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Film / Starcrash

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We'll scan it with our computer waves.
The only solution is to leave space and re-enter on the other side.

In the late '70s, Italian director Luigi Cozzi attempted to capitalize on the success of Star Wars by creating a space movie with B-movie faves Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, plus Christopher Plummer and a then-unknown David Hasselhoff. The result? STARCRASH!

The evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell) is threatening to take over the galaxy with the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. The Emperor's son has gone missing after this weapon destroyed his spaceship, and smugglers Akton and Stella Star must find him and destroy the weapon.

In 2017 it was included in the revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Tropes related to the MST3K episode are found here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Stella Star. She's the best pilot in the galaxy, a smuggler, a good shot with a ray gun, and ends up being the hero of the film. (That said, she devolves into a Faux Action Girl as the movie goes on, at one point even becoming just a Neutral Female, but she does regain her Action Girl chops at the end)
  • Artistic License – Physics: At one point the characters have to go to a planet that is "thousands of degrees below zero". In reality absolute zero (-460 F, -273 C) is by definition the coldest temperature possible.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • In the film's universe there is apparently air (or at least some kind of gas or something) in space, as in one scene numerous glass windows on a spaceship get shattered but none of the people in the room get sucked out or suffocate.
    • The soldier torpedoes, which work by crashing through the windows of the Count's space station so a couple of soldiers can hop out. This has no effect on the atmosphere inside the space station.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Akton fades into nothing as he dies, which is either this trope or No Body Left Behind. The film is vague on which trope is used. Akton tells Stella that he'll live forever before disappearing, implying that it's this, but he might just be trying to make her feel better.
  • Bald of Evil: Thor betrays the crew, as he's really working for Zarth Arn.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Emperor's regime sees nothing wrong with sentencing people to a lifetime of slave labour in radioactive conditions with no protective clothing... and not even hardened super-criminals, but simple smugglers like Stella and Akton who are presented as not really being all that bad. Still, the film portrays them as the good guys because Zarth Arn is pretty much literally a pantomime villain. Their mooks even wear identical uniforms in different colors (which are actually grey with brown and black).
  • Boarding Pod: Towards the end of the film the heroes send troops into the Big Bad's fortress using golden torpedoes which are fired through the windows.
  • Boobs of Steel: Stella Star, a certified Action Girl with a large bust size thanks to being played by Caroline Munro.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Zarth Arn corners the heroes with an army of armed robot guards... and proceeds to leave them on a planet set to explode. Said planet is also host to his most powerful weapon, so he's deprived of it in the final battle.
  • Captain Obvious: The smugglers come across a drifting, derelict spacecraft. They can see it out the window, big and glaring, for several seconds. Then, Stella Star gets a look of utter surprise on her face, and squeals, "IT'S A SPACE SHIP!!"
  • Colony Drop: The titular Starcrash.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Imperial forces and Zarth Arn's mooks wear identical leather uniforms, the mooks in black (of course) and the Imperials in brown.
  • Combo Platter Powers: The sine waves that Akton can make hover over his hand seem to be able to do anything from allowing him to see into the future to acting as an emergency microwave oven.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: The Emperor of the Galaxy tries to do this at the end of the movie, but the script isn't really written well enough for him to succeed.
  • Cool Starship: The villain's ship is shaped like a clawed fist.
  • Covers Always Lie: Many of the posters make Elle look like a looming bad guy, when he's actually one of the heroes.
  • Cowardly Lion: Elle is always saying how various things make him "nervous." It doesn't stop him from being a badass.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The climax of the movie, but not in the way you'd think. The Imperial forces get their asses thoroughly kicked by the evil mooks. How thoroughly? The extended ship-launching sequence that precedes the battle actually lasts several times longer than the battle itself.
  • Death Is Cheap: At least if you're a robot. Elle is smashed and fixed twice. The first time he's shot in the chest by space amazons, but turns out to be Not Quite Dead. The second time he's literally smashed into pieces by cavemen before bursting into a shower of sparks and smoke and yet there's somehow enough of him left (after said pieces are left on an exploding planet) for the Emperor to rebuild him.
