Starcrash: Collector's Edition (FR - DVD R2)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Gabe laughed at Italy's Star Wars rip-off
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Are you one of the legions of fans that were disappointed in the quality of the Star Wars prequels? Would you like to know how much worse they could've been? What if Lucas decided to remake the Original Trilogy with an all Italian crew and a budget of about sixty Lire instead? What if Han Solo was a hot chick that stole Barbarella's wardrobe? What if Luke and Obi Wan were merged into one character, and that character was kind of a jerk? What if C3P0 looked more like Darth Vader, and instead of speaking with an upper class British fop accent he spoke with a down-home Texas drawl? What if the Princess was played by David Hasslehoff? For the answers to these, and many more burning questions, look no further than Luigi Cozzi's chef d'oeuvre, Starcrash.
The plot (ha, ha, I'm a comedian and I didn't even know it) centres on some people doing stuff in space. They are arrested, then freed, then sent on a mission, then thwarted about three times by Amazons, Neanderthals, and slightly green faced bald guys. Then they complete their mission and have a space battle. Then they fly a city into a giant hand shaped space station. Christopher Plummer searches vainly for his dignity throughout.
The great thing about Starcrash (aka: Female Space Invaders and The Adventures of Stella Star) is that it's not only a rip-off of Star Wars, but also about five-dozen other films that were popular in Italy at the time. Maniac star Joe Spenell plays an evil, pot-bellied count, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Emperor Ming of Flash Gordon fame. Our leather bikini clad heroine and her country fried robot counterpart battle various rejects from the then still thriving Italian Sword and Sandal cycle, including the aforementioned Amazons (who's leader has sworn revenge for reasons never explained) and Neanderthals. There are even a few lacklustre stop motion opponents, as Harryhausen fantasy flicks were still a tappable gold mine.
Films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are loving tributes to Saturday Matinee Serials of the past; Starcrash is a carbon copy. Minus the colour stock, this film could pretty easily pass for a 1930s short. Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend on the viewer's personal tastes. This film is a card-carrying member of the ‘it's so bad, it’s good’ club. There is a fine line between enjoyable trash and utter crap, a line Cozzi straddles with the ease of a blind alligator with an inner ear problem. The movie is entertaining because it takes itself seriously and rarely lags.
Purposeful camp rarely works because the filmmakers are laughing with the audience. The point of real camp or cheese appeal is that the novice can laugh at the expense of the professionals. One can almost see screenwriters Cozzi and Nat Wachsberger squealing with glee and high-fiving each other with the creation of each ridiculous contrivance. This is the kind of ADHD scriptwriting you couldn't recreate if you tried, and why? Seemingly because Cozzi and Wachsberger just thought of something new to throw into the mix. The mother ship can stop time? Sure, why not. Phallic-shaped torpedoes do not explode on contact, but instead open to eject two lightly armed foot solders? OK, I guess. The villain has a personal harem of hot alien chicks surrounding him when at rest? Why didn't Darth Vader have any sex slaves?
You know a film is a special kind of bad when David Hasslehoff is noticeably better than the bulk of the other actors. Of course, the Hoff has an excuse for being in the film; he was pretty much unknown at the time. How Cozzi scored Christopher Plummer is the real head scratcher of the piece. Either his involvement is a testament to the cocaine addicted late '70s, or his fee was half the budget. Fortunately for Plummer he's on screen for a total of maybe five minutes, and he doesn’t interact with the other ‘actors’ all that much.
The art design is just awesome. The heroine's ship's main computer is literally a giant glowing brain, power cells are represented by glowing round things, and the Emperor's throne looks to be about as comfortable as sitting on a bed of thumbtacks. The shiny costumes are all eyesores that could get even the gruffest, aggressive, and heterosexual man beaten up at the local bar, with the exception of Caroline Munro's various revealing ensembles, which are surprisingly genius in their utter ridiculousness. And least we forget the hand-shaped Death Star stand in that clenches awkwardly into a fist while being attacked by various model-kit conglomerate monstrosities.
Director Cozzi is most renowned (*rimshot*) for his work on this film, and his Alien rip, Contamination (sometimes billed as Alien Contamination). He was at one point a protégé of Dario Argento, and his filmography includes not one, but two documentaries about his teacher. These days he just mans Argento's store, Profondo Rosso. Obviously filmmaking wasn't for him.
