The lasting peace of the galaxy is threatened by the diabolical and relentless Count Zarth Arn (cult icon Joe Spinell, Rocky, The Godfather and The Godfather - Part II), who is determined to take the universe for himself and make each planet his plaything, each inhabitant his slave. There is no question that the Count is evil, given his propensity for cackling at every opportunity.
Can anyone save the universe from this megalomaniacal madman? Indeed there is, and she’s quite a beauty.
Brave, bikini-clad star warrior Stella Star (Caroline Munro, The Spy Who Loved Me, At the Earth’s Core) and her co-pilot Akton (child evangelist-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner, Food of the Gods, Mausoleum) are pressed into service to thwart the evil Zarth Arn’s plot. If they succeed, galactic peace will be achieved. If they fail, the universe will fall into decay and destruction at the hands of its sadistic new overlord.
Have no fear, because Stella Star is here!
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Before finding fame on 'Knight Rider' and in between his regular gig at 'The Young and the Restless,' David Hasselhoff flew to the stars in hopes of making his feature-film breakthrough with the outer space adventure dreck 'Starcrash.' Although he doesn't make his appearance known until the second half of the movie, it's not difficult to quickly spot him among the bizarre troupe of characters — what, with all the heavy make-up and sporting a bitchin' feathered perm. Frankly, it's amazing he ever landed another acting job after this portrayal as the brave, lost son of the benevolent Emperor of the Galaxy. Then again, I doubt many casting directors — or anyone else for that matter — have had the pleasure of seing this unintentionally hysterical mess of sci-fi schlock.
Hasselhoff stars alongside Caroline Munro ('The Spy Who Loved Me,' 'Maniac,' 'Captain Kronos') as the sassy and, ahem, highly sensual space smuggler Stella Star. Actually, the very lovely Ms. Munro is the main attraction of this flick. Apologies to Das Hoff, but Stella Star's scanty wardrobe, which at times is next to nothing, tends to draw the eyes of male viewers. In fact, the only other female characters seen throughout the entire feature are on a remote planet inhabited by Amazonian women in skimpy uniforms. There's even a really funny catfight sequence that's worth the price of admission alone. For most of the movie, I don't think I even bothered to pay much attention to Munro's acting skills. I was too preoccupied with Stella's prison outfit of black rubber bands to care at all.
And wouldn't you know it. Right when I'm digging the prison garb, the filmmakers suddenly decide to mix things up with what's supposed to resemble a plot. Stella Star and her first-mate Akton (Marjoe Gortner), who's some really weird psychic competing with Hasselhoff for best man perm, are pardoned of their crimes as long as they agree to help find the Emperor's son and locate the secret weapon of the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinelli). Now, here's the real shocker in this whole silly fiasco. The Emperor is played by none other than the award-winning, highly-respected actor Christopher Plummer. That's right! Captain von Trapp of 'The Sound of Music,' who decades-later portrayed the celebrated author Leo Tolstoy in 'The Last Station,' is seen here mucking it up in this horribly hilarious script about inner galactic battles with space stations.
Probably even more shocking is the award-winning composer John Barry ('From Russia with Love,' 'Goldfinger,' 'Dances with Wolves,' 'Out of Africa,' 'Midnight Cowboy,' 'Zulu') agreeing to write the score for this movie. And surprisingly, it's not bad given the limited resources, but it does add another layer of unintended humor to this low-budget camp. Every time we see the staggering, shaky movements of the miniature spaceships with strings and the black sticks attached to them clearly visible, you laugh harder because the music is obviously in a whole other dimension. Added to that, viewers are forced to watch some wannabe Ray Harryhausen stop-motion fight sequences which are oddly the best special effects in the entire picture.
'Starcrash' is an Italian-made production from director Luigi Cozzi ('Hercules (1983),' 'Contamination') and considered by many as a 'Star Wars' rip off, which is not entirely accurate. Sure, certain plot elements are apparent, like a lightsaber fight, a cool space pirate turned accidental hero and a superweapon disguised as a planet-sized space station, but the flick is really more than that, trying to capitalize on the sudden popularity of sci-fi adventure tales. It's a strange hodgepodge of the George Lucas movie, 'Flash Gordon' and 'Forbidden Planet' with a storyline comparable to 'Jason and the Argonauts,' including two action scenes that seem to have been taken directly from that 1963 fantasy classic. The Z-grade debacle is simply a special effects extravaganza with all the "extra" but none of the "vaganza." It's fun for some cheap laughs, but not much else.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings 'Starcrash' to Blu-ray as a two-disc Special Edition under the Roger Corman's Cult Classics label. The first disc is a Region Free BD25 disc with the main feature and some of the extras while the second is a DVD-9, containing the rest of the extras. They're housed on opposing panels in an eco-lite vortex keepcase with reversible cover art showing two modern takes of the original posters. Inside, owners will find an 11-page booklet featuring a lengthy and interesting essay by author Stephen Romano entitled "All the Stars in the Universe." At startup, the disc goes straight to the distributor's standard menu selection with music and full-motion clips playing in the background.
The Italian sci-fi disaster crash lands onto Blu-ray with a decent picture that has its moments as well as various drawbacks related to the quality of the source. At its best, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1) shows terrific detailing in the miniatures, the cheesy costumes and the interiors of spaceships. Wrinkles and trivial blemishes on the faces of actors are often apparent, especially in close-up, while individual hairs atop their heads are distinct, visible, and quite often feathered (but that's beside the point!). Colors are fairly bright and accurate with good variation in the secondary hues. Contrast is in good standing order for the most part, but it does tend to dull and drab from time to time. Black levels are more consistent and surprisingly strong throughout.
