The Emperor of the Universe (Christopher Plummer) has it rough. He sent a top secret scouting mission to find the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell) and his super weapon. But the scout ship was lost with all hands, including Prince Simon (David Hasselhoff). Without the location of the secret base, the universe is doomed to even more ridiculous outfits.
Luckily the beautiful outlaw Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and her navigator (and resident know it all) Akton (Maroe Gortner) have the skills to help out. After some persuading by the gruff Chief Thor (Robert Tessier) and his country western robot Elle (Judd Hamilton with the voice of Hamilton Camp – no I’m not making this up), the four begin their quest. Along the way they will find strange new worlds, face off against amazons and troglodytes, witness the horrors of lava lamp creatures and unleash the power of Stella’s space bikini. Science Fiction will never the same again.
|Stella is ready for space adventure!
|The most impressive set in the film.
Where to begin? Lets start with the overall visual approach to the film. Star Wars was famous for going for a “used universe” style with its visuals. It avoided the shiny newness that 2001: A Space Odyssey perfected. Instead it had a lived in look, something that grounded the science fiction and fantasy of George Lucas’ world.
|Leaping cavemen! Are we in the right movie? Is this
The visuals are eye popping with the amount of color on display. Creatures like the red blob monsters and the energy weapons used seem to leap of the screen. The costumes are outlandish and over the top. Stella is sexy, so she has to dress in a space bikini. Count Zarth Arn is eeeeeviiiillll so he has to dress in black. And then there is the Emperor of the Universe himself, looking like a high priest of a metallic pagan festival… or space god… or something. Make up follows the same path, with so much color that it distracts more than compliments. And this being the disco era… well you know exactly what to expect.
|Hyperspace looks cherry flavored.
Sound effects end up in the same boat. Lots of creative stuff, and some of it is pretty goofy sounding. But it isn’t as bad as the fight sound effects in something like Angels' Revenge so that is positive. I do wonder when it comes to sound effects in this era of Star Wars rip offs, if the creators realized how difficult it was to come up with unique sounds for everything. Or if they just sorted through the sound effects library and pulled out something that seemed to fit.
|"Well of course I'm evil. Look at my clothes!"
|"What do you mean I'm overdressed?"
|"I think we'd get out of here faster if you call KITT."
But my favorite performances are by Joe Spinell and Christopher Plummer. Spinell embraces his dark side as Count Zarth Arn. He is the opposite of subtle, and seems to be having a great time ranting, raving and chewing all the scenery he can find. His flourishes with his cape, his eye-popping anger and his booming voice all make him a highlight of Starcrash. Yes Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon was impressivly evil, but Zarth here, he’s just bombastically evil.
|"Am I that transparent?"
Most of the acting is fairly broad across the board. Gortner bursts with zest and energy. Robert Tessier growls and glowers as Thor, who could be a prototype for Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, you know, if he was in a cheap rip off of that movie. And then you have Judd Hamilton stumbling around and flailing as the robot hero Elle with the country fried voice acting of Hamilton Camp to give everything just that added touch of the surreal.
|Stella is looking for Diana... wrong planet.
|Pumaman in a special appearance.
|Evil gets ready to fight. But are they ready for Akton?
If Starcrash has any painful issues, they revolve around the pacing. There are a few sequences that just take too long to play out. Sometimes I can’t tell if they are proud of the special effects and showing them off, or if they are padding the run time, or they figure, we’ve got Christopher Plummer, let’s have him talk for five minutes straight!
|This reminds me of nothing at all, not a single thing.
These moments aside, Starcrash is a wonderfully bad film that I had always dreamed of getting the full Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. And when I saw it on the episode list for season eleven, I did a happy dance of joy. The question is, are Jonah and bots ready to take on this masterpiece of cheese?
|Plummer is trying to out-shiny his throne.
Starcrash is a movie that gift-wraps each scene for a riffing crew. Jonah and the bots are up to the challenge taking each of these scenes and going to town with it. Yes, there are quite a few Star Wars based riffs, but these are pretty much expected when it comes to this film. You also get some very funny moments where Tom starts singing improvised words along with John Barry’s thunderous score. During a scene where the Emperor of the Universe cruises over in his giant golden starship and the music swells with majesty, Tom croons about “The Space Church” which caused me to nearly laugh water out of my nose.
|No one wants to talk in any elevator, Crow.
The heroic Akton is the source of many hilarious riffs. When we get a look at Stella and Akton from behind, Gortner’s blonde fluffy hair stands out enough for Tom to declare him “some kind of human/luffa hybrid.” Later on Jonah starts to sing, “Believe it or not, I’m not William Katt” to a familiar tune from the 1980s. When Acton begins to shoot waves of energy from his hands, Johan declares that “Akton’s hands have great WiFi.”
There is also quite a bit of singing in this episode. Tom usually improvises along with the score, but all three of the riffers make up a hilarious song about how stupid it is to enter an abandoned spaceship during the long slow scene where Stella does just that.
|I bet the Amazon robot hits the gym daily.
|Each torpedo comes with a surprise inside!
For me the riffing in Starcrash is just about perfect when it comes to pacing. The riffs are plentiful but never run over each other. And the guys allow enough of the film to play out so you can enjoy the insanity before they chime in. This was the highlight of season eleven for me. Even rewatching it brought out more riffs that I missed the first time. Great stuff all the way around.
|Is his cameo about nothing too?
|Did Crow and Tom break the space time continuum?
|When Lava Lamps attack!
I give it five giant Amazon robots out of five.