Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Star Crash (1978)

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

Starcrash (Roger Corman Cult Classics)The Ice PiratesBarbarella: Queen of the GalaxyJason and the Argonauts


Griffin Hartter said...

Awesome flick!

Franco Macabro said...

In deed! I enjoyed it a whole lot!

The Vicar of VHS said...

I have always loved STAR CRASH ever since first discovering a grey-market copy in less civilized times. When I got my Blu-Ray player finally, the Shout! disc release was the first Blu-Ray I bought!

This movie is just nonstop fun from one end to the other. And you didn't even mention my favorite character, Stella's sidekick Akton (played by former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner!), whose amazing and never-explained powers are second only to Plummer's Emperor. Brilliant stuff--I can watch it again and again and only enjoy it more each time.

Speaking of STAR WARS poster rip-offs, check this one out:
Starcrash Poster. Conincidental Millenium Falcon clone? You make the call! :)

Finally, you mentioned a lot of great Italian rip-offs of successful movies, but they sometimes nonsensically ripped off lesser known flicks too! For my favorite example, check out the Australian psychic-psycho flick PATRICK and then watch the Italian rip-off, PATRICK LIVES AGAIN (both reviewed on my site ;) ). The rip-off improves on the original in just about every way imo! :D

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Vicar, I reviewed Patrick Lives Again a while back as well, it was one of the craziest movies I have ever seen.

You are right, I didnt mention Akton, but thats only because there is so much to be said about Star Crash! Akton is an awkward character, he was supposed to be an alien, but Gortner refused to wear alien make up. I think he is still supposed to be an alien, just not alien looking. He has weird powers in deed, was I wrong or did he actually have powers to look into the future???

Other things I didnt get to mention:

That scene where the villains throw these torpedoes at the good guys and the break in through the window of the spaceship and no decompression occurs! And then men pop out of the torpedoes...freaking genius! I loved those scenes! But the thing with the windows on the spaceship was hilarious!

Other Italian Rip Offs:

These imitated Escape from New York:

2019 After the Fall of New York
Escape from the Bronx
The New Barbarians
Warriors of the Year 2072

These imitated Raiders of the Lost Ark:

The Ark of the Sun God
Jungle Raiders
Hunters of the Golden Cobra

Thats just some of many more rip offs..thing about these rip offs is that most of the time they are fun to watch anyways.

Unknown said...

Caroline Monroe - that's all you need to know about this film. ; )

Awesome review. I've been meaning to buy the new special edition DVD from Shout! and your review clinched it. Time for some Euro-cheese STAR WARS rip-off. yeah!

Franco Macabro said...

Hey J.D., trust me man, its worth every penny. Its got everything you need to know about the movie, plus it includes this little booklet with a Star Crash Fans memories and obsession over the film across the years.

Also, the interviews to both Munroe and Cozzi are in depth, these arent quickie interviews, nope, it looks like they really let the camaras role on both.

There is even a little video made by the guy responsible for the stop motion effects where he explains his part in the making of the stop motion animation and other projects he worked on before and after Star Crash.

Makes you wish more companies made dvd's like these!

venoms5 said...

I never cared much for this movie, but do plan to buy the new dvd at some point. Cozzi likes his Christmas lights in space. His other fantasy films have the same effect.

Of the Cozzi movies I've seen I can't say that I genuinely LIKED any of them. He does have a lot of love for fantasy, though. He used to be a writer for Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine so that right there speaks volumes about his love of all things monster and sci-fi.

The bulk of those Italian post apocalyptic movies were born more from the success of THE ROAD WARRIOR, though. Movies like THE NEW BARBARIANS, EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000, 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS, THE FINAL EXECUTIONER are some of them. Cirio Santiago did a few MAD MAX/ROAD WARRIOR clones, too, like STRYKER, WHEELS OF FIRE, EQUALIZER 2000, RAIDERS OF THE SUN, DUNE WARRIORS....

Variations on the post apoc movies, ENDGAME and NEW GLADIATORS appear to have been ripped off by Stephen King and the adaptation as THE RUNNING MAN. Not sure when King wrote that story, but the Schwarzenegger movie based on it sure does share more than a passing resemblance to those two Italian movies from D'Amato and Fulci.

Oh, yeah, there's also Aussie and US RW rip offs, too, like WARLORDS OF THE 21ST CENTURY, SHE (with Sandahl Bergman) and WORLD GONE WILD. That's an idea for a future post, Fran--Italian rip offs.

Franco Macabro said...

@Venom5: Yeah, I thought about it while writing some of the responses for this post. It will make for some interesting reading. Look for it soon!

It's true that Cozzi does like that multi-colored stars effect. He also used it on his Hercules movies, the ones with Lou Ferigno. It seems to me like Cozzi is a genuine lover of science fiction and fantasy, his films are a testament to that.

I watched Contamination a few months back and had a blast with it. The thing with the exploding stomachs, that was cool. And those deadly egg things, the sound they made was unnerving.

Even though with that film Cozzi was trying to play with similar themes as Alien, because once again the producers demanded an ALIEN rip off, it ended up being something of a homage to old monster movies. A similar situation happened with STARCRASH, where the producers demanded one kind of film, but Cozzi ended up delivering another. Kind of like a happy medium between what the producers wanted and what he wanted himself, as a filmmaker.

I heard about the similarities between ENDGAME and THE RUNNING MAN, but I dont know if one influenced the other, though it really wouldnt surprise me.

Thanks for commenting Venom.

The Man-Cave said...

LOL at the poster. Doesn't look like Star Wars at all. It's pretty cheesy with notable appearances by The Hoff and Spinell.

Franco Macabro said...

It does have similarities to Star Wars, I mean, the figure in the background with the dark helmet, was an obvious attempt to imitate Darth Vader, the main character in the forefront is dressed to look like Luke Skywalker, the girl is holding on to the guy, just like Princess Leia in the original Star Wars poster...

The Man-Cave said...

Haha sorry TFC. I was being facetious and forgot to put a "lol" or ":)" there. It TOTALLY, and I mean shamelessly, looks a lot like the Star Wars poster. My bad.

Franco Macabro said...

Oh no problem Geof, I didnt get the sarcasm, sorry bout that!

The dvd includes all of the posters for the movie, each one of them looking a little more like Star Wars, there is one that even has a ship looking just like the millenium falcon. The Vicar of VHS posted it in his reply above, check it out. It's so shameless!

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Star Trash...sorry Crash! - is a far superior film to Star Wars in my view. Both are woefully stupid and idiotic, but at least Star Crash has a sense of humour.

Franco Macabro said...

Me and my best friend, we couldnt stop laughing all through out the film. Its the damn dialog that does it for me, specially the dialog spoken by Elle, the robot.

"Now maybe is a good time to use your ancient system of prayer and hope it works for robots as well"


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