Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August of 2011.
Good day, I’m Julian André, and welcome to Craptastic Cinema.
What Plan 9 From Outer Space did for horror, Star Crash does for science fiction. I do not make that statement lightly, mes amies. In 1979 Italian writer/director Luigi Cozzi channeled his inner Ed Wood, creating a cheesy sci-fi mess-terpiece to be celebrated and enjoyed by lovers of bad cinema everywhere.
Stella Star: The smokin’ hot ex-Bond girl, Caroline Munro, is the film’s outlaw heroine. Replete with kinky space bikinis and thigh-high high-heeled boots, she oozes sexuality. Though never lascivious in word or deed, everyone she encounters is met with a look—and please forgive my indelicacy—that says “let’s f*ck!” The girl can’t help it.
Akton: Played by ex-Pentecostal boy evangelist Marjoe Gortner, he is Stella’s smuggler sidekick, an android with magical powers (ability to act not one of them).
Emperor: Good guy ruler of the universe played by Christopher Plummer, who recites his few lines in a Master Thespian-by-way-of-William Shatner Shakespearean tone.
Simon: The Emperor’s son, portrayed by David Hasselhoff in his second featureé film. Wears as much make-up as Stella…and is just about as pretty.
Chief Thor: Imperial space police chief who—wait for it—is a traitor! Not at all shocking, I assure you.
Elle: Police assistant to Chief Thor. Is a robot. Think C-3PO…except with a Texan drawl!
Count Zarth Arn: Eeeeevil bad guy, played by Joe Spinell (you know, Rocky’s loan shark boss in the first film) in a dime-store devil costume, who aspires to be Emperor. Hmmm. Zarth. Darth. Yes, we see…very clever.
Sensuous space adventurer Stella Star and her faithful android companion Akton must rescue the Emperor’s missing son, Simon, while thwarting Count Zarth Arn’s plans of conquering the universe for the League of Darkness.
The first scene is a set-piece totally unrelated to any action that follows, meant to impress the audience that we’re now in THE FUTURE. A man walks out of a room, enters a small compartment, and is “transported” on what appears to be a giant Lazy Susan to a room on the opposite side. How exciting. But wouldn’t it be easier to just walk straight through to the other room? Regardless, now that we’ve been blown away with this ostentatious display of pointless—ahem—technology, it’s time to catch our breath as a rubbish 90 minutes are still to come.
The space pirates are on the run from the police when the mercurial Stella exclaims: “Go for hyperdrive!” Thinking they’ve gotten away—“we’ve done it!”—the couple happens upon a drifting spaceship. While attending to its lone survivor casualty, Akton relays to Stella everything the man’s saying…even though she’s standing right there! Before they can go any further, though, Thor and Elle track them down and send the captured scalawags to a penal colony where they’re sentenced to lives of hard labor. Cut to Stella in skimpy S&M prison garb, complaining to fellow inmates about her rough 12 hours(!) of work so far. They empathize with Stella’s plight and recommend she blow the place up and escape. So Stella steals a (wooden) rifle ray, blows the place up and escapes! Spiffy!
Side note #1: We appreciate that characters announce “we won/lost/did it!” for us hapless viewers because, frankly, we’re often befuddled about what’s happening onscreen. Likewise, bleated refrains of “what is that?” and “where are we?” lead directly into convenient explanations since director Cozzi dispenses with all background or establishing shots of any kind. Crapperific so far! Let’s get back to the action…
In a jif Stella is reunited with Akton, Thor (whose green face make-up apparently does not extend down his neck), and Elle. Unconcerned about Stella’s escape nor her destruction of the immense jail facility, instead Thor merely informs the rapscallions that they’ve been paroled to complete a mission. Appearing on deck is a holographic image of Princess Leia…er, sorry, the Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe. He tells them about the wicked Darth…um, make that Zarth who has created a “limitless” weapon (whatever that means) that is concealed in a planet.
As the Emperor turns to walk away—from what? he’s a hologram!—he instructs them all to locate & destroy that weapon/planet wherever it is…and find his missing son, Simon, who disappeared from the vessel that the buccaneer duo came upon earlier. Somehow, of all the galaxies in all the solar systems in all the universe(s), Akton narrows the choices of where to go down to three places and they’re off! Stella gets to use her hyperdrive again and gleefully informs us that this will reduce the journey of two months to two hours. One cheap light effect later she giddily declares “we’ve arrived!” What? Akton hasn’t even sat down yet!
