92 mins. Color.
It would be easy to write a review of Luigi Cozzi’s (credited in the U.S. as Lewis Coates) 1978 space opera Starcrash by merely creating a list of the joyfully absurd and fantastic moments that pepper its runtime. If a cowboy police robot, a constantly changing wardrobe of leather space bikinis, a giant Amazon robot with nipples, and a young, eye-shadowed David Hasselhoff can’t convince you that the film is worth your time, than I can only conclude that you’re an emotionless slug with a miserable life. However, there’s plenty more that can be said about the film than a simple highlights list.
When writing about Starcrash, it’s nearly impossible to not draw comparisons to Star Wars, though it’s a poor way to view the film. It was undoubtedly made to siphon from Lucas’ cash cow. Laser swords, quirky robot sidekicks, planet-sized super weapons, etc... all make an appearance, but much like Batman and the Joker in the Adam West series they end up serving as a sort of gateway into a more colorful, manic vision than the source material. If you approach this film from a hard nosed science fiction angle, it’s gleeful abandonment of physics and scientific reality will be nails screeching across your mental chalkboard. Instead, it’s best to focus on just how much goddamned fun it all is. And that’s really what Starcrash seems to be about. Forget a gloomy, grand confrontation between good and evil, this is about how much fun it is to fly around space battling robots and saving the galaxy.
Many Starcrash fans and reviewers have focused on one time Bond-girl and prolific horror film actor Caroline Munro’s lead performance as Stella Star, but for me the real treasure is her wily sidekick Akton, played by one of my personal heros (no joke), Marjoe Gortner. Gortner was raised by abusive parents who forced him into revivalist preaching at the tender age of 4. A couple dramatic decades and a crisis of conscience later, he opted to out himself as a fraudulent traveling evangelist in the brilliant, Oscar winning documentary, Marjoe. From there he turned to acting, bringing with him an infectious charisma gleaned from his years of crowd manipulating evangelistic performances. His character Akton possesses Jedi-like powers (and weaponry), but wields them with Han Solo’s roguish charm and a sense of fun loving wonder. Akton’s gleeful outbursts when shooting down enemy fighters and knowing smirk before revealing plot secrets give a sense of just how much fun Gortner is having.
And then there’s The Hoff. There’s an eerie prescience to how Starcrash builds the anticipation for Hasselhoff’s appearance. It’s as if it knew that the young actor would become the most widely recognized name in the credits (there’s a good argument to be made for Christopher Plummer in that race, though) and kept him hidden until the third act to tease the modern audience. But this is not your childhood’s Hasselhoff. Bulging pectorals and machoism are replaced by eye shadow and male-model femininity.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of Starcrash’s absurd appeal. The over dramatic villain Count Zarth Arn, the physically and logically absurd soldier-filled space torpedoes that crash through space station windows, the colorful star field that looks like an out of focus Lite Brite... There’s just too much fun to be had. Some think it’s a travesty when they learn that one of their friends has never seen Star Wars. Personally, I’m much more reactionary about Starcrash. I’ve watched a fair number of low-budget sci fi from all over film history, and there are very few that so consistently deliver so much campy fun and fantasy. Even as you speak it’s been taken care of.
Getting yourself in the mood:
- Wear a collared, leather bikini if you have one. Knee length boots are a plus. If you have more than one, change every fifteen minutes or so.
- Make yourself a colorful cocktail.
- Listen to some Hasselhoff albums.
- Watch a couple episodes of Baywatch and Knight Rider.
- Watch Marjoe.-R. Nichols
- Ryan Nichols is a writer / filmmaker in Minneapolis, MN. He is a regular contributor to http://www.crocoduck.com/