“Starcrash” (1978) is a Star Wars knockoff minus the wit, the charm, or the spaceballs…


When “Star Wars” came out 46 years ago, it was a paradigm shift in cinematic entertainment.  Visual effects, sound and even editing were never the same, and movies have been forever chasing its tail ever since. This dramatic revolution occurred when I was all of ten years old in the summer of 1977, and naturally, there was a wave of Star Wars imitators to follow soon afterward.  Some, like TV’s “Battlestar Galactica,” were of high quality (for the time), and had their own storytelling merits. Others, like Roger Corman’s “Battle Beyond The Stars” were more obvious in their objectives, but still made for decent entertainment.  Then we have 1978’s “Starcrash”

When You Wish Upon a Star…
“Stella Star” (Caroline Munro), in the first of what was planned to be a series of “The Adventure of Stella Star” movies.

I still remember seeing the judiciously-cut ads for the Italian-made film on TV, and all my preteen self saw in them were the lightsabers and the robots. I really wanted to see this movie.  Never got the chance.  Many years later (decades, in fact), I finally bought a DVD copy of the flick. By this time, I was in my 30s, and clearly the very best bits of the film (if any) were in the trailer.  The movie was terrible.  The crude special effects were wretched, and the acting was rubbish (even British/Yank actors were inexplicably dubbed over, like Caroline Munro and Joe Spinell). The dialogue sounded like something hammered together by a 7-year old kid.  I was a little embarrassed…

“My Schwartz is bigger…”
Akton (Marjoe Gortner) takes on two stop-motion droids–er, ‘golems.’

In the years since, I’ve noticed that “Starcrash” had gained a curious cult following, so I decided to give it another shot. For this review, I streamed a free HD copy of the film (via YouTube Premium) and projected it onto a 7 ft. (2 meter) screen in a darkened room to give it the best possible chance…

“Starcrash” (1978)

Directed by “Lewis Coates” (nee: Luigi Cozzi), and cowritten by director Cozzi, Nat Wachsberger and R.A. Dillon (three people worked on this crappy screenplay??), “Starcrash” opened in North America in 1979, still riding on the crest of the Star Wars wave, which began two years earlier. 

“We Brake For Nobody.”
The opening shot of the (friendly) Imperial ship is the first of many Star Wars, er, ‘homages‘…

The opening shot covers every angle of a kit-bashed miniature which represents an Imperial warship. For clarity, the Emperor and his forces are kinda the good guys in this universe.

Note: The miniatures of this film, which appear to be shot in-camera, follow the jumbled-together-for-scale aesthetic of the original Star Wars movies, but they lack the iconic shapes and silhouettes that defined those ships (which made them so instantly desirable as toys for their intended audience). Not to mention the miniature camerawork lacks the proper focal lengths to make these ships look appropriately massive. The starfields appear to be strings of Christmas lights peering from behind a black velvet backdrop.  To call it amateurish would be charitable. 

“You don’t have to put on the red light…”
The Emperor’s forces are attacked by bad optical FX.

We next see an Imperial officer, “Major Bradbury,” reporting for duty at the ship’s communications center.  Afterward, the vessel is bombarded with red light optical FX, superimposed over shots of officers grabbing their helmets in pain, as they collapse to the deck…

Note: The intercom call for “Major Bradbury” is perhaps the closest thing the movie has to an in-joke, as it’s clearly meant as a reference to my personal favorite sci-fi/fantasy author Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on two occasions.  I have a feeling Bradbury probably wouldn’t have liked this movie, assuming he ever saw it.

“Why didn’t you break that guy’s thumbs like I asked you?”
Joe Spinell (“Rocky”) plays the evil Count Zarth Am, seen here directing a pair of tiny robots in another dimensional plane.

