Starcrash (1978) is car crash cinema. I don’t want to look but I can’t turn away.

The thing about doing a season of reviews is that it tends to play merry hell with your watchlist recommendations, thus, having rewatched “Krull”, “The Ice Pirates”, “Battle Beyond The Stars” and “Space Raiders” etc.,  “Starcrash” kept getting suggested. Surprisingly, it was one I hadn’t ever seen so, I thought, why not?

*ninety two excruciating minutes later*

Ohhhhh, that’s why not.

When the evil Count Zarth Arn rebels against the Emporer Of The Galaxy and kidnaps his son, it’s up to outlaw smugglers Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and Akton (Marjoe Gortner) to track him down.

A Roger Corman acquisition (as opposed to production) – he picked it up for distribution but wasn’t involved in the production per se  – it’s hard to deny all the money ends up on the screen. At least, I’m assuming it does because it’s all in Christopher Plummer’s pocket as he films his scenes and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d insisted on being paid in cash upfront before the camera rolled on this abysmal production. Also picking up a paycheque is John Barry, scoring the film with themes he’d later polish up and repurpose to much greater impact in “Moonraker”. Barry provides score far better than the film deserves but then, even Geoff Love and his Orchestra would be too good for this galactic garbage.

The terrible script and dialogue are honed to razor-sharp awfulness by even worse performances. Just how bad are we talking? David Hasselhoff stands out as one of the better actors, that’s how bad. Hasselhoff is almost Shatnerian in his earnestness here and kind of makes it work, certainly providing a more appealing and credible hero than the flat-out awful Marjoe Gortner’s Akton, a kind of chimeric Poundland rip off of both Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Although allegedly in development long before George Lucas’ genre-transforming masterwork was released, “Starcrash” is still obviously heavily influenced by “Star Wars”, especially the opening starship flying overhead shot and the out-of-nowhere lightsabre fight towards what laughably counts as the grand finale. Beyond its obvious “Star Wars” influences, it otherwise borrows heavily from the Ray Harryhausen “Sinbad” movies and, repeatedly, the Buster Crabbe “Flash Gordon”.

Deafeningly irritating sound effects are scattered throughout the film with reckless abandon, probably in the hope of distracting from the dreadful special effects and editing so inept that the marquee set-piece space battle is conspicuously put together in the wrong order.

While Munro is undeniably easy on the eye, you’ll be rolling them so much you won’t get to enjoy it that much (early on in the movie, her character complains about the risk of radiation burns while loading the radium furnace wearing a space bikini). There are films which are so bad, they’re good but “Starcrash” is so bad it transcends bad, blasts through terrible, rounds the outer limits of atrocious and collapses into a super-dense singularity of wretchedness.

Morbid curiosity makes this worth watching once. From that point on, only cinematic sado-masochism could explain watching it again.

2/10

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