Often enough, I've warned friends and family of the dangers of returning to the beloved movies of your past. More than once, like a moth to the flames, I have made this error and returned to those movies. More often than not, a beloved former cinema gem in my mind's eye has been dashed to the ground, forever broken and tarnished. On a few occasions, I've been delightfully surprised that the movie managed to still hold some or all of it's magic. But the real fun is finding the rarest of all, and running full tilt head first into the open arms of an old movie's overwhelming badness.
This movie is awful, and I love it almost more than breathing.
|Nothing about this poster says you won't love this movie.|
Now, by 1979, we all know that Star Wars had blown away box office records and spawned a following that multiplied faster than Gremlins being sprayed with a firehose. It wasn't, however, until the success was solidified by The Empire Strikes Back, that the drive really geared up to cash in on sci-fi's new success.
|80's Sci-Fi or Cruising sequel?|
If you've seen Star Wars, I don't need to describe the opening crawling spaceship shot. The major difference here of course is that the Star Destroyer looked like...well, something that could damn well destroy some stars. Our spaceship here looks like you could crush it by accidentally laying a book on top of it...or knocking it off the table. Once we got inside the ship, and I saw all the left over leatherette costumes from Planet of the Vampires (1965...and a much better film), I thought maybe it wouldn't be all bad. That was until I saw one of the most leaden exposition scenes ever interrupted by what appeared to be a super-imposed death dealing force field that looked like the inner workings of a lava lamp. Oh, oh, oh...the guys in the ship are on a mission from the Emperor to find the ultimate weapon created by the evil...are you ready for this...Count Zarth Arn! (Zarth's not only pure evil...he also has one of cinema-dom's most impressive haircuts...The English language lacks the precice vocabulary to accurately describe it.)
|Who needs a large black helmet when you've got all these lovely locks?|
|Weird straps: the stuff of space outfits since long before Leeloo.|
The first ship is on a planet...well, it's just a planet...it has an ocean, a beach...and a bunch of Amazons...oh, oh, oh, and some woman who we don't know but we do find out that she's loyal to Zarth, and she hates Elle the robot...for some reason that naturally is not explained. So Stella and Elle go down, they get captured, the make another goofy implausible escape, and are then attacked by an enormous stop motion statue. An Aside here: Clash of the Titans (1981) was one of the movies I shouldn't have gone back to, but watching this scene, suddenly and inexplicably, my heart yearned in the hardest way for the majesty that was Harryhausen's Kraken. Oh, and I guess there were no survivors in the ship...no one really says what happened to them, but the Amazon queen does tell Stella and Elle that they are spies, and they'll never find Zarth's ultimate weapon. On to the next planet...
|The majesty of a tin foil colossus...in SPACE!!!|
|Thanks internet for doing my work for me.|
Next, they go down into the weapon's...ummm...whatever...um...home. Akton does a lot of explaining, and who should turn up but Zarth Arn and his haircut! Oh yeah, he's also got some men with him who look just like the Emperor's guys from the beginning (the leatherette spacesuits) but with slightly different hats AND two...umm..stop-motion robots with pirate swords. Like any good villain, he then explains that he's going to blow up the ultimate weapon (huh? why?), which will also kill the Emperor when he arrives to save his son. To someone somewhere...this made perfect sense. Nonetheless, Zarth takes off, leaving the robots to watch the prisoners. What he's going to do next, I have no idea...take over the universe, I guess...but without his ultimate weapon. Maybe he just went out for a sandwich and a beer.
|I bet you didn't even notice the robots for that majestic hair.|
Ok, pause in action...The Emperor did appear before now, but I was sort of saving him up. Do we all know who Christopher Plummer is? I have two fond childhood memories of Chris. Every X-mas my sister and I watched The Sound of Music (1965) on TV with my mom, and Christopher Plummer was the gruff but enventually endearing Captain Von Trapp. Later, my dad and I used to watch Pete Sellers act a fool in the Pink Panther movies, and Christopher Plummer took over the role of the dashing Sir Charles Litton (aka. The Phantom) in Return of the Pink Panther (1975). Yet here he is, and you can almost see the dignity washing away with each frame that he's on screen. Something inside me shed a tear...while I laughed my @$$ off as he explained that his space ship could freeze time while they escaped the destruction of the ultimate weapon. It only got worse...
|This is the future! Aerodynamics be damned!|
Yup, the emperor launches two-man flying coffins in through the windows of Zarth's flying hand ship. Amazingly, though a great many of these flying coffins make it in...and ignoring that the vacuum of space isn't pulling them and everything else in the ship out into the vaccum of space...they all magically seems to break through the same windows over and over and over again. I mentioned "two-man flying coffins" because that's what comes out of them: two men. However, I began to wonder if the Emperor was such a good guy because...uh...well...all these guys get slaughtered...and um, all his spaceships get destroyed while he, Stella, and Hasselhoff all stand around watching. Sort of seemed like an intergalactic snuff film there for a few minutes.
|NOTE: Not the set of the 1979 Academy Awards|
For a minute, I considered rewinding the movie, and copying the soliloquoy down for you...but no, no, no...you gotta see it for yourself...truly. In fact, looking back, I'm not sure that I've done this movie an iota of justice in merely describing it. If you can, just take an hour and a half of your life and throw it away on this glorious travesty of a movie. If you can't manage that, take like a five dollar bill out of your wallet and burn it...for Plummer...for Hasselhoff...and for the great movie that is...STARCRASH!
|Sci-fi sexism was never so sexy...and neither was Hasselhoff.|