Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about “Battle Beyond the Stars”?
Back in the good old days, (Pre Internet and On Demand streaming video.) when one was struck with insomnia, the closest thing to a remedy would be a cup of tea, a slice of pie and a cheesy B-Movie on the TV. Nothing too taxing or heavy. Just a fun cheesy flick to pass the time while your brain tries to figure out a way to make itself lose conciseness before it begins to spontaneously generate illusions of snakes coming out of the walls and shooting lasers out of their asses. (That’s right, your sleepless mind can conceive of snakes with laser asses! Chew on that for a while, Dr. Freud!)
And as your sub-conscious tries to play St. Patrick, your conscious mind is watching the movie and grooving on it. It’s not brilliant or profound. But it looks like the filmmakers gave enough of a shit to make it special. “It ain’t Kubrick”, your conscious mind thinks to itself (While your sub-conscious wields a baseball bat and a mirror.) “but it swings.”
“Battle Beyond The Stars” is almost the platonic ideal of that film.
Well, this past week, I caught up with “Starcrash”. And it’s an Italian Space Opera from 1979 which the makers also tried to make special and succeeded.
Unfortunately, they made it special in the “Developmentally Challenged” sense of the word.
(And since I know that the word “Retarded” has hateful connotations, please forgive me film nerds for being what you would call an “Overly PC pussy” but I would call respectful to children who suffer from neurological issues and say that “Starcrash” is very Developmentally Challenged. Now, Rush Limbaugh saying that Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” was designed to embarrass Mitt Romney? That’s fucking retarded!)
Here’s the plot synopsis from the Netflix page:
Sexy space smuggler Stella Starr and her partner, Akton, set out on a mission to save the son of the Emperor of the Galaxy in this racy sci-fi flick. Stella and Akton go up against a host of villains as they attempt to stop the evil Count Zarth Arn.
And you know what? It’s as good a synopsis as you’re going to get.
Not that it matters. This was clearly made to cash in on the space craze that was ushered in by “Star Wars” in 77 and I will bet you dollars for donuts that this was the pitch.
Let’s make a film just like “Star Wars”. But instead of a farm boy, let’s make the hero a female smuggler. And let’s replace the mythological undertones with a lot of skimpy outfits.
At which point, someone yelled “Brilliant, let’s break for lunch”. And then everyone in the office wrote the script while eating. And then sent the script to a translation service so they could send it out to american talent. But the staff of that office came down with a case of food poisoning, leaving as it’s only translator, a seventy-eight year old lady with dyslexia and cataracts but who was still allowed to work there because of her minor celebrity. (In her younger days, she’d once given Mussolini a hand job.)
At least, I hope that’s how it happened. That strikes me as the most romantic version of events.
“Starcrash” has the sort of brazen disregard for basic cinematic storytelling that if it were applied to any other aspect of any other industry would result in an untold number of deaths. Dialogue that would make George Lucas wince. And special effects that are like the food at a mid-level Vegas casino buffet. Not great but plenty of them.
It also has one of the more bizarre casts to grace a grade Z space flick.
-Caroline Munro. (“The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad” and “The Spy Who Loved Me”.) A lovely actress who had no problem with skimpy or clingy outfits and who was badly served by an atrocious dubbing job.
-Former Pentecostal preacher turned actor Marjoe Gortner who has ill-defined powers that come and go by the whims of the plot. Most of these powers I’m guessing came from his magnificent Man-Fro.
-Hamilton Camp as a robot cop who’s accent suggest that he spent the better part of his early career trying to stop The Bandit from running beer from Texarkana.
-David Hasselhoff as…oh, I don’t even need to finish the damn sentence. For fuck’s sakes, It’s David Hasselhoff!
-Joe Spinell as Count Zarth Arn. The most ineffectual interstellar tyrant this side of Krankor.
-And Christopher Plummer as the Prince of the Galaxy. A role for which I’m guessing his only preparation was to call some friends and ask where to find the best restaurants in Rome. To this day, I suspect that when people ask him about this movie, he tries to change the subject to “The Sound of Music”.
And to top it off, you have a score by of all people, JOHN FREAKING BARRY! The Bond films. “Out of Africa”…yeah, that guy!
I can just imagine how the producer was able to get him on board.
John…how you doing. Long time, no see. Yeah…not since that crazy night in Soho last year. You remember those two birds we picked up? Yeah, you remember the one who had to go to the hospital...you owe me, mate!
Again, I don’t think this actually happened like this. It just strikes me as the most romantic version of events.
Make no mistake, “Starcrash” is a terrible movie. But what makes it worth watching is that it’s gleefully terrible! It’s as shameless as a middle-aged muffin-topped stripper still working the pole. And as crazy as an eight year old boy who’s eaten a whole bag of mini snickers and then given a box of fireworks.
You’ve got low rent space battles, stop motion robots, Amazons played by stoned European models, torpedos smashing into windows of spaceships and not causing instant decompression! (Even as an uncritical teenager, that scene struck me as unspeakably dumb on a level that would remain unmatched until the rise of Fox News.)
It tries so hard to be a badass space opera and fails so miserably that after it’s over, you’ll want to take the cast and crew out for Pizza to try to cheer them up.
Yes, “Starcrash” is just like your old Little League Softball team. There’s a pull quote for the poster if there ever was one.
For being so endearingly incompetent, “Starcrash” is our Netflix pick of the week.
In the comments, what your favorite films that’s so bad, you can’t believe that professional adults made it.