Tag Archives: Christopher Plummer

OT: So bad it’s good, or the delights of “Starcrash”

Standard

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.

DVD cover for Starcrash courtesy of blogomatic3000

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).

Caroline Munro, Christopher Plummer and David Hasselhoff along with extras in the so-bad-it’s-good cult classic Starcrash.

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.

Christopher Plummer, who earned a reputed $10,000 for his day’s work on the film. Courtesy of thatguywiththeglasses.com

Beginners: a small film with a big heart–and a dog

Standard

Melanie Laurent and Ewan McGregor in a scene from “Beginners.”

Beginners, an indie film from 2011, won me over tonight. I’d heard good things about it, and I knew it starred Ewan McGregor, one of my absolute favorite actors. The actress who played my favorite character in Inglourious BasterdsMelanie Laurent,  is featured as his love interest.

But while there is love and humor and relationships, this is no rom-com. It’s 2003, and Oliver, a 38-year-old graphic artist, finds himself dealing with two very difficult bits of news from his father.  First, Oliver discovers his 75-year-old father Hal (Christopher Plummer) is gay and ready to come out of the closet. “I don’t just want to be theoretically gay. I want to do something about it,” Hal earnestly tells his son. After more than 40 years of marriage and living a lie with Oliver’s late mother ( who knew he was gay but said she could “fix” him), he doesn’t want to hide any longer.

Cristopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star as father and son facing some hard realities as they search for love and friendship.

And so Hal gets involved with various gay pride groups, makes lots of new friends and even gets the sort of tender romantic relationship with a younger man ( that handsome gent Goran Visnjic, sporting an unfortunate John Porter Security Man Shag) he’s hoped to find. He’s suddenly discovered his joie de vivre. Oliver–who never saw real love between his parents, only a polite cordiality–looks on with interest.

Poor Oliver is an uptight guy–he’s sad, he’s lonely and he yearns for a lasting, loving relationship, something that has eluded him.  You don’t have to be told this; you can see in McGregor’s expressive eyes.

I said two difficult bits of news. Just when Hal is enjoying his new freedom of expression, he is diagnosed with lung cancer.

The movie is narrated by McGregor and features flashbacks to the childhood that helped mold into the adult he’s become. We follow Oliver’s relationship with his terminally ill father (his love for his dad is so touching), and later, his blossoming romance with a lovely French actress, who is as emotionally skittish as Oliver. There are a lot of serious moments, and at one point I was boo-hooing (keep the tissues handy).

But  there are lighter moments as well, and it’s never melodramatic; these seem like real people in real houses and offices, not actors emoting on some Hollywood soundstage.

It’s not for everyone; it moves at a leisurely pace and there isn’t a lot of action.  But as one reviewer said, it has an innate sweetness. Beginners offers plenty of humanity with a literate script ( based on the real-life story of the writer-director’s relationship with his late father) and wonderful performances by all involved.  Not to mention the cutest Jack Russell Terrier who “speaks” in subtitles to add a bit of lightness here and there (and it works. I fell in love with Arthur). Ultimately, it is a life-affirming film.

I have to say this is the kind of small indie gem I would love to see Richard appear in from time to time, in between big budget productions and any stage work he might pursue. I think he would find such a project a satisfying and rewarding one and we would enjoy seeing him engage with good actors and a good script in an intimate setting.

Arthur, the adorable Jack Russell who provides delightful comedy relief and a real “awwww” factor to the film.