The red ray weapon that attacked the Imperial ship was the handiwork of Count Zarth Am (Joe Spinell), who’s been stockpiling weapons and other such deadly machinery deep in a mysterious planet somewhere beyond “the haunted stars” (sounds poetic, but is never used as a plot device, nor is it explained).  On the main bridge of his hand-shaped starship, the Count monologues his plans to defeat the Emperor before his bored-looking troops. The Count then summons the latest in henchman technology; a pair of sword-wielding, stop-motion attack robots he calls “the golems,” after the Hebrew legend of the statue which acts as a guardian defender/avenger (I suspect the screenwriters were simply trying to avoid a lawsuit by not calling them droids).  The Count then exits the bridge, still laughing to no one in particular…

Note: The late Joe Spinell (1936-1989) appeared as Corleone family enforcer Cici in “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather Part II” (1974).  Spinell also played local Philly mobster Gazzo in “Rocky” (1976) and “Rocky 2” (1979).  The actor had other mainstream roles, including small parts in “Taxi Driver” (1976), “The Sorcerer” (1977) and “Cruising” (1981). Count Zarth Am’s low-range, but loud voice in “Starcrash” does not sound like the soft-spoken actor at all, and I’d assumed he was dubbed over by another actor, but apparently it was Spinell’s own voice.

“Fly Me to the Moon…”
Stella Star (Caroline Munro, voice of Candy Clark) and her not-quite-human friend Akton (Marjoe Gortner).

The movie then cuts to our ‘heroes,’ Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and her not-quite human (but very goofy) sidekick, Akton (Marjoe Gortner), with whom she shares a very, very platonic relationship. The two are a pair of galactic smugglers—of what, and for whom, we never know—who are currently breaking the local space speed limit, when they’re pulled over by the Space Fuzz; a big bald green cop named Thor (Robert Tessier) and a tall, black, Darth Vader-ish looking robot given the oddly effeminate moniker of “Elle” (Judd Hamilton, voiced by Hamilton Camp).  Just as the local Space Cops are about to board their vessel, Akton and Stella jump into hyperspace (which is a lot like Star Wars hyperspace, but remade as a crappy video effect).  Unfortunately, the tenacious cops follow them through hyperspace. Akton and Stella’s ship is boarded, and the would-be Han & Chewie are arrested.

Note: Caroline Munro appeared in 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me,” “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” (1973) and some horror films, including Hammer’s “Dracula AD 1972” (1972).  For “Starcrash”, the British Munro’s voice was dubbed over by American actress Candy Clark (“The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Blue Thunder”).  Clark was (incidentally) married to Munro’s costar Marjoe Gortner at the time. Gortner began as an evangelist preacher at age 4 (!) before moving on to costar in a slew of low-budget action/horror/sci-fi films, including Bert I. Gordon’s “Food of the Gods” (1976). 

Let’s not get a-head of ourselves…
Judge Squiggly Head (a blatant ripoff of the Martian Ruler from “Invaders From Mars”) sentences Akton and Stella to hard labor.

Taken before an Imperial Space Court, Stella and Akton face sentencing by a large green head with little tentacles, who’s encased in a large cake dome. For their long rap sheets of smuggling and other offenses, the Space Judge sentences Akton and Stella to hard labor on separate planets. 

Note: The Space Judge is a clear visual homage to the tentacled, telepathic Martian Ruler from William Cameron Menzies’ nightmarish “Invaders From Mars” (1953). I realize this movie isn’t sophisticated enough in its world-building to question why Stella would later go on to help—let alone save—the rule of the Galactic Emperor, whose monarchic reign allows for such unjust kangaroo courts. But then again, this is “Starcrash,” not Disney+’s “Andor.”

Stella sparks a spirit of revolt among her fellow prisoners–only to use them as fodder to cover her own escape.

We then see Stella at the prison colony, loading dangerously radioactive fuel into large containers, wearing only a black leather bikini and thigh-high boots (totally practical gear for hard labor, am I right?). Stella asks her fellow prisoners if they’ve ever tried to escape, but they’re too afraid.  When pushed by a guard, Stella opens a can of whoop-ass on him, kicking him into next week—and causing him to drop his laser pistol. Inspired by Stella’s example, one of the inmates picks up the guard’s weapon, firing its crimson beam at her cruel overlords.  Before long, it’s an all-out riot, as inmates are systematically slaughtered by the guards.  Stella, however, is no Spartacus, and she slips away during the firefight…completely oblivious to the dying inmates she herself inspired to become freedom fighters. 

Note: Mind you, Stella is our ‘hero,’ folks…

Caroline Munro’s Stella Star lacks the avant-garde sophistication of “Barbarella.”

Stella makes her break for freedom, running out into the open, carrying one of the guard’s weapons. She doesn’t get very far before a spaceship lands right in front of her, it’s main ramp opening.  As she steps inside, she finds familiar faces, such as her weird friend, Akton, and the two Space Cops who brought her in; Elle and Thor.  Apparently, her escape wasn’t necessary, since she and Akton were just about to be paroled…in exchange for an assignment, on behalf of the Emperor himself. 

