Starcrash (original Italian title Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione, literally “stellar clashes beyond the third dimension”) is an Italian 1978 science fiction film, which was also released under the English title of The Adventures of Stella Star (in the US). The screenplay was written by Luigi Cozzi (pen name Lewis Coates) and Nat Wachsberger, and Cozzi also directed the film. The cast included Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Joe Spinell and Robert Tessier The original music score was by Oscar winning composer John Barry (Midnight Cowboy, Goldfinger, Somewhere in Time, Dances with Wolves).
It was filmed in Technicolor with Dolby sound, and has a runtime of 94 minutes. The US release is 92 minutes, and received an MPAA rating of PG. The film is generally regarded by critics as a campy Z movie with cheap special effects and a weak, derivative plot that some people find unintentionally humorous. It appeared a year after the original Star Wars and tried to re-mix the same elements, but without much success. It has been compared to Plan 9 from Outer Space.
In 2004, nationally syndicated television series Cinema Insomnia released a DVD version hosted by Mr. Lobo. The film was later picked up by Shout! Factory who released it on DVD and Blu-ray in 2010 as part of the “Roger Corman Cult Classics” series.
In a distant galaxy, a starship tries to find the evil Count Zarth Arn. The ship is attacked by a mysterious weapon which drives the crew mad and they kill each other.
Meanwhile, outlaw smuggler Stella Star and her sidekick Akton run into the Imperial Space Police led by robot sheriff Elle. Akton and Stella escape by jumping into hyperspace. They happen to find one of the escape pods from the opening scene starship with one survivor. But they are shortly apprehended by the police who followed their hyperspace trail.
Tried, convicted and found guilty of piracy, they are sentenced to life in prison. Stella manages to create a diversion and escape the prison colony. She is then found by Police Chief Thor and taken to an orbiting ship where she is reunited with Akton. They are contacted by the Emperor of the Galaxy, who thanks them for recovering the starship survivor and are granted clemency if they help find the other three missing escape pods, one of which contains the Emperor’s son.
The Emperor is in a feud with the rogue Count Zarth Arn, who has a secret weapon on a remote planet, which he will use to take over the galaxy. With Chief Thor and the robot Elle accompanying them, the Emperor orders Stella and Akton to find the Count’s secret weapon as well as rescue his son who may still be alive. Stella and Akton travel to many systems trying to find the escape pods and the Emperor’s son.
On the first planet, a jungle world, Stella is abducted by a tribe of Amazonian warriors, who shoot Elle, leaving him for dead. But robotic Elle does not die and makes his way to the throne room of Corelia, Queen of the Amazons, and takes her hostage to secure Stella’s release. She and Elle are chased by a giant robot, but are rescued by Akton and Thor.
On a frozen planet, Stella and Elle investigate the second escape pod crash site, but after finding no survivors they find out Thor is a spy for Count Zarth Ahn. Thor subdues Akton and traps Stella and Elle outside where he knows they will freeze to death come nightfall. But Akton revives and kills Thor. But the sun has already set, and the surface of the planet is frozen solid. Elle keeps Stella alive by keeping her in suspended animation. The next morning Akton is able to go outside and bring Elle and frozen Stella back onto the ship where she is successfully thawed out.
On the last planet where the third escape pod landed they find it’s also the location of the Count’s secret weapon. Stella and Akton are attacked by barbarian tribesmen who hack Elle to pieces and abduct Stella. She escapes and flees to a nearby cave where she is meets a man wearing a golden mask who shoots the tribesmen. He is revealed to be the sole survivor of the crash, the Emperor’s son, Simon. Akton arrives having fought his way through the barbarians and starts a lightsaber duel with Simon, unaware of his identity. Simon proves his relation to the Emperor and the trio set off to find the Count’s secret weapon.
Arriving at an underground laboratory, Stella, Akton and Simon are caught by the Count’s soldiers. The Count reveals his plan to use them as bait to bring the Emperor to the planet. The count will then have his weapon self-destruct, destroying the planet while he escapes to conquer the Emperor’s homeworld. The Count departs, leaving behind two personal bodyguard robots to keep the group there. Akton engages the two in a lightsaber fight, but is mortally wounded. The Emperor arrives but is aware that the whole planet is mined with nuclear bombs. He uses a device to block the bomb timers for three minutes to give Stella and Simon a chance to make it back to their ship before the planet detonates.
