazonian warrior tribe and is escorted to their underground fortress. On arrival, Elle is ambushed, shot and left for dead, and Stella is taken captive. Stella is taken before Corelia, Queen of the Amazons, who is in league with Zarth Arn. Elle doesn't actually die, and he makes his way to the throne room, taking Corelia hostage to secure Stella's release. They escape, but the queen mentally activates a giant female robot which chases them. Things look dire until the pair are rescued by Akton and Thor, in the spaceship.
On a desolate and uninhabited snow-covered frozen planet, Stella and Elle investigate the second escape pod crash site, but as with the first crash site, they find no survivors. Upon their return to the ship, Thor, who has ambushed and apparently knocked out Akton, reveals that he is an agent of Zarth Arn, and will shortly join him as his Prince of Darkness. Thor locks Stella and Elle outside on this planet where the temperature drops "thousands of degrees" at night, where he knows they will freeze to death. Elle and Stella lie down to freeze, and Elle takes Stella's hand so he can keep her heart going in "suspended animation".
Akton revives himself and battles Thor. Thor gains the upper hand and tries to crush Akton, but Akton's powers suddenly escalate, and he repels Thor's attack and absorbs blaster fire seemingly without effort, to Thor's considerable disbelief. Akton reflects Thor's final laser shots back towards him with his hand, killing him. But the sun has already set, and the planet's surface is frozen solid. When morning comes, Akton brings Elle and frozen Stella back onto the ship, where he uses his powers to thaw her out.
On the planet of the third escape pod, Stella and Elle are attacked by barbarian tribesmen who smash Elle to pieces and abduct Stella. She escapes and flees to a nearby cave where she is attacked by more tribesmen, but a man in a golden mask arrives, firing lasers through his eyes, and rescues her. He is revealed to be the Emperor's son, Simon. Akton arrives and starts a laser sword duel with Simon, unaware of his identity. Simon proves his relation to the Emperor and the trio set off to find the Count's secret weapon.
Arriving at an underground laboratory, the three are captured by the guards. The Count appears and reveals his plan to use them as bait to bring the Emperor to the planet, and then have his weapon self-destruct, destroying the planet, the Emperor, and all of them. He leaves to conquer the Emperor's home world, ordering his two robot golems to keep the group there. Akton engages them in a laser sword duel, and the trio eventually defeat the robots, but Akton is mortally wounded. He says goodbye, and vanishes in a plume of electrical fuzz. The Emperor arrives at the planet. He is aware that the whole thing is mined with nuclear bombs as a trap, and that they are out of time. He quips that one doesn't get to be Emperor without getting some perks, and uses a green ray from his flagship to "stop time" for three minutes, giving them all enough time to escape. The flagship pulls away as the planet explodes behind it.
Stella stands with the Emperor on his flagship, as a huge battle commences between his armada and the Count's space station. The Count also attacks the Emperor's homeworld, but the attack is a failure. The Emperor's soldiers storm the space station, but after a pitched battle they are stopped short and killed by the Count's reinforcements.
With no option left, the Emperor decides to ram his flagship into the Count's space station, destroying them both. But Elle has been salvaged and rebuilt by the Emperor's men, and Stella and Elle volunteer to commandeer an evacuated space station, the Floating City, and to smash it into the Count's station. They fly the city towards the space station, and manage to escape together just as their station crashes into the Count's, finally winning the war.
Stella and Elle are picked up by the Emperor's son, Simon. He is happy Stella survived and asks her to marry him.
- Caroline Munro - Stella Star: a young and sensual woman smuggler, who is supposedly the best astro-pilot in the whole universe. She and her companion Akton end up helping the Emperor after a short prison sentence. Munro's dialogue was completely redubbed by other actresses, including Candy Clark for English language prints of the film.
- Marjoe Gortner - Akton: Stella's loyal sidekick, human in appearance but also endowed with considerable mystical powers (including the power to restore people to life); nothing is truly explained about his nature or his origins; he fights with a laser sword similar to a Star Wars lightsaber.
- Judd Hamilton - Elle: A powerful robot policeman endowed with emotions, who ends up helping Stella and Akton. Apparently destroyed by cavemen on the third planet, he comes back later after being repaired by the Emperor's men.
- David Hasselhoff - Simon: the Emperor's only son, only survivor of Zarth Arn's assault on his ship.
- Christopher Plummer - The Emperor: The known universe's benevolent and wise ruler, whose only son has disappeared after an encounter with the space forces of evil Count Zarth Arn.
- Joe Spinell - Count Zarth Arn: a megalomaniac renegade, who is bent on dethroning the Emperor and proclaiming himself supreme ruler of the universe.
- Robert Tessier - Thor: Chief of the Imperial State Police, and Elle's superior. Turns out to be a traitor working for Zarth Arn. Knocks out Akton on the second planet, believing him dead, but is then killed by Akton who is able to deflect laser blasts with his hands.
