Some Seventies Star Wars Inspired Silliness from a favourite…
A daft but fun sci-fi movie with acting cast also known in roles as a Naval Captain, a crime-buster and a Bond girl.
Starcrash (1979) trailer, sideshowcarny and photos © New World Pictures
I’ve reviewed Christopher Plummer in about four of his movies and he is an actor that never fails to disappoint me. This may all change as I am reviewing Starcrash (1978) after remembering this unseen movie was one in my DVD collection. So after my Darlin’ Husband warned me that this film was complete hokum, with the one thought circling my mind “With Christopher Plummer it can’t be that bad…”, I prepared myself for the worst.
Looking at the DVD box it seemed harmless enough with three of the cast enticing me. Caroline Munro was last seen and enjoyed in the fun Dracula A.D. (1972) an almost tongue in cheek film on the Prince of Darkness. There was also the Hoff, aka David Hasselhoff aka Knight Rider (1982-86), The Asylum’s Sharknado (1997-) favourite and 1980s – and beyond – heart-throb and singer. And of course the lovely Christopher Plummer.
I’ve developed a wee bit of a crush on Plummer after reviewing more than a few of his films and it all started with a rewatch of his greatest role in The Sound of Music (1965). Back to the DVD box where the other acting names escaped me. Although one of the uncredited cast members faces continues to haunt me…
Starcrash started with
a model of a spaceship hurtling through the galaxies. Kind of, as it was more chugging along. Also, it was supposed to look authentically convincing as a spacecraft but it looked more like a 1970s Airfix model of a digger from some angles. So it chugged along against the disco-inspired background.
Added to this bizarre sight was a random name – Murray Leinster – was written on its side suggesting this was the model’s creator. Perhaps this was a wee nod to him to take the credit for this wondrous work. Or perhaps to disassociate the model from the finished work. Later I discovered through IMDB it was named after a Science Fiction writer and special effect pioneer.
This spacecraft was also beige
as if it had been not been painted so correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure I saw the same spacecraft after a rainbow or black filter on it later in the movie. There are two occupants on board this ship – wearing pre-1980s metallic shell suits and Roman helmets – searching the whereabouts of one evil Count Zarth Arn, aka the bad guy.
However, they are killed in an explosion when nearly reaching his planet. They are killed by some red blobby looking
disco lights both inside and outside the spacecraft, cue these actors’ unintentionally silly acting clutching onto heads and falling to the ground. Meanwhile, three escape pods launch from the ship and then the ship explodes.
Then, we enter another
Airfix model spacecraft helmed by a pretty busty brunette space pilot (Munro) and what appeared to be a permed 1970s Barry Manilow lookalike (Marjoe Gortner) – and both are revealed as a pair of smugglers.
This pair named Stella Star and Akton are on the run from the Imperial space police. After what appears to be some random flirting with her sidekick, Star spots then investigates a newly discovered spaceship and finds a wounded occupant. Bizarrely is revealed to have Naval connections.
Simultaneously the bad guy, Count Zarth Arn – looking like Flash Gordon (1980)’s Ming the Merciless (Joe Spinell) – compete with cloak and goatee rejoices by laughing in a James Bond evil bad guy style. His black shell-suited army’s ship possibly inspired by the Children’s TV series Camberwick Green (1966-)’s Fire Station complete with a working pole (as demonstrated by an extra). These reprobates also have Roman type helmets, which are sprayed black to distinguish them from their beige good guy counterparts.
Then using cheap Star Wars (1977) inspired credits, the back story is told via a very fast rolling script on-screen which annoyingly doesn’t have any spacing when it reaches the top of the screen. Therefore it’s impossible to read in its now jumbled form. The gist of it is the Count is a bad guy, the Emperor of the Galaxy is a good guy and we read more Star Wars inspired – but denied – stuff.
The only way to stop the evil Count is with a rebellion. After this script, the acting credits run and then John Barry is credited with the music for this movie. At which point Darlin’ Husband leaves the room and I suspect sob. Star and Akton then are surrounded by the space police starships and after a space battle, they are sentenced to separate prison planets by a weird alien dude with tentacles.