Note: Stella boarding the waiting spaceship is realized through a combination of miniatures and rear-projection; rear-projection is used a lot in this movie, and it’s a dead giveaway when you can literally see the textures of the projection screen itself.

“Help me, Stella Star… you’re my only hope.”
The Emperor (Christopher Plummer) begs the help of convicts Stella and Akton.

Elle plays a live hologram of the Emperor (Christopher Plummer, no less) as he recruits her and Akton for the task of locating three crashed shuttles, which were on the verge of locating Count Zarth’s hollow planet filled with weapons, somewhere beyond the dreaded “haunted stars” (why they’re called ‘haunted’ is never mentioned, other than it probably sounded cool to somebody…). Neither Akton nor Stella take the opportunity to ask for better prison conditions on colony worlds, or even a firm guarantee that their parole will be permanent—the movie’s much too shallow for any of that. Stella and Akton simply accept this dangerous assignment because it beats slave labor, and because the Emperor seems like a nice-enough guy (a nice guy who doesn’t seem to give a damn about criminal justice within his realm). 

Note: The late great Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) has done more than his share of bad movies, but this one has to take the cake. Apparently it was the Rome-based shoot that sealed the deal. Reportedly, Plummer once said, “Give me Rome any day. I’ll do porno in Rome, as long as I can get to Rome. Getting to Rome was the greatest thing that happened in that for me.”

Warped drive.
Akton and Stella agree to work with their former space cop foes Thor (Robert Tessier) and the curiously-monikered “Elle” (Judd Hamilton, voice of Hamilton Camp) to rescue a stranded space prince.

Akton, Stella, Elle and Thor also learn that the Emperor’s son, the Galactic Prince, was on one of the three missing shuttles.  With the former Space Cops now joining forces with the smugglers, the group sets a course for the site of the first shuttle’s alleged crash landing… 

Note: Let’s see, we have a pair of space smugglers teaming with a droid to go looking for someone they heard about in a holographic plea for assistance.  Nah…doesn’t seem familiar at all.

On a space beach, Elle and Stella find one of three stranded space launches.

Reaching the planet where the first shuttle went down, Stella and her perpetually nervous police robot Elle—who’s programmed for emotions—set down on a beach where they spot the wreckage of a shuttle lodged deep within the sand. Upon investigating the wreckage more closely, they find only charred corpses, with no survivors.  Unaware they’re being observed remotely by Amazon Queen Corelia (Nadia Cassini), a team of the Queen’s bikini-clad Amazonian women on horseback soon capture Elle and Stella.  Elle, in a hilarious bit of exposition, says aloud, “Look!  Amazon women on horseback!” 

Note: Corelia, with an extra L, is also the name of Han Solo’s home planet, as mentioned in dialogue from Star Wars (“I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now”).  I’m sure that’s just another ‘coincidence.’  

“Amazon Women on the Moon.”
Stella is captured by the Amazon Queen Corelia (Nadia Cassini) and, apparently, the Swedish Bikini Team.

Elle and Stella are captured by the Amazonian Bikini Team with surprisingly little effort, considering he’s a robo-cop and she’s a hardened smuggler (?!).  On the way to face Queen Corelia, Elle struggles and is shot by one of the Amazons for his trouble. With the robot left in a smoking heap on the floor, Stella faces Queen Corelia, who is in league with the evil Count Zarth.  In one of many deus ex machina moments to come, Stella is then rescued by Elle, who was only “mostly dead” (to quote Magic Max). Stella and her newfound robot ally free themselves and head back to the beach.  An enraged Queen Corelia activates her giant robot guardian, who’s conveniently stationed out of sight from where Stella and Elle first landed, of course…

Note: The ‘planet of amazon women’ is a cliche as old as pulp sci-fi, and has been realized in many movies, such as “Missile to the Moon” (1953), “Queen of Outer Space” (1958), and was brilliantly parodied in 1987’s sketch comedy flick, “Amazon Women on the Moon.”  In fact, there was an episode of TV’s “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (1979-81) literally titled, “Planet of the Amazon Women.”

“Stop running so I can kill you…”
Queen Corelia sics a crappy, stop-motion giant robot on escaping Stella and Elle.