- Nadia Cassini - Corelia: Queen of the Amazon women on the first planet that Stella and her crew visit. She is an ally of Count Zarth Arn.
The score for Starcrash was composed and conducted by veteran composer John Barry. The soundtrack was given a limited release of 1,500 copies through BSX Records in December 2008 and features fourteen tracks of score.
- "Starcrash Main Title" (2:36)
- "Escape Into Hyperspace" (1:49)
- "Captured" (2:09)
- "Launch Adrift" (1:42)
- "Beach Landing" (2:09)
- "The Ice Planet/Heading for Zarkon" (3:03)
- "The Emperor's Speech" (3:17)
- "Strange Planet/The Troggs Attack" (2:37)
- "Akton Battles the Robots" (2:18)
- "Network Ball Attack" (1:00)
- "Space War" (4:40)
- "Goodbye Akton" (3:34)
- "Starcrash End Title" (2:57)
- "Starcrash Suite" (7:14)
In an interview with Variety, director Luigi Cozzi described Starcrash as "science fantasy" as opposed to science fiction. Cozzi also stated that although people assume Starcrash was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars, he explained that the design of the picture and its script were developed prior to the release of Star Wars. The Producer and screenwriter Nat Wachsberger and his son, producer Patrick Wachsberger who had just developed the American production company Film Enterprises Productions (FEP) signed on to the film in May 1977 during the Cannes Film Festival after viewing sample work created by Cozzi for investors.
Principal photography began 15 October 1977 in Rome, Italy, at Cinecittà Studios. The Hollywood Reporter stated that shooting also took place in Morocco, Tunisia and in Hollywood. The film was scheduled to be completed mid-Dec 1977.
Christopher Plummer spoke on his role of the emperor in Starcrash proclaiming "[G]ive me Rome any day. I'll do porno in Rome, as long as I can get to Rome. Getting to Rome was the greatest thing that happened in that for me. I think it was only about three days in Rome on that one. It was all shot at once." Of his role, he said: "[H]ow can you play the Emperor Of The Universe? What a wonderful part to play. It puts God in a very dicey moment, doesn't it? He's very insecure, God, when the Emperor’s around." Cozzi stated that the miniatures were completed by Italian artists, while American developers was recruited for the special effects, including snorkel photography, computer photography, and mechanical effects. Shooting took over six months and was frequently brought to a halt due to financing problems. The film was originally made for American International Pictures but after seeing the final cut they declined to release it. New World Pictures stepped in instead.
Release and reception
The film premiered in Los Angeles on March 7, 1979.
In contemporary reviews, Variety noted that the film had a "weak screenplay" and the Cozzi's direction "seemed to have no apparent plan." Variety commented that "what is surprising for a picture of this genre, however, is the lacklustre photography by Paul Beeson and Roberto 'Dettore and special effects by Armando Valcauda and German Natali" as "Photography almost never convinces that this is actually taking place anywhere but on the movie screen and special effect seem little more than poor imitations of what's been done before." The Monthly Film Bulletin noted "mediocre special effects and a clumsily protracted finale", but stated that Starcrash "intermittently achieves a kind of lunatic appeal as it lurches pell-mell from one casually fabricated climax to the next."
From retrospective reviews, Kurt Dahlke of DVD Talk said, "Starcrash is a masterpiece of unintentionally bad filmmaking. Pounded out in about 18 months seemingly as an answer to Star Wars, Luigi Cozzi's knock-off buzzes around with giddy brio, mixing ridiculous characters with questionably broad acting, an incredibly simple yet still nonsensical plot derivative to Star Wars, and budget special effects that transcend into the realm of real art. It's a completely ridiculous movie, that's great to watch with a few friends and a beer or two. And it still manages to make my jaw drop." R.L. Shaffer of IGN gave the film an extremely positive review, rating it a 10/10, and calling it "The single greatest sci-fi camp fest ever put on celluloid" and saying its in league with cult classics like Troll 2, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and The Room.
- Pulleine, Tim (1979). "Starcrash". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 46 no. 540. London: British Film Institute. p. 155.
- "Starcrash". American Film Institute. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
- Willis 1985, p. 340-341: "Review is of a 92 minute version viewed in Hllywood on March 7, 1979"
- Christopher T Koetting, Mind Warp!: The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Hemlock Books. 2009 p 158-159
- Ryfle, Steve (1999). Japan's favorite mon-star: the unauthorized biography of "The Big G". ECW Press. p. 207. ISBN 1-55022-348-8.
- Wheeler, Jeremy. "Star Crash (1978)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
- Starcrash soundtrack description at MovieMusic.com
- Kurt Dahlke. "Starcrash". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- R.L. Shaffer. "Starcrash". IGN. Retrieved 2011-03-18.