The population of the universe is split into two factions, one under the beleaguered Emperor (Christopher Plummer), and the other under his rival, the evil Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell). One of the Empire's spacecraft searching for his secret weapon is caught by a mysterious force that wipes out most of the crew, and only three launches manage to escape, landing on "haunted" planets. Meanwhile, smugglers Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and her colleague Akton (Marjoe Gortner) are being pursued by the police in their own spaceship, but by keeping their wits about them and some expert flying, they manage to evade capture. Arriving in a remote part of the universe, they discover a disabled ship floating aimlessly in space - it's one of the launches...
Hm. Does Starcrash remind you of anything? A huge spaceship soaring overhead to start off the action? A scroll of too-fast-to-read text to fill in the story background? Dogfights in outer space? Roguish criminals enlisted to help in the battle against the dark side? A comedy robot sidekick? A light sabre duel? A massive space station capable of destroying planets? A villain called Darth Vader? No wait, that's Star Wars, this is Starcrash, an in no way similar movie - it has bouncing cavemen - that pays homage to the science fiction serials of the past, but mostly rips off the George Lucas epic that made all that money. To be fair, Starcrash, scripted by director Luigi Cozzi and co-producer Nat Wachsberger, is hardly the only cash in to emerge from the late seventies-early eighties, and it is one of the better ones.
Well, "better" if your idea of better is more camp, a hell of a lot cheaper, and a lot more difficult to take seriously. It's no Flash Gordon, that's for sure, but does have a certain ramshackle charm in its high-spirited efforts to keep up with the other, bigger budgeted competition - even Battlestar Galactica looked slick on TV compared with this. The plot is perfunctory to say the least, barely an excuse for the running around and the extremely colourful setpieces, most of which involve Munro in a selection of skimpy, Barbarella-style outfits (which she gets away with in a way that only she can) and placed in peril. Her friend Akton (named after his birthplace, perhaps?) does very little, probably because Gortner wasn't available for the location shooting.
After finding a survivor aboard the launch, Stella and Akton ponder what their next move should be, but have that question swiftly answered when the rozzers catch up with them and send them to prison. Just when you think there's a whole jailbird subplot opening up, Stella escapes after about two minutes and the prison explodes in a riot. She's then picked up by the same policemen who take her to see a hologram of the Emperor (Plummer either looking very tired or very embarrassed), which tells both her and Akton that they have to track down the other launches and his own lost son, or else it spells the end of the noble Empire (in Star Wars the Empire are the baddies - see how different this is?).
Along their quest, the space duo are doublecrossed, but make a great friend in the robot companion Elle; now with a name like that you'd expect it to sport a sultry, female voice but Elle sounds like he's been rejected from The Dukes of Hazzard. Not only that, but Akton reveals he has superpowers of a suspiciously Force-like nature (is Gortner anyone's idea of a superhero? I know he used to talk to God, but really...), and one of the planets they visit has a rip-off of Talos from Jason and the Argonauts on it - plus some Amazons for good measure. Never pausing for breath, Starcrash dives headlong into the clichés, and when David Hasselhoff turns up sporting even more eyeliner than Munro, you know this tacky bauble of a film can provide reluctantly-admitted entertainment. The Starcrash of the title, incidentally, is shown to be quite a lot like a real crash. Only in space, of course. Music by John Barry, believe it or not.
Italian director of low budget horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Like many of his countrymen, Cozzi was quick to leap on the back of whatever Hollywood films were currently winning at the box office, hence films 'inspired' by Star Wars (Starcrash), Alien (Contamination), Conan (Hercules) and so on. Directed the 1991 Dario Argento documentary Master of Horror, and has worked on several Argento films over the years, including Two Evil Eyes and The Stendhal Syndrome. The pair also co-own the Rome-based movie shop Profondo Rosso.