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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Starcrash

September 13th, 2010

Starcrash - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Starcrash... David Hasselhoff... swinging a lightsaber. At this point, I'm unsure I need to continue this review. Admittedly, a lot of people will read that and have a reaction along the lines of, 'Oh god, no.' But a lot of fans of B-movie Sci-Fi, especially those featured on MST3K, have already stopped reading and have pre-ordered the movie. For the rest...

The Movie

Starcrash was a low-budget "homage" to Star Wars, Barbarella, and just about every sci-fi film made.

Caroline Munro (The Spy Who Loved Me) stars as Stella Star, who along with her navigator, Akton, are smugglers. At the beginning of the film, they are being chased in their spaceship by the local authorities and manage to escape by going to hyperspace. When they come out of light speed, they encounter an escape pod and when they explore said escape pod, they find one survivor. Before long the cops have caught up with them and they are captured. Stella is sent to a prison to do manual labor, but she quickly escapes thanks to a diversion when some of her fellow prisoners riot. Her freedom is short lived, but when she is recaptured, she learns that she and Akton are being pardoned. It turns out the escape pod they found was one of three that were ejected from one of the Emperor's ships. This ship was trying to find the secret weapon of Count Zarth Arn, who is trying to overthrow the Emperor and become ruler of the universe. The Emperor informs them that on board that ship was his son, Simon, and that they are free to go, as long as they search for the other two escape pods and look for his son. Of course, they won't be going alone, and police chief Thor (Robert Tessier) and Police Robot Elle (the two that caught them in the first place) will accompany them, to make sure they live up to their end of the bargain.

Traveling to a jungle planet, frozen ice world, and more, they have to deal with Amazons, betrayals, and a super weapons before rescuing the Emperor's son and trying to defeat the evil Count Zarth Arn.

When reviewing this movie, you have to judge it in two ways. Firstly, as a straight movie. And secondly, as B-movie / camp classic. In the first case, well, it's a low-budget movie. It's a low-budget that was dealing with a troubled production. (At one point, just before a crucial scene, they realized they only had about a minute of film left in the camera, and no money to buy more.) Much of the script wasn't finalized before they started shooting, or changed dramatically while they were shooting. Voices had to be redubbed after the shoot, while some of the lines of dialogue were changed from when the film was made to when it was redubbed. I bring up all of these mitigating circumstances because it really is a bad movie. It's a bad movie made by a lot of people who were trying really hard under very difficult circumstances.

But it is an amazingly entertaining bad movie. From the cheap special effects (the spaceship city in the end has what is obviously a tape dispenser glued to the side) to the over-the-top acting (Count Zarth Arn) to the confused storylines, etc. Even some of the elements that are not exactly top notch have a charm to them. The stop-motion animated robots, for instance. These things are cheaply made, not poorly made, but made with next to zero money. However, this does give them a charm. You also get some terrible acting (opening scene) that sets the stage for what is to come. They have to give technobabble-laden dialogue that makes no sense and they deliver it in such a stilted way to adds to the fun. (It's even better in the extended opening.) And if you can get through the torpedo attack in the end without laughing, well, then you are not a connoisseur of B-movie greatness.

If you mourn the loss of MST3K and have BasMovies.org bookmarked, then this is a must have.

The Extras

Wow. There are a lot of extras on this two-disc set, starting with two audio commentary tracks with Stephen Romero. The first is a more historical overview of the project, while the second is a scene-specific breakdown of the movie. Both are worth listening to. Disc one also has interview with the director, Luigi Cozzi, which runs more than 40 minutes. There is also a 13-minute featurette on the score, which was done by John Barry, who over his career won five Oscars. Finally, there are several image galleries.

Over on disc two, there are 17 deleted / extended / alternative sequeneces with a total running time of 36 minutes, each of which is preceded by text card or two that explains why it was cut. The source material for these scenes is less than pristine, but at this point, it adds to the charm. There is also an interview with Caroline Munro, who goes into great detail about her career, how she was cast, the filming, etc. And "great detail" is an understatement, as the interview is more than 70 minutes long. She is under no delusions that this is a great movie, and it sounds like she choose to audition because it would be her first "above the title" credit. After watching this interview, I appreciate her earnest performance in the film even more. There is a 24-minute featurette on the making of the special effects, which includes a lot of early work by the special effects artist, Armando Valcauda. The bulk of it is text over behind-the-scenes stills. There are 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Stephen Romero.

There is also a downloadable .pdf of the original script and a pamphlet with an essay by Stephen Romero.

I do not have the Blu-ray version of the movie, so I can't compare technical specs. On the one hand, it only costs 14% more than the DVD. On the other hand, I'm not sure a film with such a low budget, made such a long time ago, will look good in High Definition.

The Verdict

There are plenty of people who love Starcrash and refer to themselves as "Crashers". However, I have to assume that even most of those people will admit it is a bad movie. It is one of the most entertainingly bad movies ever made, and one that is a must have for fans of "So Bad, It's Good" genre of films. Additionally, the film's DVD and Blu-ray debuts are loaded with extras that enhance the entertainment value of the movie. At just $20, the Blu-ray is a bargain. (Although it might be more than the movie cost to make in the first place.)


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