Standing beside the Emperor on his flagship, Stella watches a huge space battle between the Emperor and the Count’s massive space station, just as the Count attacks the Emperor’s homeworld. The count’s attack is a failure, though. The Emperor’s soldiers storm the Count’s space station, but are overwhelmed and killed by the Count’s massive reinforcements.
With no options left, the Emperor decides that the only way to stop the Count is to collide one of his space stations into the Count’s, destroying them both. Stella and Elle volunteer to steer an abandoned space city into the Count’s and destroy it. Stella and Elle manage to escape from the space city’s bridge just as it crashes into and destroys the Count’s space station, finally winning the war.
Stella and Elle are picked up the Emperor’s son Simon, who is overjoyed that Stella survived once again and they agree to get married and begin a new era of peace for the galaxy.
Caroline Munro – Stella Star: a young and sensual woman smuggler, who is supposedly the best astro-pilot in the whole universe. She and her companion Akton end up helping the Emperor after a short prison sentence.
Marjoe Gortner – Akton: Stella’s loyal sidekick, human in appearance but also endowed with considerable mystical powers (including the power to restore people to life); nothing is truly explained about his nature or his origins; he fights with a laser sword similar to a Star Wars lightsaber.
Judd Hamilton – Elle: A powerful robot policeman endowed with emotions, who ends up helping Stella and Akton. Apparently destroyed by cavemen on the third planet, he comes back later after being repaired by the Emperor’s men.
David Hasselhoff – Simon: the Emperor’s only son, only survivor of Zarth Arn’s assault on his ship.
Christopher Plummer – The Emperor: The known universe’s benevolent, wise ruler, whose only son has disappeared after an encounter with the space forces of evil Count Zarth Arn.
Joe Spinell – Count Zarth Arn: a megalomaniac renegade, who is bent on dethroning the Emperor and proclaiming himself supreme ruler of the universe.
Robert Tessier – Thor: Chief of the Imperial State Police, and Elle’s superior. Turns out to be a traitor working for Zarth Arn. Knocks out Atkon on the second planet, believing him dead, but is then killed by Atkon who is able to deflect laser blasts with his hands.
Nadia Cassini – Corelia: Queen of the Amazon women on the first planet that Stella and her crew visit. She is an ally of Count Zarth Arn.
Shooting took over six months and was frequently brought to a halt due to financing problems. The film was originally made for American International Pictures but after seeing the final cut they declined to release it. New World Pictures stepped in instead.
The 1981 science fiction film Escape from Galaxy III was also known as Starcrash II.
At the time it was panned by critics, but later gain a cult following. In DVD Delirium, the reviewer panned the film calling the plot, “something akin to something written by excitable primary school kids than adults.” The film, “uses every trick in the special effects book … and bungles the lot of them hopelessly. It also rips chunks off Star Wars,” as well as showing “‘evidence’ of inspiration” from Barbarella, Invaders from Mars, and Jason and the Argonauts. The reviewer concludes that, this film “is one of those movies that shovels on the ineptitude with such verve that it does achieve a ‘must see’ sinful pleasure status.”
Kurt Dahlke of DVD Talk said, “Starcrash is a masterpiece of unintentionally bad filmmaking. Pounded out in about 18 months seemingly as an answer to Star Wars, Luigi Cozzi’s knock-off buzzes around with giddy brio, mixing ridiculous characters with questionably broad acting, an incredibly simple yet still nonsensical plot, and budget special effects that transcend into the realm of real art. It’s a completely ridiculous movie, that’s great to watch with a few friends and a beer or two. And it still manages to make my jaw drop.”R.L. Shaffer of IGN gave the film an extremely positive review, rating it a 10/10, and calling it “The single greatest sci-fi camp fest ever put on celluloid” and saying its in league with cult classics like Troll 2, Riki-Oh and The Room.
J.C. Maçek III of WorldsGreatestCritic.com wrote, “If Starcrash had a much bigger budget, a better script and fresh ideas that weren’t mined from other, vastly superior franchises… it would still suck. That’s right, folks, it has to aspire to suck.”