Starcrash (1979) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 Otherwise known as Female Space Invaders, Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione, and The Adventures of Stella Star, Starcrash is a screamingly obvious clone of a certain science-fiction franchise. So obvious, in fact, it would be redundant to come right out and make the comparison, but for those of you who may be confused, here are a few hints: The name of the franchise’s creator rhymes with “Gorge Mucas” and the franchise itself also happens to have the word “Star” in its main title. Oh for the love of God, stop having a life and watch a movie!

Focusing on the whirlwind (in other words, mostly boring) escapades of Stella Star, who I’m told is the greatest pilot in the universe, and her hopelessly dorky partner Akton (he’s tough actin’…sorry, had to go there), Starcrash is ninety minutes of pure, unadulterated haze. Everything, from the story to the acting and the endless sequences of supposed action, seem to have been engineered for the sole purpose of putting even the most attentive audience to sleep. Granted, there’s a lot to laugh and sneer at in this film, but after a while I completely stopped kidding around and was begging for a glass of warm milk and a blanket.

The biggest perpetrators of this need for nappy time are those maddening action sequences, along with a number of establishing shots so high it made me wish the device had never been invented. Director Luigi Cozzi seems to think the phrase “intergalactic space adventure” can be equated with watching ships docking, ships hovering, ships backing up, and ships turning around with the speed of runny molasses, and after a while I wanted to shove a pizza down his dumb Italian throat. There’s also no end to the amount of repetitive air battles you’ll see in this movie, either. Enemy vessels explode, reappear, and explode again so often you’ll have no idea what’s going on from one moment to the next, so close your eyes and hope it ends soon.

I’m sorry, let me back up and actually talk about Stella and her buddy Akton, because you can’t get boring, unappealing leads like this in 2006. Marjoe Gortner, who plays Akton, looks like a deformed cross between The Last Great American Hero and The Who’s Tommy, an image that doesn’t exactly mesh with the idea of him being a brave, hunky hero. Then there’s Caroline Munro, whose sole purpose as Stella is to strut around in ridiculous outfits made out of duct tape and other extremely adhesive materials. Lord knows it’s not her acting that probably got her the job, since she’s infinitely dull and can’t even add a sense of campy fun to the proceedings.

Believe it or not, Starcrash actually has some recognizable names in its credits, the saddest of the two being Christopher Plummer. This poor man started his lengthy career in the 1950s, and for whatever reason by ’79 he was appearing in this turkey as The Emperor, a character so thinly drawn and two-dimensional they might as well have recorded Plummer’s voice and played it over a shot of his cardboard cutout. Plummer delivers all of his lines looking at the back wall of the studio, his eyes creamy in their glaze. How many different kinds of drugs do you have to have in your system before your acting becomes this stilted? Only Plummer can know for certain.

Oh, then there’s David Hasselhoff, wearing a macramé mask before revealing his gigantic, fuzzy afro and painfully teased eyelashes. It’s kind of funny to see Hasselhoff here before his height came with Knight Rider and Baywatch, but at the same time he doesn’t save the film by any means. Arguably he’s the best actor on the set, but this is a pretty poor compliment to give when everyone else is hopped up on goofballs.

Perhaps the movie could have been saved if it had either gone the camp route or simply attempted to remove itself from the shadow of Star Wars, but the script has no time for invention or anything remotely creative. Instead there’s the stock pile of clichés presented one right after the other, including an evil menace named Count Zarth Arn (how do they come up with this stuff?), a wacky robot who speaks in an irritating Texan accent, and enough convenient plot points to make even the laziest writer lean back in his chair and sigh. For crying out loud, they actually wrote in a device where The Emperor stops time itself so the heroes can make an easier getaway, and one of Akton’s amazing abilities is his talent for seeing into the future. Heck, with a script like this we could skip right to the predictable happy ending in seconds!

Look, I’m not gonna lie and say this movie wasn’t drop dead funny for the first half hour or so, but if you simply must track down a copy for yourself, don’t go it alone. Have someone there beside you who can shoulder the burden, because lousy SFX and an appearance by David Hasselhoff can only take you so far into the night.

Starcrash may only be ninety minutes long, but it feels like it lasts for a millennia.