Science fiction became box office gold in the late ‘70s with the arrival of Star Wars. No longer was the genre reduced to kiddie matinees or midnight TV slots and no longer had to be cerebral like 2001 A Space Odyssey and Silent Running to get attention. The kids that clamored for Han Solo needed more action with lasers flying and spaceships zipping. The studios revived Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers to cash in on the rage. Roger Corman couldn’t be left on the sidelines. He landed the distribution deal for StarCrash, an Italian movie with an international cast. The movie proved to be as valuable as a sack of moon rocks.
You can always tell when a critic is clueless when they describe StarCrash as merely a cheap Star Wars knock off; it owes more to Jane Fonda’s Barbarella than George Lucas’s space opera. The hero isn’t a clueless farmboy that gets launched into saving the universe. She’s a hot woman that enjoys wearing seductive costumes while encountering freaky aliens, even battling other hot outer space women. Both StarCrash and Barbarella were made in Italy so they share the all dialogue recorded in post production feel.
Stella Star (Caroline Munro) is a smuggler zipping around in her ship with co-pilot Akton (Marjoe Gortner of Earthquake fame). Her illegal exploits get her busted and sentenced to a prison planet. Her sentence is commuted when the Emperor (Sound of Music‘s Christopher Plumber) needs her to go after the evil Count Zarth Arn (Godfather‘s Joe Spinell). Not only has he built a fierce mega-weapon, the Count might have kidnapped the Emperor’s son (a young David Hasselhoff). In order to keep an eye on her, she’s assigned a robot that talks like Slim Pickens. There’s plenty of space chases, laser explosions and robot battles to keep the story clicking along even if it is a twisted path.
No matter what you think of the special effects the best thing on the screen is Caroline Munroe in her various bikini and heels wardrobe. She’s a sexy icon of ‘70s cinema having appeared in various Hammer Films, James Bond’s The Spy Who Loved Me and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Stella Star lets her fully show off her action chops as she dashes around the screen. There’s also something about a film that lets Joe Spinell look dapper instead of dumpy. He wasn’t exactly a suave guy in The Godfather, Taxi Driver or Rocky. He doesn’t compete with the tandem hairdos of Gortner and Hasselhoff, however, as their curly locks will shock and amaze audience unimpressed by the giant robot battle.
StarCrash is a fantastic voyage with superstar power fueling the science fiction action. Sure the effects aren’t quite up to snuff with big Hollywood budgets, but there’s a charm to them. The score by John Barry helps elevate the production level with its Thunderball swells. This is the perfect night’s entertainment for those who want more than the original movies on the SyFy channel. StarCrash might be cheesy, but it’s imported cheese.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the beauty of Caroline Munro without exposing all the tricks to the special effects. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound and the original 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo mix. The Italian production features other actors doing most of the cast’s voices. This means the lips might not match in certain scenes. The levels are good enough to get the impact of John Barry’s score.
Audio Commentaries include two from Stephen Romero. The first has him give the history and context of the film. The second track has him breaking down the scenes. He was going to write a book, but his knowledge is better served here.
Interview with Luigi Cozzi (41:21) gives the story of how he came to make the film. He speaks English as well as Lewis Coates. Turns out Corman didn’t think the audience was ready for a Sci-Fi flick made by an Italian.
The Music of John Barry: Commentary of the Score by Composer Mars of Deadhouse Music (12:55) is a short discussion of what the man behind the Bond soundtracks did in outer space.
Theatrical Trailer (2:36) focuses on all the action without explaining the plot. Joe Dante provides a commentary track since he edited it.
17 Deleted and Alternate Scenes (36:34) contains numerous moments that were clipped by Roger Corman. They rescue the lost moments from an international print. Nothing here truly feels like a cinematic crime of splicing. This has always been a PG film so there’s no special European scenes.
Theatrical Trailer with Eli Roth (2:57) is from Trailersfromhell.com. Roth doesn’t add much about the film compared to Dante.
French Trailer (2:57) attempts to tell the story, but it comes back to teasing up with Munroe in the swim suit.
TV Spot (0:31) demands we prepare ourselves.
Radio Spot (1:31) is narrated by Ernie Anderson. You might remember him as the voice of ABC that hyped The Love Boat. His son is Paul Thomas Anderson.
Interview with Caroline Munro (72:56) is a extensive interview with the ‘70s icon. She’s still looking good although she wasn’t willing to put on her original wardrobe.
Making of the Special Effects by Armondo Valcauda (23:58) is a unique history of Valcaudo’s education on how to make movie magic while far away from Hollywood. He did correspond with Ray Harryhausen and Disney’s Ward Kimball as inspiration. He worked on small projects and commercials before becoming the spaghetti version of Industrial Light and Magic. Instead of speaking, he gives English captions on the screen.
Behind the Scenes Footage with Commentary (19:47) is extremely grainy black and white footage. There’s coverage of Caroline in the outfit stuck in quicksand.
Photo Galleries contains Designs, Storyboard, Behind-the-Scenes, Promotional Artwork and Fan Artwork.
Original Screenplay is a pdf file. You can download the script that’s illustrated with storyboard and concept art. There was a script.
StarCrash: Roger Corman’s Cult Classic 2-Disc Collector’s Edition is a guilty pleasure to fans of low budget sci-fi. Caroline Munro is the major selling point as she prances across the galaxy. She’s hotter than Princess Leia and her cinnamon bun hairdo. Stephen Romero’s passion for the movie really makes this a special edition. At the end of these two discs you might believe StarCrash is better than Star Wars.
Shout! Factory presents StarCrash: Roger Corman’s Cult Classic 2-Disc Collector’s Edition . Directed by: Luigi Cozzi. Starring: Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, Joe Spinell and David Hasselhoff . Written by: Luigi Cozzi, Nat Wachsberger and R.A. Dillon. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: September 14, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.