In a battle with the guards in prison, Star escapes only to get recaught again. As in a wee twist, she is saved from her prison sentences, by the cops who arrested them. We remeet Police Chief Thor (Robert Tessier) – more Captain Pickard lookalike than Hemsworth
sadly – whose ghoulishly pale looks end at his neck (as the makeup stops),
We also encounter a shoddy attempt at a cross between Bob Afett and a very bad Doctor who robot named Elle (but sounds like a man). So after Akton rejoins them, the smuggling pair are taken from their prisons and then promptly thanked for a good job so far and given a mission – or 2 – by the
soft-spoken silver fox and Emperor of the Galaxy (Plummer) hologram.
Their mission is to find the evil, that’s the evil (cue wide-eyed Plummer) weapon that the Count Zarth Arn has hidden in another planet and in doing this prevents the Count from galaxy domination. The pairs prison sentences will be lifted completely should they find the three other pods and the main starship. And while they are at it, he also asks the pair to find his son who has disappeared.
So there’s a lot to fit in, in the last hour of this movie. All this explained in Plummer’s dulcet English accent, and I’m lost…and not just with the plot. The Count meanwhile has dispatched his not so scary guardians (Ray Harryhausen inspired model monkey robots with swords) to kill the good guys as the four set off on their mission. The story continues as we encounter other planets, lady warriors, David Hasselhoff and other randomly weird and wonderful experiences, surprises and shocks in galaxies far, far, away.
This may on appearances seem like a David M Latt, The Asylum or Syfy production crossed with a plot that even Ed Wood would find crazy, but it’s amazingly addictive and fun. The locations had rocky canyons, snowy mountains and beaches doubling as the other planets. The special effects and sound effects were almost 1980s computer inspired.
Some of the groovier special effects were more disco-inspired – including the possible use of disco balls and random lasers – than cool special effects. The various un(?)-intentional possible nods to Sci-fi films such as Star Wars with a few random lightsabres, a weird alien similar to early sci-fi movies and those Ray Harryhausen inspired robotic bronze monkey type creatures to add to the craziness.
On the plus side, the John Barry score is reminiscent of many a James Bond adventure and therefore is a wonderfully surprising addition to the film. Munro’s costumes are fantastically silly and reminiscent of those in her Dracula film, as often made complete with her possibly trademark thigh length boots.
Her acting is almost like Linda Gray, from Dallas with her eyes conveying much emotion. Her voice dubbed by Candy Clark and others for this English version. Hasselhoff and Gortner show off their respective pre-1980s curly mops, and I’m hoping these weren’t the inspiration for the 1980s untrendy man perm. Hasselhoff doesn’t appear till late on in the proceedings, but I assure you is worth the wait. And no he doesn’t sing.
However, it is Plummer that steals the show, resplendent in his striking space emperor suit and in combination with his silver fox looks – and that voice – he
as usual made this Scottish gal weak at the knees. Despite his awful clichéd lines, he delivered his lines in his soft tones.
THIS as if he was telling you a bedtime story or appearing on Jackanory (1965-96). I was happy – and relieved – to see he had many more appearances in this film after his initial hologram appearance as I feared that was his one and only sighting in this movie. Plummer presented his monologues and speeches in a sincere, sweet and honest way, despite the obvious silliness and predictability of the script. Honestly and rightly, he unintentionally was the centrepiece of every scene he entered.
I was happy to learn this led to an upturn in Plummer’s film career leading to some of my more favourite of his roles. It’s almost like that through this film, Plummer earned my and the world’s attention after saving this travesty of a movie with his calm, measured, underrated performance.
This role led to his screen stealing final scene with Tatum O’Neal in International Velvet (1978) and the villain who even outhammed William Shatner by quoting Shakespeare in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). Be it his Sherlock Holmes in Murder by Decree (1978) or his appearance in The Thorn Birds (1983-).
But to me, Christopher Plummer will always melt a girl’s heart in that scene where we see his burgeoning love for a novice nun as Captain Von Trapp in that dance scene in The Sound of Music. As like many a girl watching this movie cried “O Captain! My Captain!” as he swept us off our feet dancing the Laendler waltz.
Weeper Rating: /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
The Christopher Plummer Blogathon 2017, No 28
In the Christopher Plummer blogathon run by Sean Munger I added this review of Plummer in Starcrash (1978). Other reviews with this cast include Caroline Munro in Dracula A.D. (1972). David Hasselhoff also is reviewed in Knight Rider (1982-86) , The Asylum’s Sharknado (1997-) favourite and as a 1980s actor and singer. Christopher Plummer stars in my reviews of Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country, The Lake House and International Velvet. And of course The Sound of Music HERE and HERE in two different reviews about this film.