Elle and Stella find themselves being chased along the beach by Corelia’s lumbering, stiff,  sword-wielding giant robot-statue-thing. Stella and Elle retreat to a nearby cave along the beach’s rocky cliffs, but the cheap, bendable, stop-motion figure pursuing her chucks its sword right in front of the cave entrance—temporarily sealing Elle inside, with Stella forced to fight the lumbering, unthreatening thing by herself.  This doesn’t last, of course, as Elle suddenly remembers that he’s a super-strong robot, and simply removes the heavy sword from the entrance in order to rescue Stella. They escape into their shuttle, and return to the waiting mothership…

Note: The entire robot-statue-thing ‘chase’ on the beach is a terribly clumsy homage to Ray Harryhausen’s brilliant “Talos” statue sequence from 1963’s “Jason and the Argonauts.” The Talos sequence was done far more convincingly 15 years earlier, and with only one man—Harryhausen himself—doing all of the stop-motion effects.

Akton uses the Force to plot their course, of course, of course…

Back aboard the ship, Akton plots their course for the next two missing shuttles using a ball of light he’s been toying with that, in no way, resembles any kind of navigational aid. They soon land on a frozen planet, which is temperate for humanoids, but only before sunset; after which, temperatures suddenly plunge by thousands of degrees. Yes, you read correctly; thousands of degrees below zero…

Note: This is quite a feat, since absolute zero temperature (the theoretical absence of any & all atomic activity itself) is only -460 degrees Fahrenheit, or -273 Celsius. There physically cannot be a planet with a surface temperature thousands of degrees below zero in Fahrenheit, Celsius or Kelvin scales.

“Hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid…”
Thor betrays Stella, Elle and Akton.

As Elle and Stella explore the snowy terrain (for once, she’s not wearing a bikini), they lose track of time and are stuck right outside the ship.  However, inside the ship, Akton learns that green guy Thor is a traitor, secretly working for Count Zarth.  As Thor’s treason delays Stella and Elle’s return, Elle uses his own energy to keep a frozen Stella alive until Akton can retake the ship and kill Thor—which he does, of course, by the use of previously unseen Force powers and blaster resistance that he’s never used before (!?). 

Note: Akton’s unexplained magic Force power is full of shi—er, surprises.

“Set to defrost…”
Akton thaws Stella by using his unexplained, but extremely convenient powers…

With Thor dead, Akton quickly allows Elle and a frozen Stella back aboard. With Stella’s frosty form laid out on a table, Akton once again relies on his mysterious, all-too convenient and utterly unexplained Force powers to somehow thaw her out.  Waving a glowing energy beam generated from his hands over her body, we see (through an overly long series of fade-ins) the fake ice disappear, and her full face of makeup restored.  

Note: Maddeningly, we never learn the source of Akton’s powers, or even if he’s human. It’s alluded that he’s an alien of some kind, but nothing more.  Are Akton’s powers native to his species?  Can anyone tap into them?  Is it based on the midichlorian count of his blood?  None of this is ever explained, so if you’re hoping for answers to these kinds of questions, this is not your lucky day; then again, the same thing can be said if you’re stuck watching this film…

Captain Caveman.
Stella and L are ambushed by guys in really shabby prosthetic makeups…

After the beach and snow planets, the next and final planet on their quest is a backwards rocky world inhabited by brutal troglodytes with really bad hair, cheap prosthetic makeups, and wax-blackened teeth. Elle and Stella once again go out alone, with the now-magical Akton remaining behind to guard the ship.  Elle locates the crashed shuttle, which also has one survivor, who is quickly killed by a horde of the angry troglodyte natives, who also manage to destroy the robot cop Elle with their primitive weapons. The cavemen then kidnap Stella and taking her back to their caves as either dinner or a sacrifice (it’s never made clear, like everything else in this frustratingly dumb movie).

Note: Rumor has it that the movie’s location shoots also included Tunisia, which was incidentally, where many of the Tatooine sequences in “Star Wars” were shot. Total coincidence, I’m sure…

You’ll be hearing from Lucasfilm’s lawyers real soon.
Akton rescues Stella and Simon from a second wave of cavemen with a Jedi lightsaber???