At its worst, the transfer shows many moments of weak resolution and softness with several instances of dirt and scratches in the video. Granted, a great deal of these moments are in conjunction with the numerous optical and visual effects. But they're bad enough to draw away from the picture's better aspects. Grain understandably spikes during these sequences, and the image flattens with poor contrast. Still, considering its low-budget origins and the antiquated special effects, 'Starcrash' makes a worthy and respectable appearance on Blu-ray.
The real shocker here — other than the flick, of course — is the unexpectedly good DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This isn't exactly the next greatest thing in high-resolution audio or anything of the sort, but for a low-budget schlockfest originally recorded in stereo, this is a somewhat impressive audio presentation that shockingly adds entertainment value to the silliness.
Imaging is expansive and spacious, with fairly attractive directionality and fine balance in the soundstage. The mid-range is stable and consistent, with nice clarity during the many action sequences involving lasers. Bass isn't very extensive, but it's amazingly deep and effective when certain scenes require it. Conversations and voices are well-prioritized in the mix and intelligible throughout, and the several instances of ADR are made more apparent. On occasion, discrete effects are heard in the surround speakers, except they're not very convincing but enough to create an amusing soundscape. John Barry's musical score fares much better at enhancing the soundfield and engaging the listener. All things considered, the lossless track for 'Starcrash' is generally pleasing and unexpectedly good.
For this new Blu-ray release, Shout! Factory has gathered an impressive and exhaustive collection of supplements, most of which are offered for the first time on the home video market. The second disc is filled with a great assortment of new and never-before-seen material that should make fans very happy.
- Audio Commentaries — This is the first I've seen anything like this where two completely separate commentary tracks with the same person are offered. They both feature a discussion with screenwriter, co-producer of this DVD/Blu-ray and No.1 fan of 'Starcrash' Stephen Romano. The title of the first track pretty much gives away what is expected from Romano's child-like enthusiasm for the movie, which tries to revere this low-budget fantasy as a culturally significant art piece of cinematic history. While the history and topic makes for an interesting discussion, the overall argument ultimately fails to convince this B-movie and Exploitation fanatic.
The second audio track is another talkative and surprisingly informative conversation, offering viewers many behind-the-scenes anecdotes and production trivia. It's very scene-specific with notes on how special effects were done and explanation on the costuming. The various comments about the set design and general look of the movie are accompanied gushy remarks over their quality and sometimes ingenious use. Overall, both tracks are entertaining, but in all honesty, their enjoyment depends on the level of enjoyment of the movie itself.
- Interview with Luigi Cozzi (1080i/60, 41 min) — This lengthy interview segment sees the writer and director surrounded by movie memorabilia while discussing the history and making of 'Starcrash.' He also provides some interesting tidbits about the production, his love of the genre, the movie's reception, and thoughts about a sequel.
- The Music of John Barry (HD, 13 min) — With commentary by founder of Deadhouse Music and horror composer Mars, the piece is a talk about how John Barry came to compose the score and what he was trying to achieve.
- Photo Galleries (HD) — Five separate collections of stills that can be watched individually or in sequence. The illustrations range from storyboards and production design to promo material and fan artwork.
- Trailers (HD) — Four theatrical previews are collected in this section. Two of them feature commentary by Joe Dante and Eli Roth, and the French trailer (1080i/60) is good for a quick laugh. Finishing the package is a TV commercial and a radio spot.
- Interview with Caroline Munro (SD, 73 min) — This very long interview has the lovely actress talking about her career, from her humbling beginnings as a model in the late 60s and her first acting contract with Hammer Films to when she was cast for 'Starcrash.' Certainly, best part of the conversation is Ms. Munro reminiscing on her experience on the production, behind-the-scenes anecdotes and working with the cast. As a side note, producers of the DVD really should take care of spelling the actress' name before releasing it to purchase.
- Making of the Special Effects by Armondo Valcauda (SD, 24 min) — While classic vaudeville music plays in the background, this amusing assortment of still photographs tells the tale of the animator's career and how he found work in the Italian film industry. It's a great watch, especially for some of the stop-motion scenes that never made it to the final cut of the movie. The short was made by the special effects director of 'Starcrash' himself.
- Behind the Scenes Footage (SD, 20 min) — Stephen Romano shares his personal collection of very rough and aged footage while also providing commentary that explains what is being seen on screen.
- Deleted and Alternate Takes (SD, 37 min) — 17 rather fascinating scenes are assembled here and play sequentially with white text before each sequence. Most interesting is that it features the five minutes trimmed at Roger Corman's request for American audiences, which includes an alternate opening with moving subtitle text similar to those seen at the beginning of 'Star Wars.'
- Original Screenplay — Finally, the disc comes with a PDF attachment only accessible via a PC or Mac. The final shooting script includes storyboards, production stills and some surprisingly cool illustrated concept art. Stephen Romano also typed a few personal annotations throughout, making this pretty nice addition to the entire package.
'Starcrash' is unintentionally hilarious sci-fi fantasy schlock, one of the first attempts at capitalizing on the 'Star Wars' fad. The Z-grade drive-in feature stars Caroline Munro, David Hasselhoff, and Christopher Plummer. The Blu-ray arrives with a decent picture transfer, surprisingly good audio, and best of all, a wealth of supplements that will have many wishing all releases were treated as graciously. Ultimately, the package is for fans of the movie only or cult enthusiasts who can truly appreciate the guilty pleasure and spectacle of really bad movies.
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