This French DVD is anamorphically enhanced and presented in the film's original 1.85:1 ratio. Watching it on a state of the art television set would seem a waste, had it not been for the entirely lacklustre quality. I suppose part of the fun of watching a bad B-movie is watching it on an old fashion reel-to-reel in a college dorm room with your drinking buddies. Had I not known I was watching my LCD projection set I would've sworn I was projecting onto a dirty sheet. The film is dirty, dark, dank, and dreary. There are huge chunks of film artefacts on every single frame, and at some points the films even warps or skips a few frames.
What I can say in the transfer's favour is that detail is never lost and proceedings are never darkened to the point of confusion. Some of the effects shots fair more poorly due to the effects processes implemented by Cozzi during production. This is not the fault of the DVD authorization. This is an ugly, but discernable presentation.
I noticed that my screen caps seem to suffer from an interlacing effect. This didn't happen once on my television, only on my computer. I'm not sure why.
The French have gone all out for their track, mixing the feeble soundtrack into a 5.1 DTS track. Us English and Italian speakers must make do with simple Dolby Digital Mono tracks. Though I actually prefer some of the French voices to the English ones, the French DVD is without English subtitles, so to understand the plot (hold on a sec, I'm getting a side cramp) I had to watch the English language track. The DTS track is OK, but is still basically a Mono track, so English speakers aren't missing much.
A few years ago Fantoma studios released a series of Educational Archive films, complete with a rear surround track that approximated the sound of a running projector. This may have been a nice touch here too, as the English track is ravaged. Dialogue, effects, and music are all audible and discernable, but not by any means digital quality. Within the track are some of the loudest PAL catch-up pops I've ever heard in my life, along with the unmistakable sound of crackling dirt on the strip.
As one cheesy Italio-rip wasn't enough, Neo-Publishing has provided two. That's right, as a special feature the disc's producers have supplied us with a copy of Starcrash 2 (aka Escape from Galaxy 3, or Giochi erotici nella 3a galassia). That's two for one, unless of course, you count the fact that Starcrash 2 is really only about half a movie. I guess it's more like one and a half for one.
Starcrash 2 is basically the same movie, only without even B-list stars, and more boobs. The thing that makes it only half a movie is that the other half is made up of footage from the first film. Basically, director Bitto Albertini (who's most well known for various soft core Italian pornos) saves money by lifting any and all special effects shots from Cozzi's film. I couldn't really follow the story because the film is only presented in French audio, and because there really isn't one. I do know that at some point our heroes land on a planet that looks suspiciously like Italy, inhabited by ancient Greeks. Then there's a smashingly silly dance number and some surprisingly boring sex-scenes. Then the film ends before the credits have a chance to roll.
Other features include a ‘Making of Documentary’, which is really some kind of Italian late night TV show. Filmed in Italian, with only the possibility of French subtitles, this super-inept feature lasts almost an hour and a half. Another documentary about Cozzi is also included, and occasionally the director speaks in broken English. From what I gathered, Cozzi admits that Starcrash was only made because of the success of Star Wars, but that the script was written before the release of George Lucas' film. Cozzi says that his plan was to make a Harryhausen film in space, in which case I suppose he has to be considered successful. The doc features some nice glimpses inside the Profondo Rosso store, which Cozzi is careful to call a Dario Argento museum, and clips from most of Cozzi's non-documentary features.
The other features include a few trailers (in French), some talent bios (in French), and a still gallery featuring some knock-out original posters from around the world.
Scoring this set proves difficult. The movie sucks, but in a good way, which isn't something everyone will appreciate. The video and audio presentations are sub par to say the least, but again, I felt this kind of added to the overall presentation. The features are pretty great, but only feature French and Italian audio tracks and subtitles so it's hard for English speakers to enjoy them. Star Wars fans will want to give the film a look, and viewers who dig Mystery Science Theatre style cheese will be in pressed milk curd heaven.
You can purchase this, and many other euro imports from Xploitedcinema.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 20th February 2006
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Italian and English
Extras: Starcrash 2 (French Audio Only), Interview with Luigi Cozzi, Making of Starcrash, Trailers, Still Gallery, Talent Files
Easter Egg: No
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Cast: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Robert Tessier.
Length: 91 minutes
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