Before she’s roasted alive, Stella is miraculously rescued by a mysterious stranger in a golden mask, who temporarily frightens the cavemen by kicking their troglodyte buttocks back into the Stone Age. As they beat a retreat, the mysterious masked man removes his helmet, and is revealed to be none other than David Hasselhoff.  Yes, “Knight Rider” and “Baywatch” veteran (and inexplicably popular German singing sensation) David Hasselhoff, who is playing a character named Simon.  Simon is the lone survivor from the crashed shuttle. Before long, they’re quickly surrounded by more cavemen, who’ve brought reinforcements (“the sandpeople are easily startled, but they’ll soon be back, and in greater numbers” once warned Obi-Wan Kenobi). However, before the pair are stuck on a troglodyte rotisserie, they’re rescued by the all-powerful Akton, who arrives wielding—I s#!t you not—an actual Star Wars lightsaberTM. Apparently, magic glow-sticks are just one trick too many for the primitive screwheads, who now run in fear from Akton. 

Note: I’m very surprised that director Luigi Cozzi never got a call from Lucasfilm’s army of lawyers, who previously went to town on Glen Larson’s “Battlestar Galactica” back in 1978 (though that suit was, ultimately, unsuccessful). It’s also possible Lucasfilm realized they’d get no money from this relatively obscure movie.

“I have decided to test this station’s destructive power on your home planet of Alderaan.”
Darth Zarth–er, Count Zarth Am meets Simon (David Hasselhoff), Akton and Stella.

Akton has more news for Stella and Simon, when he tells them that the planet they’re standing on also contains the hallowed-out hidden fortress where Count Zarth is keeping his galaxy-ending weapons stash (how he figures this out is pure poppycock, but sure, whatever). All they have to do now is get inside and blow it all up—easy peasy.  They find a hidden passageway, and make their way into the fortress (like the Death Star), before they’re predictably captured by a waiting Count Zarth and a squad of his troops.  Zarth once again monologues his plans to conquer the universe to our captured heroes, before leaving them in a locked chamber, that is being guarded only by Zarth’s two robot golems…

Note: Because leaving a squad of troops with the golems would be too rational, I guess? Mind you, Zarth’s men didn’t even pat down Simon or Akton for weapons…

Attack of the Clowns.
Underneath the caveman planet, Simon, Akton and Stella are ‘guarded’ by two inept robots.

Zarth will soon regret not patting the heroes down for weapons, since Akton produces his Star Wars lightsaberTM—which has mysteriously turned from blue to green now (?!). With an annoying smirk on his punchable face, Akton takes on the two stop-motion robot guards (who seem to change in scale a bit during the fight).  As Akton battles the two sword-wielding droids–er, ‘golems’ all by himself, Simon and Stella stand around and watch, like a pair of department store mannequins. One of the robots (who don’t carry blasters, for some reason) gets a lucky swing and wounds Akton in the shoulder…

On the next Baywatch Nights…
The Hoff shows a wounded Akton how to wield a lightsaber–a skill he acquired in lifeguard training, no doubt.

This is where Simon finally gets off his butt and grabs Akton’s lightsaber. Simon soon makes spare parts of the clunky stop-motion robots before the three heroes decide to get the hell out of Dodge. However, Akton is mortally wounded.  Simon offers to carry him out, but to no avail—our friend Akton also sees into the future (of course he does, right?) and states that this is his destiny.  Apparently, changing one’s destiny is also “against the law.”  Before Simon and Stella can carry him off to safety, Akton simply disappears in a glowing cloud of bad optical FX; sort of like Obi-Wan Kenobi becoming one with the Force in that other movie…

Note: So many questions about Akton and his clairvoyance. Is it ‘against the law’ to say “step a few degrees to your left so that falling piano doesn’t hit you”?  If so, then what is the point of clairvoyance if a user can only see their entire destiny and do nothing to alter it?  Once more, this movie is simply too rock-brained to even begin addressing such philosophical topics.

“Here I come to save the daaaaaayyyy!”
The Emperor (Christopher Plummer) arrives with troops and a convenient time-stopping device (naturally).

Simon and Stella begin to exit the chamber, when they hear sounds of more troops arriving—however, the troops are Imperial, and the Emperor himself walks right on in.  Simon smiles, and says, “Father!” A surprised Stella (who’s not terribly bright, I’m afraid) then realizes this well-coiffured companion of hers is also the very Prince she’d been looking for.  Apparently, Zarth and his men left the planet to attend to their battle plans for galactic domination, leaving the Emperor’s forces to retake the planet.  Simon tells his dad that the planet’s munitions have been set to detonate in less than 45 seconds, to which pops replies that it’s been taken care of. The Emperor has his orbiting spaceship direct a very convenient time-freezing ray at the planet (“STOP TIME!” the Emperor commands), which will halt the countdown for exactly three minutes, allowing them juuuust enough leeway to escape. 

