Roger M. Wilcox's review of

Starcrash

(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)


The unprecedented box office success of the original Star Wars initiated a flurry of cheap imitations hot on its tail. In the U.S., we got Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers and (eventually) Flash Gordon. From Japan, we got Message From Space. And from Italy, we got Starcrash.

To this day I'm not certain if the humor in this movie was intentional, or just the result of bad translations of the script into English.

The plot centers around an evil galactic government (sound familiar?) armed with a super-destructive sapce station (sound familiar?). A lone scavenger on the run from the law in his little spaceship (sound familiar?) eventually picks up a galactic beauty-queen-cum-princess (sound familiar?).

In the background outside the spaceships, however, are brightly COLORED stars. Sure, real stars do come in varieties called "red dwarfs" and "blue giants", but they don't look like gaudy Christmas Tree lights, for crying out loud! Even George "Made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs" Lucas knew better than THIS.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. The giant enemy space station is shaped like an enormous clutching HAND. Somebody in the special-effects model building department definitely had too much Italian wine to drink that morning.

Anyway, our intrepid scavenger hero is out looking for stuff to scavenge. He's accompanied by our scantily-clad beauty-queen-cum-princess heroine, whose name I forgot to mention was — I'm not kidding — Stella Star. Lo and behold, they eventually come across something in deep space. They get in closer and give us a good solid close view of the object, which looks like a small escape pod or lifeboat ejected from a larger spacecraft. Upon seeing this, Stella Star utters the single most memorable line in the movie. She opens her eyes wide with wonder, smiles with the light of sudden insight, and exclaims, "IT'S A SPACE SHIP!".

Wow. And you thought Sherlock Holmes had great powers of deduction.

The space ship, of course, turns out to be the only surviving launch vehicle to escape when its mothership was destroyed by the giant evil space hand. The duo have to set down on a planet for some reason. Stella gets captured and speculates that she can shoot her way out of the prison camp if she can get her hands on a "gun ray". She later gets caught escaping by a police pobot, and is told to "put the rifle ray down". Gun ray? Rifle ray?! Couldn't the scriptwriters think up even SLIGHTLY interesting names for their futuristic weapons? But then, perhaps I'm asking too much from a movie whose chief villain flies around in a giant hand.

Somewhere around this point, the hero gets in a big fistfight with David Hasselhoff. Or maybe the hero WAS David Hasselhoff and he got in a fistfight with somebody else. It's hard to remember. This movie came out long before Hasselhoff entered the public consciousness in Knight Rider. Anyway, there are flying fists and David Hasselhoff bandying about. The assailant gets the jump on our hero and pins his head in a filing cabinet. All looks lost. And then, suddenly, in a deus-ex-machina maneuver so unbelievable even a Greek dramatist would stare in dumbfounded disbelief, a brief concentric-circular flash of light emanates from the hero's eyes and HE MIRACULOUSLY GAINS SUPERHUMAN POWERS! Even as a young teenager watching this movie when it first came out, this abrupt transition left me flabbergasted. The hero rises from the filing cabinet and soundly defeats his attacker, hurling him across the room with a swish of his hand. His attacker doesn't believe it at first (and I can't blame him), so he charges at the hero again and gets his butt whooped in a single blow, again. He does this 2 or 3 more times before he's finally willing to believe that this ridiculous plot twist actually happened.

We then discover that the hero has had super powers all along and was just hiding them from us. He's not really a lowly scavenger after all. Ha ha. He was just pretending so that he could get into the right place at the right time to fulfill his "destiny". His "destiny" apparently involves ramming his prized space ship (with him onboard) into the giant evil hand in order to destroy it. Which he does, despite Stella Star's wooden pleading to stick around and remain her geeky boyfriend instead. There follows a continuous series of space explosions going off all over the surface of the hand, lasting for over a minute. Yes, I timed it. I'd recently read an Isaac Asimov article lamenting that the only thing the new Star Wars clones were good for was counting all the explosion special effects, so I actually went into the theater with my mind set on counting the explosions. I counted great big ka-booms as one "explosion" every five seconds, which is how I know the hand took over a minute to completely blow up. (In case you were wondering, my final explosion count for this movie was: 92. And I defy any of you readers to keep count in a modern movie like Armageddon.)

What can I say about this movie in summary? That it sucked? Well, yeah. That it was unintentionally humorous the way Plan 9 from Outer Space is? Most definitely. That it's rip-roarin' spaghetti spaceopera fun for the whole family? Don't count on it. It had all the goofball of Barbarella and none of the sex. It didn't even meaure up to the late, lamented TV space comedy from about the same year, Quark. Still, it has one saving grace: It doesn't prey on your central nervous system the way Disney's The Black Hole does.


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