• Star Crash



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: 9/14/2010
    Director: Luigi Cozzi
    Cast: Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer, Joe Spinell, Robert Tessier
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by the mighty Luigi Cozzi, who was requested by the film’s producers to make a film ‘like Star Wars’ (Cozzi had never seen the movie but had read the novelized version of the screenplay), Star Crash or, if you prefer, The Adventures Of Stella Star, finds lovely Caroline Munro in the lead role. Stella Star is sort of a female Han Solo, when we meet her she and her alien friend Akton (Marjoe Gortner) are fleeing the local space police lead by a robot with a Texan accent named Elle (Hamilton Camp). One thing leads to another and before you know it, Stella and Akton have teamed up with Elle at the request of The Emperor (Christopher Plummer) to save his son, Simon (David Hasselhoff) and stop a bad guy named Count Zarth Ann (Joe Spinell) from blowing stuff up with a giant, planet sized weapon that is definitely not the Death Star. Nope. Not at all like the Death Star in any way, shape or form.

    One of the best examples of ‘so bad it’s good’ moviemaking you could care to name, Star Crash may be a blatant rip off of George Lucas’ most famous creation but it still manages to be a ridiculous amount of good, goofy fun. Casting foxy Caroline Munro in the lead certainly helps. She doesn’t always show the most charisma here or deliver the most dynamic performance, but she looks good in a space bikini and seems to be able to deliver her lines reasonably well (she’s dubbed in this English version).

    It’s to the film’s benefit though that she’s surrounded by as interesting a cast as she is in this picture. Credit is due to Marjoe Gortner (who has popped up in everything from Viva Knievel! to The A-Team) as Akton, playing his role with the perfect amount of distance so that we know even before Stella does that he’s destined for big things before the end credits role. A young David Hasselhoff (who actually did his own dubbing) is fun to watch, introduced in a scene where he runs around with a mask on shooting lasers out of his eyes and taking down bad guys left, right and center, at least showing a bit of enthusiasm for his work here. But Christopher Plummer? Really? How on earth the filmmakers ever managed to get Captain Von Trapp from the Sound Of Music to agree to this role is one for the history books, though he seems none too pleased to be gallivanting around in a shiny cape. The real scene stealer, however, is Joe Spinell, seen here at his greasiest best and sporting the most ridiculous hairdo of his distinguished career. He’s obviously having a blast playing the bad guy here, and more than anyone else in this movie appears to be really and truly into his part.

    Cozzi’s love of Harryhausen style special effects make Star Crash interesting on a visual level. The influence of Star Wars is undeniable and plays a huge part in the look of the film but some great stop motion animation sequences almost make this one feel like a Sinbad movie set in space. Plenty of colorful sets and costumes expose the film’s Italian origins, though this is a positive rather than a negative, while all manner of bizarre props and miniatures are used to create the illusion of a big budgeted feature, generally with fairly middling success.

    The whole thing is set to a majestic sounding orchestral score from John Barry, which somehow manages to make the film’s more ridiculous moments seem even more insane (at one point our heroine basically does the breast stroke through the outer reaches of space – what?!). Through in all manner of unexpected sexual innuendo and a fair bit more violence than its PG rating would lead you to expect and you’ve got a winner of a film. Is it good? Nope, it’s horrible. It’s cheaply made, completely nonsensical and pretty much horribly acted but there’s always something happening in this film and it’s not dull even for a second. There are times where, if you think about it too much, you’ll run the risk of permanent brain damage but there is a certain segment of the population who know that by certain standards science fiction doesn’t get any better than this.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Shout! Factory presents Star Crash in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen transfer that looks very good. Some shots look cleaner than others, which is understandable given the effects work and all, but generally things are quite impressive and you’ll immediately notice a lot more detail and texture than what the admittedly already impressive standard definition can offer up. Colors look very good and have got a lot of pop to them, really shining through here. They’re always nice and bright without appearing over saturated, and skin tones appear nice and natural never once taking on a waxy tone or looking too pink. Detail is, as mentioned, quite a bit better than the standard definition presentation and black levels are definitely stronger as well. Star Crash on Blu-ray. Who’d have guessed? Either way, the transfer is strong and the film’s fan base will certainly appreciate this.

    Audio options are provided in English only in your choice of a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix or a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo mix. No alternate language dubs or subtitles of any kind are provided. The audio here sounds quite good – the laser blasts are punchy and appropriately phony sounding while Barry’s score is epic and sweeping to the point of ludicrousness. The surround activity is almost constant and the uncompressed 5.1 track offered here brings the audio to life with a fair bit more punch and power than the DVD allowed for. Dialogue is always easy to understand and there are no problems here at all Star Crash sounds very nice and at times, even legitimately impressive.

