Starcrash. Even saying the title brings a smile to my face. No, I take that back. It brings out full-out laughter from me. Following the stellar success (forgot to give everyone a bad pun alert – more will come) of Star Wars, a plethora of galactic and inter-galactic SW knock-offs, clones, duplicates, and replicates blasted our way faster than the Millennium Falcon.
Okay, I feel better now. Got that out of my system now. Or, maybe not.
Back to the topic. When’s the last time you saw Marjoe Gortner in a film? Well, here’s your chance. For many of us Boomers, Marjoe Gortner is a wild-eyed film experience. There are few other experiences to compare it to. For those of us who watched movies through the 70’s and 80’s, at one point or another we ran into Marjoe. And watching him in Starcrash was a treat. We saw Starcrash with the sound all the way down while listening to a good variety of music that every so often seemed to sync up with the film. Seemed better that way as pesky things like dialogue couldn’t get in the way of our viewing pleasure.
Crash was a combo Italian/USA flick. And one thing about most of the Italian sci-fi and sci-fi/horror flicks from back then is their love of the primary colors. We’d have little red dancing lights, and multi-hued laser blasts, and an actual blue light saber-like weapon wielded by none other than Marjoe in the sort-of Luke Skywalker role. Except with, perhaps, more manic expressions at times. Well, all except for Luke’s uber-dynamic scene right after he gets his hand cut off by his dad near the end of The Empire Strikes Back. That “Noooooo! It can’t be true!” scream, with his face getting all twisty, is just all Shatner-ish from The Wrath of Khan (Khaaaaannnnn!). So, Marjoe didn’t go all Shatner, but he sure looked like he wanted to talk to someone about his lord and master Cthulhu. Anyway, Marjoe played this character named Akton (Akron, as in Ohio? I don’t know.), and David Hasselhoff played Prince Simon. And, since this was the 70’s, both had killer perm jobs. I mean, their hair didn’t move. They’d take direct laser blasts to the noggin, and nothin’.
So, we have Han Solo, uh… no, wait, I mean Stella Star (Caroline Munro), who’s this smuggler, and she teams up with this robot/android character who looks like a Cylon, except his (its?) head is really big and looks like a bucket. Stella occasionally runs around in her underwear. But it’s okay, as she wears one of those cheap plastic see-through raincoats over her underwear so she won’t get cold. But there’s this one scene where Stella and her bucket-headed friend lay down in a field to make snow angels. Well, actually, there wasn’t snow when they first laid down, but then it started snowing, and then they went to sleep, and all we kept thinking was that they were re-enacting the poppies sequence from The Wizard of Oz.
Quick aside here. Also around the same time Crash came out, all characters in Star Wars-like rip-offs were required to have variations on the names Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Chewie, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. Which is why, in an insane number of media we ended up with characters named Lone Star, Sally Starslammer, Princess Orgasma, Yogurt, Ooby-Dooby Kenoobi, Chewbacca, and every other combination.
Another quick aside. Caroline Munro. This nearly-nude lass busted out in several films I watched in my pre- and post-pubescent years, including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and At the Earth’s Core. Some of the characters she’s played over the years had names such as Dia, Evil Priestess, and Mystic Mary, so Stella Star isn’t a huge leap.
For a while we thought Christopher Plummer could’ve gotten away with saying he never fully appeared in the movie, but he slipped up, and there he was, all non-holographic and everything. Mr. Plummer played the Emperor of the Galaxy, and here’s one of the places where they got really creative with making it not at all like Star Wars. They made the Emperor a good guy and not a bad guy. Huh? How about that? Not only that, but you wanna know what they named the Big Bad Ugly in Crash? Zarth Arn. No, that doesn’t make me think of that other guy at all. What was his name? Garth Raider or something.
There were several things to love about this movie, none of which had anything to do with quality, but that sure didn’t stop us from enjoying it in a Mystery Science Theaters kind of way. Besides all the pretty flashing lights, we had spaceships made from Dixie cups, buttons, cans of talcum powder, and all manner of random household items. There were some interior shots of dishwashers, and, you know that opening sequence of the original Star Wars where the pointy triangle-shaped spaceship flies past the camera, doing that vanishing-point perspective thing? Well, they got really good at that shot in Crash, as they used it a lot. A whole lot. No, make that a whole, whole lot.
Starcrash (or The Adventures of Stella Star or Star Battle Encounters or its original Italian title, Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione) warped onto screens all over the world with an initial release date of 12/21/1978 in West Germany. Italy would have to wait until January, 1979.
The director, Luigi Cozzi (although he went by Lewis Coates quite a bit) also brought us Hercules (1983), The Adventures of Hercules II (1985), both starring Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno, and 1989’s Paganini Horror. I may have to check out the Paganini Horror.
If you’re really wanting to dose yourself out on some other good ol’ Star Wars mimicry, check out Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), Hardware Wars (1978), or Star Odyssey (1979). Not sure about availability of any of these, but good luck, and may the farce be with you.
‘til next time… Adios.