Sci-fi fans of a certain age will no doubt recall 1978’s Starcrash, a low-budget Italian spaghetti adventure that pays homage not only to Star Wars (which came out the year before), but also to the sexy 1960s classic Barbarella and Ray Harryhausen’s unbeatable Jason and the Argonauts.
Hammer glamour vixen Caroline Munro slips on a revealing space bikini to play Stella Star, an inter-galactic pilot and smuggler charged with tracking down the evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell), who is developing a weapon capable of annihilating whole galaxies (shades of the Death Star here).
Stella, and her fellow smuggler Akton, team up with Thor, Chief of the Imperial Police and his android sidekick, Elle, and head to the Haunted stars, encountering Amazons on horseback, android gladiators, prehistoric Troggs and a even a pre-Knight Rider David Hasselhoff (who plays the Emperor’s son Simon) while trying the find the villainous Count.
This is Saturday Matinee fare at its cheesiest. The sfx are wonky, the acting hammy and the script a hoot, but the production design is actually inspired (very psychedelic with a touch of disco), as is the music score (courtsey of James Bond composer John Barry), which has since become a collector’s favourite.
Munro is very easy on the eye, unlike Hasslehoff’s bouffant barnet, while Joe Spinell chews the scenery at every opportunity, spouting some hilariously bad lines. The adventures maybe too derivative for sci-fi purists and those who like their sfx expensive and perfect, but anyone who enjoys cheese with their homage will love this slice of kitsch, especially the nods to the legendary Ray Harryhausen (check out the giant Guardian sequence).
And talking of Harryhausen, a new exhibition of his life’s work is set to open in London from 29 June. Come back tomorrow for Pete’s Peek at what’s in store.