Friday, September 24, 2010

Starcrash (1979) with Caroline Munro

I don't know why I didn't see Starcrash (1979) in the theater when I was 12. I certainly was aware of the film -- I can remember seeing the TV commercials -- and I was a fan of Caroline Munro already. The film most likely came out when I was living in Louisiana and was probably only showing at one theater in the area.

Marjoe Gortner played one of the main characters in this film -- an alien without makeup -- and I was well aware of Marjoe at the age of 12 considering that he had been the star of two films that had provided me so much pleasure at the drive-in theater when I was 9: Bobbie Jo and The Outlaw (1976) and The Food of the Gods (1976).

So, Starcrash is a film that I read about and finally saw on videotape sometime in the 1980s or 1990s. Now, the film has just been released on DVD in America for the first time ever by the folks at Shout! Factory and it's an amazing 2-DVD set.

The film, on the other hand, is still just as goofy as it always was -- a nice DVD presentation is not gonna change that.

(Though the anamorphic widescreen version of the film on DVD 1 of this set is just flawless and beautiful.)

In Michael J. Weldon's 1983 The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film there's a quote about the special effects in Starcrash that always makes me laugh:

They range in quality from adequate to almost good, but the psychedelic Christmas-tree look of the spacecraft makes these sequences garishly attractive, especially to young children and people under the influence of controlled substances.

I'd add that most of the film seems made for 5-year-olds despite Caroline Munro's revealing outfits.

There is simply no way to watch this film with a straight face.

And a plot rundown is a total waste of time because the film's appeal is really just due to the goofiness of the whole thing.

Basically, Stella Star (Caroline Munro) is a kind of space pirate or something who runs afoul of the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell). Stella has adventures, gets captured and escapes, and all that, while her faithful partner, Acton (Marjoe Gortner), and her cowboy robot, Elle (Judd Hamilton in the suit, Hamilton Camp doing the voice), assist her.

Add to that mix a wispy and lifeless Christopher Plummer as some kind of emperor and his son, the prince (David Hasselhoff).

Stella has to find the evil Count's hidden planet and destroy it.

Whatever. It's all a lot of Barbarella (1968) and Star Wars (1977) rip-offs thrown together haphazardly.

The folks at Shout! Factory really outdid themselves with this one as the extras outdo the actual film itself.

Extras include:

A 41-minute interview with director Lewis Coates (aka Luigi Cozzi) in English;

A 12-minute commentary on the John Barry score by Mars of Deadhouse Music;

A series of photo galleries;

A set of trailers;

On DVD 2:

A 35-minute-or-so collection of deleted and alternate scenes from the film with quite a few scenes just longer cuts of the ones already in the film. Some of these scenes come from a French print of the film and don't look as good as the film itself on DVD 1;

(The title cards for these scenes give a good idea of how much of the dialogue in Starcrash was improvised on set. Additionally, it seems like the film was edited and re-edited quite a bit which would explain the film's almost incoherent nature at times.)

A 23-minute, largely still picture-driven feature on special effects man Armando Valcauda -- including word that the guy tried to get work in the 1970s with the Shaw Brothers!;

A 72-minute interview with Caroline Munro (name misspelled on the menu as Caroline Munroe) in which the actress talks at length about her career. One interesting bit here is that the actress talks about turning down the role of Ursa in Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1981). The interview is largely just Caroline talking to the camera but that's okay as Caroline Munro is always a charming presence.

A 19-minute selection of home movies taken on the set of the film with a running commentary;

And the script, playable on your computer!