How Bad Could It Be?: Space, Italian Style

on October 05, 2010 by Steve Simels

starcrash.jpgWell, I just got finished watching Shout! Factory's two disc DVD version of Starcrash, a low budget 1979 Italian Star Wars knock-off originally unleashed on these shores by (who else?) producer Roger Corman that apparently has a rather passionate cult following. I missed this one back in the day, for no particular reason, but given that it stars toothsome Hammer scream queen Caroline Munro and features music by the great John Barry I figured why not give it a look? Plus an essay included with the set, by screenwriter and passionate cult member Stephen Romano, concludes:

Starcrash is an important work of art.

We've waited all our lives to prove it.

The proof is here. Check it out, man.

So it seemed that the least I could do is take him up on the challenge.

You know -- how bad could it be?

The plot (via the DVD box and a certain online encyclopedia with minimal credibility):

Stella Star (Munro) and her sidekick Akton (former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner) are being pursued by the Chief of the Galactic Police (Robert Tessier) and police robot Elle (legendary folksinger and short person Hamilton Camp). After they're captured and sentenced to hard labor, the Emperor of the Universe (a slumming Christopher Plummer) commutes their sentences in return for their aid in tracking down a missing ship carrying some guy who's developed a secret super-weapon and the Emperor's only son Simon (David Hasselhoff. Yes, him). Stella and her companions travel to various unconvincingly art-directed planets, locate the bad guy's secret base, and find the emperor's son. Things blow up a lot (yes, there is noise in airless space, thanks to the cinematic law previously by established by George Lucas) and eventually Stella and Simon fall in love. The End.

Here's the trailer (included in the set, with commentary by Gremlins director Joe Dante, who actually edited it) to give you an idea:

In any case, the answer to our earlier question is -- really pretty bad, to the point where I have to assume that all the members of the aforementioned passionate cult are starved for entertainment to a degree that I find frightening to contemplate. The whole thing -- including several crate loads of model space ships that seem to be made from randomly glued-together Legos -- looks and plays more or less like a community theater production of a Friml operetta, and the video transfer (from an allegedly restored American release print found in producer Corman's garage) has the kind of gauzy, hard-to-watch quality one associates with viewing films with your head swathed in Saran Wrap. For what it's worth, the newly minted 5.1 surround track is passable, but that only serves to highlight the essentially tossed off nature of the Barry score, which is to say the guy did better work elsewhere.

On the other hand, the set comes with a second disc's worth of bonus features, including outtakes, the original screenplay, and an interview with the still toothsome Munro. So if you have a taste for this sort of mishegass, you could probably do worse.

That being the case, you can -- although if you do, please don't tell me -- order Starcrash over at Amazon here.

Tags: Starcrash, Star Wars, Christopher Plummer, Joe Dante

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