Note: Um…okay. If time itself is stopped, how exactly are the Emperor’s forces able to escape?  Do our heroes somehow exist outside of spacetime?  More importantly, why isn’t this magical time-freezing weapon put to more strategic use later on in the movie?

“Ladies and gentleman, give them a BIG hand.”
Zarth Vader–er, Am’s space mitt is great for catching infield asteroids.

Meanwhile, Zarth is back aboard his catcher’s-mitt spaceship, planning his conquest of the galaxy.  The Emperor’s forces are also preparing to attack the Count’s vessel. When a squad of the Emperor’s fighter ships are completely destroyed by Zarth’s lasers, the desperate ruler resorts to launching one-man, sex-toy shaped spacecraft in kamikaze runs right into Zarth’s ship… 

Note: I guess proton torpedoes firing up the Death Star’s single exhaust port wasn’t quite sexual enough; “Starcrash” goes one better by literally launching tiny phallic-spaceships into the waiting “hand” of Zarth’s ship.  Oh dear god…

The Emperor’s kamikaze sex toys prove no match for Zarth-Am’s forces…

One by one, the phallic ships penetrate—huhuh—Zarth’s mothership, and the armed troops inside of them quickly disembark, only to be shot down by Zarth’s waiting soldiers.  With all of his fighters and kamikaze troops killed, a desperate Emperor hatches one last plan to save both his reign and the universe itself; the Starcrash. The Starcrash plan involves evacuating a nearby space city (a giant kit-bashed miniature aglow in Christmas/disco lights), which will then be rammed directly into Zar’s mothership in a “4th dimensional attack” (wuuuut??).

Note: It’s really tough to keep a straight face when Zarth walks along the bridge of his ship, surveying the dead troops—along with several of the phallic-shaped, golden kamikaze ships lying around. The phallic-craft are almost dead ringers for the lead spaceship of “Emperor Wang” in the 1974 soft-core porn parody, “Flesh Gordon.” 

The titular “Starcrash” sets a disco-lit model kit to collide with Zarth’s space mitt in a ‘4th dimensional’ attack…whatever the hell any of that means.

With the city-ship evacuated in record time, Simon takes the vessel’s controls, with Stella going outside in a remarkably flimsy-looking spacesuit and bubble-helmet to do something or another. Simon remains aboard until just before impact, and then ejects from the city-ship in a shuttlecraft to pick up a waiting Stella. The giant city-ship—locked on its suicidal course—is then rammed into Zarth’s vessel, which seems to have forgotten how to do evasive maneuvers.  Both ships are destroyed in a shower of cheap-looking cosmic sparks, and the galaxy is saved.  

Note: Once again, the Emperor is free to run his barbaric prison colonies, and other despotic things that no one will ever talk about, I’m sure…

Stella Star saves the galaxy, and is rescued by Prince Mitch Buchanan…

Simon rescues Stella, who appears right outside his ship’s window, and massively out of scale (the optical compositing of the actress and the ship’s window make her appear eight feet tall). Simon lets her in, and they embrace. Once back aboard the Emperor’s ship, Stella is given yet another surprise when her robotic friend Elle is back aboard as well, fully repaired and restored with the latest electronics; “I feel like a new machine,” Elle says with his American Southern accent.

Note: Hmmm, the hero’s trusty robotic sidekick is fully repaired just in time for the big victory celebration during the movie’s climax. Now, that does seem vaguely familiar…

Prince Simon and Stella Star are going to have serious clashes over who gets to use the ring light…

The Emperor then delivers a dull little victory speech, with all the energy of grandpa ordering pancakes at IHOP on a sleepy Sunday morning before church:   “Well, it’s done. It’s happened. The stars are clear. The planets shine. We’ve won. Some dark force, no doubt, will show its face once more. The wheel will always turn; but for now it’s calm. And for a little time, at least, we can rest.”

So ends Luigi Cozzi’s “Starcrash.”

Note: One last thing I meant to comment on earlier; David Hasselhoff wears a frightening amount of eyeshadow and eyeliner in this movie. Granted, all of the actors in “Starcrash” are wearing a metric ton of makeup, but Hasselhoff’s wearing almost as much as his costar Caroline Munro.  Not even kidding.  It’s downright Goth at times.

