Spouse and I ran across a film last night that has become a sort of cult classic. He vaguely recalls seeing it when it first came out in 1979–he would have been attending a university a few hours to the north of my own back then–and thinking it was “a truly terrible movie.”
There are films that are just simply bad and you wish you could get back the hours you wasted watching them. And then there are films that are so bad–so kitschy, cheesy, campy–that they are entertaining in their own right. Such is the film known as Star Crash. In its own way, it just might be the best low-budget Italian-made Star Wars/Saturday matinee serial/Barbarella rip-off ever.
After all, how many other films offer pre-Baywatch David Hasselhoff in eyeliner and a bouffant, Christopher Plummer, Christmas tree lights parading as stars, a humanoid robot who sounds like a southern redneck, horrendous stop-motion animation and former Pentecostal child preacher-cum-actor Marjoe Gortner hamming it up to the nth degree?
And for the boyz, there is beautiful Bond Girl Caroline Munro. She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag, frankly, but that’s not what my husband carried away from his first viewing way back in the day. He remembers her black leather bikini and thigh-high stiletto boots. Black leather covers a multitude of acting sins, it appears.
Although in the second half of the film, Ms. Munro is forced to cover up said bikini with, amongst other apparel, what appears to be a jumpsuit made up of my late mother’s old plastic rain bonnets. Seems the US studio execs put pressure on the studio to do so in order to give them a better chance of selling the movie to broadcast networks. Oh, how times have changed . . .
Hasselhoff looks almost as pretty as Munro does. Slap on some lippie and cover that five o’clock shadow and Bob’s your uncle. His is actually one of the better performances, too, in comparison to Munro’s wooden acting skills and Gortner’s OTT scenery chewing as the psychic alien Akton. Akton can heal with a touch–ironic in the light of Gortner’s past as a preacher who sold phony “holy” articles to heal the sick– and fights with what looks suspiciously like a light saber from another movie franchise.
The film was shot on a small budget at Italy’s famed Cinecitta studio, so small that they could not afford to fly in a couple of the actors to dub their own lines into English. So Munro actually sounds an awful lot like American actress Candy Clark (Gortner’s wife at the time).
Two things add a touch of class to all the kitsch: the fine musical score by John Barry (yes, THAT John Barry) and the performance of Christopher Plummer, who brings certain gravitas to the role of Emperor of the Known Universe.
He looks just swell in his shining armour/cloak costume (looks like he has a touch of Guyliner on, too, and rocks it), with distinguished wings of silver at his temples and those rich tones providing nuances to the horrible dialogue as if it was worthy of Shakespeare, bless his heart. He apparently shot all his scenes in single day and then escaped.
One wonders if he realized just how awful it was going to be when he accepted the role. The filmmakers actually were reluctant to let Barry see the film in case he decided to back out of composing the score (Ennio Morricone had already turned them down).
So if you happen to run across Star Crash on the telly, or on Netflix or find the DVD at a good price and wish to add to your collection of “So Bad It’s Good” films–check it out. After all, bad movies need love, too.