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March 9, 2015

“You know, my son, 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 loses it’s power. Time will flow once more and everything will explode.”- Christopher Plummer as The Emperor. 

That sounds pretty serious. 

In 1978, shortly after the release of the first Star Wars installment, Italian director Luigi Cozzi began filming his own space opera entitled  Scontri Stellari Oltre la Terza Dimensione, which translates to “stellar clashes beyond the third dimension”, or better known as STARCRASH. 

Released today, March 9th, 36 years ago, Starcrash has literally been called one of the worst/best sci-fi movies of all time. From Wikipedia: “Kurt Dahlke of DVD Talk said, “Starcrash is a masterpiece of unintentionally bad filmmaking.  Cozzi’s Star Wars knock-off buzzes around with giddy brio, mixing ridiculous characters with questionably broad acting, an incredibly simple yet still nonsensical plot derivative to Star Wars, and budget special effects that transcend into the realm of real art. It’s a completely ridiculous movie.

The time was 1979, and the world was abuzz with droids and lightsabers and villains dressed all in black. Sci-fi was all over the place in TV, film and toys. It was a good time to be a 12 yr old boy; Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica were on tv, Alien, Disney’s The Black Hole and Moonraker were playing in the theaters and Micronauts were on the toy shelves. Then came Starcrash. 

But with all these other blockbusters cashing in on the sci-fi craze, how did Starcrash miss the bullseye? Was the acting that bad? Were the special effects that bad? Was the story really that bad? 

Apparently so. 

On paper, it looked just like every other sci-fi script (picture the table read scene from Ben Affleck’s movie Argo) but how could it be a miss with such a stellar cast? 

Marjoe Gortner as Akton: the world’s youngest evangelical preacher. He was an ordained minister at age 4, and has also starred in such 70’s classics as Earthquake, Food of the Gods, Viva Kinevel! and American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt.

Christopher Plummer as The Emperor: this legendary actor has made over 200 movies, most notably (and most recently) Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, A Beautiful Mind, and the classic The Sound of Music. 

Give me Rome any day. I’ll do porno in Rome, as long as I can get to Rome. Getting to Rome was the greatest thing that happened in that for me. I think it was only about three days in Rome on that one. It was all shot at once.”

Joe Spinell as Count Zarth Arn: his laundry list of greats includes The Godfather and Rocky franchises, Taxi Driver and one of the all time great slasher classics: Maniac.

Robert Tessier as Thor: the ORIGINAL tattooed bad ass; who starred in a plethora of Burt Reynolds movies such as The Longest Yard, Hooper and The Cannonball Run. He was also in The Deep and made countless guest appearances on TV programs throughout the 70s/80s. He was also in the cult classic The Born Losers in 1967 and even had a brief stint as a Mr. Clean clone for Tough Act cleaning spray.

Nadia Cassini as Queen of the Amazons: ok, well she was an Italian actress who didn’t break into the American market, but she made over 20 movies and was hot.

Speaking of hot…

Caroline Munro as Stella Star: eye candy for classics such as The Spy Who Loved Me, At Earth’s Core (with a certain actor named Peter Cushing who would go on to be in that Star Wars movie a year later…) The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and of course, Maniac with Joe Spinell. And she’s freaking hot. 

Oh, and let us not forget David Hasselhoff as Prince Simon. 

This was the Hoff’s second movie, his first being Revenge of the Cheerleaders where he played a character named “Boner”. Yup. Boner.

What about the musical score? The original music was by Oscar winning composer John Barry known for classics such as Midnight CowboyGoldfingerSomewhere in TimeDances with Wolves. The film was a mixed media of special effects including live action, miniatures, stop motion animation, green screens and animation. The plot is derivative and the acting flat and over the top. But there is never a dull moment. 

And what about the dark and evil figure dressed in black who resembles a certain character (who’s name rhymes with Varth Dader) that appears on the poster behind Akton (wielding his “energy sword”) ? Why that’s none other that Elle, a robot sherif of the Imperial Space Police. Who talks with a robotic southern accent. See? I told you, never a dull moment. 

Among the other obvious Star Wars rips throughout this masterpiece, there is a final battle sequence where space ships are making strafing runs on a gigantic space station shaped like a hand. 


Christopher Plumbers speech at the end of this $4m 94 min celluloid treat is worth the price of admission alone. But I should also note it’s on YouTube for free. 

To wrap up, I must conclude with this bit of personal reflection: I remember seeing this movie in the theater in ’79 and remarking I thought it was better than Star Wars. And I truly believed it at the time. Fast forward to about 2005, and I receive an email from an art dealer who just happened to have this original painting for sale on his website:

The memories came flooding back, and it took me all of 10 seconds to decide whether or not to add this to my collection. I couldn’t resist, and now I get to look at it every day and couldn’t be happier. Happy 36th anniversary Starcrash, if it wasn’t for you…well, I’d have a big blank space in my wall in need of filling. 


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  1. geotroid permalink

    “The memories came flooding back, and it took me all of 10 seconds to decide whether or not to add this to my collection. I couldn’t resist, and now I get to look at it every day and couldn’t be happier. Happy 36th anniversary Starcrash, if it wasn’t for you…well, I’d have a big blank space in my wall in need of filling.”

    That was the funniest paragraph I read all week. Thank you!

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