Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Everybody seems to be having fun and their good humour is infectious."

If you asked a nine-year-old what were all the coolest things that could be included in a movie, they might well come up with Starcrash. Space battles, ultimate weapons, women in skimpy costumes, robots, aliens, mind control, fighting, evil villains and rebels on the run - this has it all. Plus Caroline Munro and David Hasselhoff! It's a B-movie fan's dream.

There's no question but that it's an awful film. From a technical point of view, just about everything that could go wrong does. Dialogue alternates between hammy declamation and inexplicable exposition. The acting looks like something out of a silent movie, with extras seemingly competing for the most OTT death scenes. It appears to have been lit using disco lights, with colours shifting at random, and the editing is all over the place. The sets are shaky and the special effects involve clunky shots of string-towed models (though they have clearly been made with love). This is before we get to the oddities of the script - space fortresses with windows (everyone keeps breathing happily when they get broken), people in space declaring that they'll win victory by sunset, strange green beams which slow the flow of time (but are conveniently forgotten about later), and cavemen who drop out of the sky without anything around they could have jumped from.

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Caroline Munro, clearly having a fantastic time, is Stella Star, an ace pilot and notorious smuggler who, along with her mysterious alien companion Akton, is captured by the galactic police and sentenced to a hard labour camp where people carry radium around in buckets. This doesn't seem to do her any harm, however, and she's soon released when the galactic emperor needs somebody to hunt down an ultimate weapon believed to be in the possession of the evil Count Zarth Arn (who has a fabulous Forties matinee style laugh and a billowing velvet cloak), perhaps rescuing the emperor's son in the process. To keep her company, there are the bizarre Hillbilly-accented Space Robot Elle and the grumpy Thor (who clearly shouldn't be trusted because, well, he's green). Together they travel across alien worlds, meeting scantily clad Amazon women and nearly freezing to death on an ice planet (where Stella still doesn't bother to put on many clothes). The fate of the galaxy is in their hands.

As you'd expect of a science fiction film released hurriedly in 1978, there are a lot of Star Wars parallels here, with Akton commanding something very like the Force and, at one point, actually swinging around a glowing stick weapon that makes suspiciously familiar swooshing noises. His name is rather unfortunate because when people shout it out it sounds rather as if they're demanding better thespian work. But, of course, the blatant theft and the heavy helpings of cheese are a large part of what give this film so much charm.

Although one battle sequence towards the end drags a bit, because we can't really tell what's happening to whom, most of this film is fast paced and engaging. Everybody seems to be having fun and their good humour is infectious. Two and a half stars is really stretching it ratings-wise, because it's very, very shoddily made, but I find it hard to think of a B-movie I've enjoyed more. This deserves to be recognised as a classic of its kind.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2009
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Two smugglers are called upon to assist the galactic imperium in tracking down an evil count's ultimate weapon.
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Director: Luigi Cozzi

Writer: Luigi Cozzi, Nat Wachsberger

Starring: Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Judd Hamilton, Joe Spinell, Robert Tessier, Nadia Cassini

Year: 1978

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, Italy


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