    Amazingly enough, the powers that be at Shout! Factory have given Star Crash a completely stacked two disc special edition release in the truest sense of the word. First up are two commentaries, both by Star Crash expert Stephan Romano, who amazingly has more to say about this film than any one man ever should. The first track covers the history of the film, delving deep into how this project came to be, how the various participants became involved and why this film matters as a piece of oddball seventies esoteric. The second commentary is a scene specific dissection of the film that bombards us with all manner of trivia, anecdotes, and various observations and insights. Between these two tracks, no stone is left unturned and Romano’s enthusiasm for the material is completely infectious.

    The first disc also features two featurettes, the first of which is a forty minute Interview With Luigi Cozzi (41:21) who speaks at length about how he created this film based on the Star Wars book he read, how he worked his love for Harryhausen into the film, why certain scenes were shot the way they were and much more. Cozzi, interviewed here in what is seemingly his favorite location (the basement of the Profondo Russo shop in Rome, Italy), always comes across as a nice guy and there’s no exception to that here. Say what you will about his movies but the guy knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the history of the genre and his interview is a very interesting one. The second featurette is Starcrash: The Music Of John Barry (12:54) which is an interview with composer Mars of Deadhouse Music which dissects and analysis’s Barry’s score for the film. This is essentially Mars narrating over top of a collection of stills from the film talking about what he likes and appreciates as far as the music is concerned.

    The first disc finishes off with five different still galleries (Designs, Storyboards, Behind-The-Scenes, Promotional Artwork and Fan Artwork), the film’s original theatrical trailer (available solo, with commentary from Joe Dante, or with a second commentary from Eli Roth), the French theatrical trailer, a TV sport and a radio spot.

    Disc two kicks off with a collection of seventeen deleted and alternate scenes (36:34) that cover what was trimmed at Roger Corman’s insistence for the film’s U.S. release versus what appeared in Cozzi’s preferred ‘international’ cut of the film. The alternate opening sequence contains a fair bit more material, while also included here is an alternate English language roll up, an alternate version of the hyperspace sequence, a trimmed moment with Spinell, a deleted sequence involving Stella’s escape attempt, and a fair bit more. Each scene is preceded by a text screen that provides some context for the material, and while the source material for these sequences is generally a tape source, it’s great to see them included here.

    From there we move on to a great career spanning interview with lead actress Caroline Munro (72:56), who is always seemingly more than pleased to talk about her genre film career. A gracious interviewee, the still lovely Ms. Munro talks about working with Luigi Cozzi on this film and gives us the basics as to her involvement but also talks quite lovingly about the late Joe Spinell and the three movies that they made together, showing a true appreciation for his talents as an actor and his personality as a man.

    Up next is Making Of The Special Effects By Armondo Valcauda (23:58), which is interesting not only for Valcauda’s input on the making of the film but also because it contains some never before seen effects footage created for the film. This is basically done as a slideshow with Valcauda’s commentary appearing in yellow text over the images, but fans will appreciate this glimpse behind the scenes of the movie – there’s even a great shot of Mario and Lamberto Bava visiting the set of the movie. The unused effects footage, live action, is quite interesting as it features some great bits with two different stop motion monsters going after the lovely bikini clad Ms. Munro.

    The last featurette is an exclusive Behind The Scenes Footage With Commentary (19:47) from Romano who puts all of this into context and explains who we’re watching and what they’re doing. These were basically shot as home movies and probably not ever intended to really see the light of day but they’re interesting in that they do provide a glimpse into what it was like on set while the movie was being made. A lot of this footage is just dudes hanging out beside a movie camera but there are some neat shots of Munro checking out the locations and at one point getting sucked into quicksand. There’s also some really interesting footage of the sets as they appeared in real life, as opposed to how they appeared in the big screen version.

    The second disc also includes a PDF version of the original shooting script that can be accessed via DVD-Rom equipped computers. Both discs in the set feature animated menus and chapter stops. Inside the keepcast is a full color illustrated booklet containing an essay from Stephan Romano that is an enthusiastic appreciation for the film. The DVD also comes with reversible cover art.

    The Final Word:

    Star Crash fans have been waiting a long, long time for this film to come to North America, but Shout! Factory’s efforts have made that wait completely worthwhile particularly when you check the film out on Blu-ray. Undoubtedly the definitive word on the picture, this two disc set presents the film in excellent shape and with an amazing array of supplements that are both entertaining and interesting, making this one of the crown jewels in their line of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics releases and this Blu-ray release offers fans a considerably improved package compared to the already strong standard definition release.