There have been a lot of Star Wars rip-offs but Starcrash is probably the finest of them all. It’s a mix of Star Wars and Flash Gordon, only more poorly acted and with some of the most laughable models and sets I’ve ever seen. And where else are you going to find David Hasselhoff (wearing guyliner) fighting stop-motion robots with a lightsaber, a cowardly Texan robot gunslinger, or Caroline Munro in bikini after space bikini?
Stella Star (Caroline Munro) is the best pilot and space pirate in the galaxy. She’s also the least-clothed pirate in the galaxy, which is definitely not a problem for this movie. Her accomplice Akton (Marjoe Gortner) uses the power of his amazing permed hair to plot courses and absorb laser beams.
Stella and Akton are arrested and sentenced to prison at the beginning of the movie; for Stella, the sentence is a lifetime of mining in a bikini. Fearing that this might be bad for her skin, she starts a prison riot which gets everyone killed and blows the whole mine up a few seconds after she escapes.
It turns out her sentence had been commuted anyway, and the Emperor had sent Elle (the cowardly Texan-accented robot gunslinger) and Thor (who is best described as fat and green) to pick her up. Guess she blew the prison mine up for nothing! But fear not, the movie doesn’t care about that.
After stopping to pick up Akton, they flit off to the Emperor’s sky-city, which is yet another amazingly poorly constructed model with silly lighting. The models in Starcrash will almost certainly having you choking on your popcorn or could possibly make beverages come out of your nose, so be careful what you ingest while watching.
The Emperor is played by Christopher Plummer. How Christopher Plummer ended up in this film is anyone’s guess; he seems almost in pain while reciting his lines. It adds to the hilarity. The Emperor sends Stella, Akton, Elle, and Thor to search for his son, Prince Simon (who is played by none other than the Hoff). And they must stop the evil Count Zarth Arn, who sounds a lot like Darth Vader, but really looks and acts a lot more like a third-rate Ming the Merciless.
What follows is an intergalactic journey of slightly-less-than-epic proportions. I’m sure it would have been epic if not for budget considerations. The plucky crew engages in horribly edited space battles against pieces of flying plastic: “There’s only one left!” after which they shoot down at least 5 or 6 more. They’ll travel to a planet of Amazons in bikinis, because when you’re in space one woman in a bikini is never enough! Even the Amazon’s giant stop-motion robot has metal breasts.
They’ll also be stranded on planets of ice, and fight cavemen. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Hoff and Caroyln Munro fight cavemen with their awesome kung fu skills. What if I told you lightsabers were involved? And they haven’t even gotten to the stop-motion robot lightsaber swordfight yet! Later on—in what has to be the worst mode of troop transport ever devised—wave after wave of men will be launched into battle inside golden torpedos. And there’s so much more! Did I mention the fireman’s sliding pole in Zarth Arn’s command center? Or that our intrepid heroes get attacked by a giant lava lamp?
What people might find surprising about Starcrash is that in addition to being terrible in most conceivable ways it’s also a lot of fun to watch. Sure, it has tremendously bad dialog, sets, models, acting, and the plot is silly. There’s still something about it that makes it genuinely engaging. When I wasn’t laughing at loud at how shoddy the proceedings were I was honestly having a good time watching it. It’s got a lot of crack-brained charm and I don’t think I’d be wrong it saying it does a better job in ripping off the original Star Wars movie than the Phantom Menace did.
If you like cheesy science fiction you can’t go wrong with Starcrash. I suggest watching it with friends for extra fun.