Side note #2: Keen ones out there will have noticed that there is no concept of time here—everything is done in an instant. They flit from spaceship to planet and from capture to escape in the time it would take you to walk from your bedroom to bath. Nip out for a beer from the fridge and you’ve missed a whole battle scene! It’s shite…but it’s also great fun!
Their first stop is a planet inhabited by Amazon women, where Stella is taken prisoner for a second time. But after a fierce battle lasting whole seconds she is again reunited with the gang. Without pause they arrive at their second destination, an inhospitable ice planet. Stella walks around the frozen tundra in spandex & heels. Hey, if you got it… Meanwhile on board, Akton is killed by Thor, who reveals himself to be a traitor in league with Zarth. But ho! Akton gets up and kills Thor.
Side note #3: You see, not only does Akton have god-like healing powers, it is also revealed that he can see into the future. Crikey…invincible AND omniscient! So why doesn’t he just tell them where to find the Emperor’s son so we can wrap up this craptacular jaunt through space right now? Akton: “It is against the law. I can tell you nothing.” Against the law? What kind of space pirate is he?
Stella alights at the third planet, revealed to conceal Zarth’s Doom Weapon, where she is promptly attacked and detained, this time by leaping troglodytes. For such a renowned space criminal I must say Stella’s bloody awful at evading capture. The cavemen are soon driven off by the missing Simon and a lightsaber-wielding Akton. My, that’s just shameless. Count Zarth Arn then arrives for no other reason than to spell out his cockamamie plan: the Emperor has been tricked into coming there to save his son, and when he does the Doom Planet they’re on will be detonated, so Zarth can become ruler of the universe. The Count exits leaving behind two creaky stop-motion robots to make sure they don’t escape. With Akton’s hidden lightsaber they manage to defeat the plodding duo, but at a cost—Akton is mortally wounded. I thought he was…oh, never mind. No time for tears because Simon and Stella must tell the just-arriving Emperor the bad news: there’s only 48 seconds before the bombs go off, destroying them all.
And with that, dear reader, comes perhaps the biggest deus ex machina of motion picture history. The Emperor, stating that he still has some tricks up his sleeve, pompously exclaims: “Imperial battleship—HALT THE FLOW OF TIME!” That’s genius—if genius is defined as desperate and ludicrous. Of course, that stopping time stuff doesn’t apply to them; they happily scamper back to their home world, no harm done.
Peeved, the Emperor sends his fleet in a surprise attack on Zarth’s claw-like space stronghold. The Emperor, Simon, Elle, and Stella can’t be bothered to participate, and instead watch the uninspiring mission on TV! The raid fails: “We’ve lost.” But chin up…the ever-resourceful Emperor proposes one last-ditch effort: star crash! He’ll send a floating city to collide with Zarth’s space sanctuary causing mega-destruction, but saving his empire. Elle, Simon and Stella are dispatched to the floating city, which is lit up like a Gay Pride float. In mere minutes the megalopolis is evacuated! Ooh, my aching skull. Simon stays behind, leaving Stella and Elle to board the drifting city and maneuver it into the path of the Count’s fist-fortress. Just before impact Stella and Elle dive out a portal of the metropolis. The super-colossal star crash is—figuratively & literally—a smashing success, and out of the space rubble the two “swim” towards an awaiting Simon, cruising nearby and shouting out the window: “Stella! Stella!” I am not making this up; you don’t know the pleasure and pain that went into writing this paragraph!
Emperor Plummer wraps things up with a minor soliloquy, Captain Kirk style, looking into the camera and telling us—last time everybody: “We’ve won.”
Star Crash was Luigi Cozzi’s ticket to fame & fortune. He had behind-the-scenes footage filmed to document the momentous activities which he and his producers were engaged in. This was serious stuff! And as we learned from our craptastic primer, the fact that Cozzi was genuinely trying to make a great film is absolutely essential to its lofty craptacular status. Though he did intend the film to be an homage to the great fantasy films that came before (a pastiche of Harryhausen-esque stop-motion animation, bits of Flash Gordon, movie serials, Barbarella, and, obviously, Star Wars) do not believe the revisionists who would tell you that his movie is a satiric, tongue-in-cheek take on those sci-fi epics. The reason it plays like a low-budget Star Wars rip-off is because it is a low-budget Star Wars rip-off. Don’t let that put you off, though. Star Crash is absolutely top hole! It is the ultimate in craptastic sci-fi—a joyful, barmy romp through a future of wooden laser rifles, pleather spacesuits, and Lite-Brite stars.
I’m Julian André, humble scrivener, blogging exclusively for MovieFanFare. Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!