Studio: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: September 14, 2010
Original Release Year: 1978
Running Time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo)
Movie: 3 out of 5
Rushed into production just 3 months after the US release of Star Wars, and released almost two years later, the French-Italian-US co-production StarCrash defies explanation and simply has to be seen to be believed. Caroline Munro stars as space pirate Stella Star, who early in the film is captured and sentenced to linfe in a hard labor camp, wearing nothing but a leather bikini. She manages to escape and is rescued by the same crew that captured her. Apparently, the Emperor (Christopher Plummer) wants to enlist her and her partner Akton (Marjoe Gortner) to find his son, Prince Simon (David Hasselhoff), who disappeared when his spaceship was attacked by the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell, in the Ming the Merciless role).
What follows can only be described as a mash-up of Star Wars, Barbarella, Flash Gordon, and Jason and the Argonauts. The acting is atrociously bad (particularly since 90% of the dialogue was later dubbed in a recording studio, often with different actors), the plot is a complete mess, and the effects are often dated using techniques that were considered old-school back in 1977. The effects that suffer the most are the Ray Harryhausen-inspired Dynamation sequences, mostly due to the quality of the screen material for the front and rear projection and film stock used in combining the live action and animation. For this reason, many of the sequences have a resemblance to George Melies’ silent classic A Trip To The Moon.
To be fair, StarCrash is not really a Roger Corman Cult Classic. Corman had nothing to do with the production of the film, purchasing the North American distribution rights after rival American International Pictures backed out upon completion of the film. StarCrash, though, does have a B-movie charm that helps sustain the film, keeping the audience entertained through to the strange cliffhanger ending. It is not a great film, it’s not even a good film, but it is a fun movie to watch from beginning to end, due in part to Luigi Cozzi’s direction and an adventurous score by the great John Barry.
Video: 3 out of 5
Shout! Factory’s 1080p AVC transfer, approximating the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is probably as good as StarCrash will ever look. Due to the issues with the effects sequences, this is an uneven transfer. At times, colors are vibrant with accurate flesh tones and exceptional detail. When Dynamation effects are employed, the rear or front projected image appears washed out and overly soft, while the animated puppets retain much of the detail and color.
Audio: 3.5 out of 5
The film’s original 4-track stereo soundtrack has been faithfully reproduced on the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. John Barry’s score benefits the most from the improved resolution, but overall the track is susceptible to the recording techniques utilized in the late 1970s. That being said, the surrounds and LFE are put to good use, especially during space battles. Dialogue, though intelligible, is more obviously dubbed thanks to the increased frequency range and resolution. A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track has also been included.
Special Features: 4 out of 5
Shout! Factory has graced StarCrash with special features that span two discs, one Blu-ray and one DVD.
Disc One (Blu-ray)
Interview With Director Luigi Cozzi (41:24): This featurette, also titles Luigi of the Stars: The Making of StarCrash, was recorded at Cozzi’s Profondo Rosso movie memorabilia shop in Rome, Italy. Cozzi discusses his career as a contributor to Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, his collaborations with Dario Argento, how Star Wars put StarCrash on the fast track, what movies influenced him when making StarCrash, the casting process, how John Barry became involved, and why he directed the film under the name Lewis Coates.
The Music of John Barry: Commentary of the Score by Composer Mars of Deadhouse Music (12:55): Mars has a hypnotic voice, and most of this featurette includes his voice-over. Nearly half of the running time is spent on how music is often composed for film. The remainder only covers three brief sequences from the film, and there is no music-only option.
Audio Commentaries: Masters of Horror scribe and StarCrash expert Stephen Romano (credited on the disc menu as Stephen Romero) provided two comprehensive and exhaustive commentary tracks. Both are highly recommended. History of StarCrash is a non-scene specific commentary, more of an audio essay on the evolution of the fantasy film through the 1970s and how StarCrash played an important role, as well as the making of the film and the many difficulties faced during its troubled production. Scene By Scene covers much of the same material, but in a scene specific and more detailed manner. There is some great trivia in this track, including the revelation of the actress who actually voiced Stella Star.
Photo Galleries: The galleries are broken down into five categories: Designs, Storyboards, Behind The Scenes, Promotional Artwork, and Fan Artwork. There is a Play ALL option, or the galleries can be viewed individually. Many of the items are from Stephen Romano’s personal collection.
US Theatrical Trailer with Commentary by Joe Dante (2:36): This trailer was the last one that Joe Dante edited for New World Pictures before leaving to direct such films as The Howling and his segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, and he discusses how surprised he was after first seeing the film and how that changed the way he would normally edit a trailer. There is minimal dialogue, with an emphasis on visual effects and John Barry’s score. Presented in 1.78:1 high definition.
US Theatrical Trailer with Commentary by Eli Roth, Courtesy of Trailers From Hell (2:58): Eli Roth weighs on his thoughts on the trailer and the movie. Presented in 1.33:1 high definition.
French Trailer (2:56): It is interesting to see how different this trailer is from Joe Dante’s, which includes a few deleted scenes. Presented in 1.78:1 high definition.
TV Spot (0:32): This 30-second TV spot is your typical Roger Corman trailer, but is in a weirdly cropped 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
Radio Spots (1:33): Two 30-second radio spots, narrated by the then-voice of ABC, Ernie Anderson, are included here in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Interestingly, the ads contain a lot of R2-D2-like sound effects.
Disc Two (DVD):
17 Deleted/Alternate Scenes (36:36): Included here is an alternate opening that contains a prologue crawl similar to Star Wars that will likely induce motion sickness, an extended sequence of Stella’s escape from prison and rescue of Akton, an extended introduction to Prince Simon, and an alternate end credit sequence that reminded me of Bill Murray’s lounge lizard character from Saturday Night Live where he sings and makes up lyrics for the theme from Star Wars. Most of the scenes contain minor cuts to the final sequences to trim the running time.
Interview With Caroline Munro (1:13:00): Stella Star herself discusses her career, the various roles she played including Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Dracula AD 1972, her transition from modelling to acting, and working on StarCrash. The interview is shot single camera, with only cutaways for title cards.
Making of the Special Effects by Armondo Valcauda (24:00): This is really a slideshow autobiography interspersed with animation footage by Valcauda, “narrated” by on-screen text, and does not contain a lot of test footage from StarCrash. The animation has some major interlacing issues.
Behind the Scenes Footage with Commentary (19:48): Stephen Romano narrates these home movies that were filmed on the set during production.
Original Screenplay with Illustrations: The screenplay is provided as a PDF file on the DVD-Rom portion of Disc Two.
12-page Booklet: This full-color insert includes an essay on the film by Stephen Romano, along with artwork artwork and stills.
Reversible Cover: Choose your favorite poster art as your case cover.
Overall: 3 out of 5
StarCrash is not a great film, but it is one of my new guilty pleasures, thanks to this overstuffed special edition from the excellent folks at Shout! Factory.