  • Deep South: The robot Elle speaks with an inexplicable Texan accent.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • Stella's name means "Star Star".
    • There's also a weird bit near the end where they discover Zarth Arn's secret hideout. At one point Stella expresses amazement at a room full of computers, which she describes as "Pre-programmed computers!" What other kind is there?
  • Deus ex Machina: Stuck on a planet only 48 seconds before it explodes? Good thing your battleship can stop time long enough for you to get off the planet.
  • Didn't Think This Through: What did they THINK was going to happen when they sent eight space marines to fight an entire fortress full of enemy soldiers?
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There are giant, golden torpedoes that fly through space and have soldiers in them that shoot lasers.
  • Dramatic Slip: Stella has one of these while running away from the giant Amazon Talos thingy.
  • Elite Mooks: The Golems.
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: Stella and Akton have to drop the cargo they're smuggling to escape the pull of a neutron star.
  • The Emperor: Christopher Plummer as the Emperor of the Galaxy And he's a good guy, to boot.
  • Evil Overlord: Zarth Arn the evil Count. He's said to rule half of the galaxy and is the Emperor's sole rival.
  • Expanded Universe: Yes, there really is one, thanks to a anthology called, of course, Curved Space.
  • Expy: Par for the course for a Star Wars ripoff, but actually played with a lot.
    • Elle the robot looks a lot like a low-rent Darth Vader but his personality is basically the complete opposite. He's basically a somewhat less obnoxious C3PO.
    • Zarth Arn, the villain, is much more like Darth Vader, only he's the actual Big Bad, not just The Dragon.
    • Stella Star is an ace pilot, former smuggler, and crack shot, sort of like a sexy female Han Solo.
    • Akton has mystical powers and a lightsaber and plays an Obi-Wan role.
    • The Emperor, of course, but unlike Emperor Palpatine, this one is one of the heroes of the film.
    • Simon is the Emperor's son and also one of the heroes, and briefly uses Akton's lightsaber, making him close to Luke Skywalker.
    • Zarth Arn's superweapon is played up like an expy of the Death Star, but is actually pretty lame. It doesn't blow up planets, it projects psychic waves towards ships to make them crash... and it only works on ships that are passing directly by the planet it's on.
  • Face–Heel Turn: It's unclear if Thor is this or The Mole, as they don't clarify whether he'd always been a traitor or if he had just recently gone over to working for Zarth Arn.
  • Fanfare: The score by John Barry isn't as bombastic as other Star Wars homages, but still has plenty of brass and grandeur.
  • Feudal Future: The galaxy is divided into two equally-sized nations at war, one ruled by a benevolent emperor and the other by an evil count.
  • Funny Background Event: Watch Stella when she has no lines. It's clear Caroline Munro had no direction from the director beyond "pout and look like you are paying attention."
  • Gender-Blender Name: "Elle" (pronounced like the letter L) is not usually a name for a male character, let alone a male-coded robot.
  • Genre-Busting: Aside from Star Wars, the movie's primary influences seem to be Sword and Sandal flicks, particularly Jason and the Argonauts. Director Luigi Cozzi specifically referred to the film as "science fantasy instead of science fiction."
  • Harmless Freezing: Stella gets buried under a snowdrift and makes a complete recovery through a combination of holding Elle's hand before being buried (so that he could use his systems to regulate her body temperature) and Akton demonstrating yet another unexplained superpower.
  • Informed Attribute: While we're told what a great pilot and fighter Stella Star is, she doesn't actually contribute much to the missions, never saves anyone, fails to prevent two teammates from dying, and is frequently captured and in need of rescue by her companions. The only thing we see her do is get out of prison, but even that is because other characters arrange for it (and they all drop dead as she runs to save her own skin). Akton, meanwhile, actually lives up to his build up.
  • Invincible Hero: Akton's intended to be an awe-inspiring champion, and instead comes off as a know-it-all with New Powers as the Plot Demands. What makes it especially odd is that Stella Star is the Designated Hero, and Akton upstages her.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: It's a Star Wars rip off, set in a distant galaxy.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Twisted around and thoroughly botched, with Simon's extremely clunky exposition about being the Emperor's son.