Summing It Up

This 90 minute movie, despite jumping frantically from set-piece to set-piece, still manages to feel sluggish, since the novelty of its late-‘70s space battles (however poorly executed) has long since worn off.  Even as unfiltered high camp, “Starcrash” doesn’t work. The best examples of camp are clever and self-aware; “Starcrash” is neither. It also lacks the self-effacing humor to be enjoyed as parody, a la Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs” (1987). Even Caroline Munro’s much-ballyhooed space bikinis lack the audacity and sheer gaudiness of Jane Fonda’s wardrobe in “Barbarella” (1968).

Star Bores.
Stella, Akton and Prince Simon are three of the dullest space heroes ever.

The most generous praise I have for Luigi Cozzi’s cobbled-together mess of a movie is that it has some surprisingly strong (however wasted) talent onboard, including inexplicable support from Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music” “Star Trek VI,” “Knives Out”) and an undeserved musical score by no less than legendary composer John Barry (“Dr. No,” “Goldfinger,” “Somewhere In Time,” “Dances With Wolves”).  The rest is a disco-lit train wreck. Italian director Luigi Cozzi (aka “Lewis Coates”) claims to have began preproduction on the film before Star Wars, but this is questionable at best, since the $4 million movie officially went before cameras in Rome in October of 1977—nearly half a year after George Lucas’s space opus. 

“Uh, a little help here, guys?!?”

While Star Wars is clearly the movie’s main influence, there are also obvious swipes from Ray Harryhausen’s “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963), as well as William Cameron Menzies’ “Invaders from Mars” (1953).  Ironically, “Starcrash” arguably comes somewhat closer to George Lucas’ initial idea for Star Wars; a salute to the low-budget “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon” serials that Lucas enjoyed as a kid.  Unfortunately, this is not meant as a compliment. “Starcrash” retains the worst of those old 1930s serials (childish scripts, subpar acting, etc), without meeting even their lowest thresholds of suspense or adventure.  The amateurish visuals of “Starcrash” are nowhere near strong enough to cover the poor excuse for a script, which relies so heavily on deus ex machina conveniences as to be laughable. I’ve seen episodes of “Gumby” with tighter plotting than this…

Despite its earnestness, “Starcrash” is a subpar Star Wars-knockoff without the wit, the charm, or the spaceballs to make an honest go of it. 

Where To Watch

“Starcrash” is available to stream for free (with ads) on Plex, Pluto and Tubi. You can also stream the movie with a YouTube Premium subscription (ad-free), or you can rent/purchase a digital copy from iTunes or Amazon PrimeVideo (prices vary). You can also purchase the movie on DVD/BluRay from Amazon as well.

Images: IMDb, New World Pictures.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Knowing how inevitably Star Wars would inspire so much in space-age sci-fi, the fact that one of the worst examples like Starcrash would come about so soon after the first Star Wars release is a lesson in how much more thoughtful the creative powers must be. Especially when casting such distinguished talents like Christopher Plummer, who would thankfully right afterwards find the most satisfying redemption as Sherlock Holmes in Murder By Decree. Then very rewardingly in space-age sci-fi as General Chang in Star Trek VI.

    Whatever possessed the filmmakers to make Starcrash (at least the way it was), and particularly during the 70s when sci-fi probably made its most maturing headway, may be enigmatic at best. But thankfully the ultimate inspirations of Star Wars would still be treated more thoughtfully in other projects to come. Thank you for your review.

    1. Thanks Mike.
      And yes, Plummer was great in “Murder By Decree.” Excellent movie.

  2. I remember watching Starcrash on TV in the early 1980s when I was a kid a thinking it was great. Well, several months ago I found it on YouTube, I watched it, and adult me realized that, nope, it was actually awful.

    1. How badly I wanted to see it theatrically when I was a kid. As they say “be careful what you wish for…” 🤪

      1. If you had seen it in the theater when you were a kid you probably would have liked it… but then you would have had the same experience that I did, waiting years for a chance to watch it again, only to find out that, nope, it’s not a good movie.

  3. ghostof82 says:

    Yeah, its terrible and only goes to show how impressive Star Wars really was, but hey… Caroline Munro.

    1. Can’t argue with that. 😂

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