Title: Star Crash (1978)
Director/Writer: Luigi Cozzi (aka Lewis Coates)
Cast: Caroline Monroe, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhof, Joe Spinell
For lovers of cheesy b-movies, Luigi Cozzi’s Star Crash is like the long lost Holy Grail of cheesy space operas. I’d been hearing about it for years and years, and I was dying to finally get a glimpse of it. Thankfully, Shout! Factory has just released it on a jam packed double disc special edition as part of their “Roger Corman Cult Classics” collection. Finally I was going to get to see what has been labeled for years and years as the “Italian Star-Wars”! The film that had David Hasselhof battling stop motion animation robots with a light saber! That’s right, Knight Rider wielding a light saber! Hey, I’d buy that for a dollar! And I did! I finally got my hands on this special edition dvd. Question is, after all the expectation and the wait, was it all worth it? Or was I building up my hopes for something that was ultimately going to disappoint me? Read on…
Caroline Monroe channeling Jane Fonda as best she can
For those that are not up to date on how a lot of Italian genre films were made during the 70’s and 80’s, here’s a bit of news for you: most of the Italian genre films from the 70’s and 80’s were rip-offs of successful American films. And so it went something like this: Alien spawned a film called Contamination (1980), JAWS made way for Great White (1981), Clash of the Titans and Conan spawned Conquest (1983), The Exorcist’s Italian antichrist baby was called Beyond the Door (1974), Escape from New York mutated to 1990 Bronx Warriors (1982) and these are just some of many rip offs that were produced. Actually, if you ever have time in your hands, go ahead and try and find out just how many Escape from New York Italian rip off’s exist, it’ll take you a while. Star Crash comes to us as a direct result of Star Wars. Like Star Wars, Star Crash (notice the similarity in the title?) is a space opera, it’s got light sabers and it’s got villains who want to destroy worlds. We get lightsabers and chatty robot companions. You could safely say that for every character in Star Wars you can find its Italian counter part in Star Crash. The producers had money in their minds, and doing a Star Wars rip off was definitely the way to go for them.
Any similarities with the poster for Star Wars is purely coincidental
But director Luigi Cozzi had other ideas in mind. Like any self respecting director, Cozzi didn’t want to rip-off or re-make anything. Most directors hate the idea of walking over tired territory. Most directors will want to do something different. Influenced by the films they love, but not exactly the same. And so, this is why Star Crash, though groomed to be a Star Wars rip off by its producers actually ended up being more of a homage to Barbarella (1968) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963), two films that influenced Luigi Cozzi as a filmmaker. One can definitely see the influence of both of these films on Star Crash. Caroline Monroe walks around the first half of the film in a skimpy bathing suit, emulating Jane Fonda’s revealing attire in Barbarella. Funny story about that: half way through filming, American investors asked Cozzi to change Monroe’s attire. They didn’t want her to be so revealing because they wanted to be able to play the movie on television and where afraid they weren’t going to be able to do that if Monroe was walking practically naked through out the whole film. And so, this is why about halfway through the movie, suddenly we don’t see so much of Miss Monroe’s attributes anymore. Bummer. Curse those damn producers!
There are a lot of funny stories involved with this production, for example, David Hasselhof kicked an Italian actors tooth right off while filming a fight sequence! Hasselhof’s character and Caroline Munroe’s characters were supposed to kiss during the last scene of the film but didn’t because the actor playing the robot was actually Monroe’s husband! Hasselhof got food poisoning while filming in Italy and so some of his scenes involve his character wearing a giant mask, because it wasn’t him acting beneath it! But by far, the funniest thing in this movie is the films dialog. To start things off, Stella Star (the character Munroe plays) is always accompanied by a robot that talks like he is a honky tonk cowboy with a Southern accent! In fact, he behaves like a cowboy holding his two guns as if he was a character from a Sergio Leone movie. Many compare this film to a Spaghetti western, and they aren’t far from the truth.
"I got my eye on you Hasselhoff! Keep your hands off my wife!"