  • Made of Explodium: People, when they're hit with laser beams. (Except for Akton, who just turns into sine waves.) Also, nuclear reactors, which blow up spectacularly after being shot once, which makes one wonder why guards are allowed to bring guns into that room in the first place.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Zarth's "Golems," which are conspicuously very different-looking from Elle.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Stella even manages to outdo the Amazons when it comes to inexplicable clothing choices.
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!: Akton spends the trip through hyperspace enumerating the probabilities of all the different ways he and Stella could be killed. No Determinator here, and the scene is instead Played for Laughs, with Stella giving a sarcastic "Thanks a lot!"
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Tons. Akton is presented as merely being Stella's friend and navigator until his battle with Thor, when his eyes flash and he suddenly gains super strength and an immunity to lasers. Later he gets a lightsaber out of nowhere, and then reveals himself to be an immortal energy being. Seriously. The Emperor's flagship having the ability to selectively stop the flow of time is another big one, which also doesn't come up again even though it'd be really useful later.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Fittingly for a Star Wars rip-off, Akton gets one.
  • Obviously Evil:
  • Orcus on His Throne: Zarth Arn's means of taking over the galaxy is a weapon so large it had to be hidden inside a planet. The weapon only seems to be able to attack things right next to said planet, which has no means of propulsion. Zarth Arn has nothing to do but walk around his spaceship talking about how he will rule the galaxy by sunset.
  • Ramming Always Works: The titular "Starcrash" involves piloting a mobile city into an enemy ship. Considering that everyone present knows exactly what the Emperor means after he utters the vague phrase "starcrash", it seems that this is a common strategy in-universe.
  • Same Language Dub: British actress Caroline Munro's voice is replaced by American actress Candy Clark's for the English dub (she was married to co-star Marjoe Gortner at the time).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: All of Arn's men abandon him at the end and escape when the Floating City is sent on a collision course with his ship. He just yells at them for being cowards and insists on remaining, and ends up taking the Floating City in the space.
  • Shooting Superman: Akton suddenly develops the superpower to block ray gun shots, yet Thor just keeps shooting at him. Akton deflects the rays back at him, and Thor continues shooting, hitting himself four or five times before he dies.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Imperial warship at the beginning is named Murray Leinster. Two of her officers are named Clarke and Bradbury.
    • The giant robot on the Amazon planet is an homage to Talos from Jason and the Argonauts. They even have similar swords.
    • The Judge presiding over Stella and Akton's trial resembles the Martian Mastermind from the 1953 film Invaders From Mars.
    • Zarth Arn's name is taken from Edmond Hamilton's The Star Kings, although there it was the name of one of the good guys — who did have access to a powerful superweapon, and the Big Bad was doing all in his power to get it from him.
  • Slow Laser: The ray guns in this film do some weird things. Usually they just create a burst of fire and put a hole through people. When used on the Amazons, they make them disintegrate. They also cause a door to explode at one point.
  • Smug Snake: Thor, so damn hard. Even before his Face–Heel Turn he just oozes smugness with every line.
  • Space Friction: Leaves a trail.
  • Space Is an Ocean: At one point, Stella swims between two spaceships.
  • Space Is Noisy: All spaceships move through space making all kinds of whooshing, whirring and/or beeping sounds.
  • Space Police: Elle and Thor were members of this before being assigned to help Stella and Akton, though Thor was apparently a Dirty Cop.
  • Stripperiffic: Stella. Apparently, skimpy clothing is perfectly suitable for manually moving around radioactive material. At least she puts on some clothes for the ice planet. To a lesser extent, the entire population of the planet of Amazons, including their Humongous Mecha, wear very little.
  • Time Stands Still: The Emperor's Imperial flagship has the power to stop time using a green beam. This never comes up again after it happens.
  • Title Drop: At the end of the film, the Emperor suggests the Starcrash maneuver to defeat Zarth Arn.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Zarth Arn at the end of the movie.
  • Worthy Opponent: Before the movie began, Elle was a member of the Space Police assigned to tracking down the smugglers Stella and Akton. Stella admits later on that while she found Elle's determination infuriating at the time, it's also his best trait.