It’s hilarious to hear the robot say things like “Look! Amazonian women on horses! I hope they are friendly!” Pay no mind that they are on an alien planet with no Amazonian jungle which can only exist on earth! Speaking of this films dialog, wow, holy smokes I hadn’t laughed this much in a long time. Here’s an example of the kind of dialog you can expect to hear on Star Crash:
“I wouldn’t be Emperor of the Galaxy if I didn’t have a few powers at my disposal! Imperial Battleship: Halt the flow of time!”
“For the space of three minutes, every molecule on this planet will be immobilized, but after the third minute, the green ray looses its power. Time will flow once again and everything will explode”
"Dont kiss me, my husband is watching!"
Now if that isn’t laugh inducing dialog, I don’t know what is. And this is exactly why I love this movie. For that and seeing David Hasselhoff having a sword fight with two stop motion animated robots! This was Hasselhoff’s first feature film ever, so he was extra sober, just to make sure he didn’t screw up his lines. As for the rest of the cast, we get Joe Spinell, whom some of you might remember as the psycho killer in Maniac (1980). On Star Crash he plays Count Zarthan. This villain looks like a mix between Satan, Dracula and Ming the Merciless! He cares about one thing and one thing only: becoming the master of the universe! Maybe he should talk to Skeletor about that! Another essential part of the cast is Christopher Plummer who plays the Emperor of the Universe. Plummer got paid 30,000 for shooting all his scenes in one day, then his scenes where spread out through the rest of the film. His dialog is the funniest. He plays his character by speaking everything in a whisper, really cool and calm, cause you know; he’s the emperor of the universe! It’s his job to play it cool!
The multi-colored universe!
Other hilarity inducing scenes are those that take place in space. For some reason, the director wanted the stars in space to be multicolored. So whenever we get a shot of the universe, it’s filled with multicolored stars! Not at all a realistic representation of the universe, but whatever. I was having fun. Plus, the multicolored universe is what gives this one its unique look. One thing I will say about the space battles in this movie, they seem to be never ending! I mean, there is this one scene where there’s supposed to be this battle in space, and spaceships are shooting lasers at each other and flying left and right. This is all fine and dandy in a science fiction film, the problem is that the director kept showing the same scenes of the spaceships flying by over and over again. You’ll see a spaceship whiz by Whoosh! And seconds later, you’ll see the same exact scene with the spaceships passing by. Whoosh! And Whoosh! Again! And just when you think it’s over: Whoosh! Yet again! It gets kind of repetitive after a while.
Hasselhoff with a light saber!
I will say that this was a successful homage to Jason and the Argonauts as a result we get stop motion animated monstrosities on this one! At one point Stella has to battle a giant robot that looks a heck of a lot like the Achilles statue that Jason and the Argonauts fight in Ray Harryhausen’s film. We also get these two robots that the good guys have to battle with their light sabers. The film was to have more stop motion animation creatures, but at the end of the day director Luigi Cozzi wasn’t happy with some of the stop motion animation for some scenes, so he scrapped them. But I will say this, Star Crash is a film that did a lot with very little. They didn’t have the budget that George Lucas had for his space opera, yet Cozzi and his crew managed to create an entertaining, funny, fast-paced science fiction film. I mean, this film has spaceships, aliens, planets blowing up, giant robots, space battles, spaceship cities, kamikaze soldiers, and Amazonian babes! All achieved with a meager budget. In my book, it is a movie that crammed as many ideas as it could into the film, hoping that at the end of the day some of them would end up being good. By the way, the DVD is jam packed with extras! I highly recommend buying the double disc special edition. It has a trailer for the film that was edited by Joe Dante! In depth interviews with Luigi Cozzi and Caroline Monroe! And you can even see Eli Roth dissecting the films trailer. I think its one of the best DVD’s that Shout! Factory has produced to date.
Half of the films budget went to Hasselhoffs perm.
Buttom line is that Star Crash wasn’t filmed as a comedy, but it actually ends up being funnier then a lot of space comedies like Spaceballs (1986) and Ice Pirates (1984). I love the hell out of those two movies, but Star Crash is funny without even trying! Things go from ridiculous, to ludicrous in the blink of an eye. We go from battling Amazonian women who control giant robots with the power of their minds to having entire space cities crashing on our heroes! Star Crash is a non stop barrage of craziness, but its funny and fun every step of the way. Its one of the best “so bad its good” films out there that serves at the same time as a loving homage to old science fiction films.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5