Monday, May 12, 2014

Starcrash: Part One

Every now and again you stumble upon something that shakes you.  Maybe it's realizing that a hero of yours actually hates what they do.  Maybe you learn that a film or television project you loved was awful for everybody involved.  Maybe something you really love was turned into a film by Uwe Boll.

I, for one, had a deep fixation with Star Wars back in the 80's and 90's.  I had action figures.  I had posters.  I had video games.  In fact, I still have, buried in a box somewhere, an R2-D2 phone that chirps and bloops when someone calls.

However, I was fortunate to have a lot of my die-hard fixation on the series squashed when the prequels arrived.  I still enjoy Star Wars, but it's more of a casual interest instead of being able to rattle off every single planet and alien species.  I don't think I could quote the movies all the way through any more.

So, when I realized there's a film out there called Scontri Stellari Oltre La Terza Dimensione, my reaction was to say "huh?"  Then I learned that, translated from Italian, it's Stellar Clashes Beyond The Third Dimension.  So then my reaction was "oh, huh."  Then I heard it was branded for the United States as Starcrash.  My reaction was "interesting...but I'm not sold yet."

Then I was told it has David Hasselhoff in it.


Want to see something fun?  Here's the American poster:

You should note on both of those that not only does David Hasselhoff not have the lead in the cast credits, but Christopher Plummer isn't in front, either.

Normally I don't talk much about the DVD menu, but I have to discuss this one.  The music for it feels like it fell out of an Atari 2600, consisting of nothing but beeps and boops.  I just know that this is going to be a terrible soundtrack, probably hacked out by someone in their garage with a Casio keyboard an-

Wait, this was done by John Barry?  As in John "I made the James Bond theme song" Barry?  John "Five Academy Awards, Four Grammys, and Two Golden Globes" Barry?  My god.

So let's get this started.

Anybody who's seen Star Wars knows the opening, where a large ship comes down from the top of the screen pursued by an even larger ship.  It's one of the most impressive openings in film history, giving you an instant size and scope of the conflict going on.  This movie does its best to recreate that by having exactly one (1) ship come down from overhead, but it's significantly less impressive.

"Our ships are crafted from only the finest model kits."
Everything in the ship seems to be painted white, and our first glimpse of people are two men standing in a room that apparently only has one door and has to spin around to each hallway it wants to open to, making it the universe's least efficient means of moving across a ship I've ever seen.

On the bridge, a man with no acting talent dubs over one crew member explaining that the ship is now in the heart of the "haunted stars," which I'm pretty sure was a band name.  If not, it should be.  They're on the search for the hidden base of the enemy, "Count Zarth Arn."

They approach a giant frost ball of a planet, and the commander calls for them to "scan it with our computer waves."  His underling says they already did, but at that moment some strange energy field springs up and film of the crew staggering around is laid over with film of someone shining a laser pointer at red cling wrap.

Look out, it's going to summon the giant space cats!

Two escape pods leave the ship before it explodes, and we immediately get our second Star Wars homage, as text scrolls across the screen.

Well, THAT clears everything up.

My foreign language skills are a bit rusty, but what I can make out is that there's an benevolent Emperor of Space whose enemy is Zarth Arn and-

Forget it, let's have Google translate it.

"Beyond time, life has existed on the borders of the universe. Entire galaxies prospered under the benevolent reign of the Emperor of stars. Until the day, the fierce who reigned Arn Zarth the cursed star, discovered the ultimate weapon, capable of dominating minds. The Emperor informs the access of megalomania of Zarth Arn, a spatial frigate commissioned to investigate its projects. The frigate was destroyed Zarth Arn who believed invincible and began the conquest of the galaxy. The stars cursed the edge of the universe, Zarth Arn repents terror and destruction. The time finally arrives to oppose his delirium domination."

So in other words, Zarth Arn don't shiv.

Okay, back to the movie.  I missed the credits, but I'm sure I didn't miss anything important.  We have what appears to be a flying pizza wedge shooting through space, commanded by a beauty queen and the living embodiment of 70's hair.

"Please help.  This hair has taken control of my motor functions, I can't resist it!"
A cop ship attempts to make the Flying Wedge pull over (to where? the side of the space road?), which is when Beauty Queen decides it's time to punch it and get away.  We then get the most amazing thing I've seen so far, in that there's a police robot named "L" that speaks with a southern twang who gives our female lead a name:  Stellar.  Oh, and she's a "cheap smuggler."  Hearing L speak, I fully expect to hear a narrator come on complaining about "them Duke boys."

Stellar and Captain Hair evade the police by going to "hyperspace," but apparently their little ship has some problems since there's only a 7% chance of the crew surviving and at least a 70% chance of the whole ship exploding.  I can't help but think there must be easier ways to evade space cops than almost guaranteeing your own death.

However, they safely emerge from hyperspace, but their excitement at living is short-lived as they shoot towards a neutron star.  Their strategy?  Perform a Tokyo drift (seriously) in space, and then eject the front of their ship from the back letting the entire back 2/3 of their ship get sucked into the star's gravity well.

Winding up by the edge of the Haunted Stars, they spot one of the aforementioned escape pods, and Stellar decides to investigate to see if anybody's hurt.

Can I just take a moment to show you her space suit?

I don't have anything really clever to say, I just figured people should see that.

Here's how the conversation on the comms is going, meanwhile:

"Is everything all right?"

"Yes.  ... Wait, there's someone here."

So, everything all right is "doesn't appear to be any living things on board?"

Taking the one survivor on board, they realize he has a message for the Emperor, but YEEE-HAW Space Cop L and his buddies show back up surrounding the ship and arrest Stellar Star and the Male Olivia Newton-John and take them to-

...I guess subtlety is for chumps.

Oh wait, no, that's the headquarters of the dreaded Zarth Arn, a white, clean space station that for some reason feels the need to put a fireman's pole near a staircase.  On a spaceship.

Sadly, the water slide built into one of the fingers was never made operational.
Zarth Arn learns that there was a survivor from the ship he (apparently) was responsible for destroying earlier, so he has no choice but to send out the ultra-elite killing force under his control:  two duck-billed stop-motion robots with scimitars.

"ERROR: Subroutine EAT BREAD not found."

Okay, let's look at what's going on at Stellar Star's trial.


Okay, um.  So this big giant head intelligent machine computer thing is sentencing both Stellar Star and- huh. His name is Acton?  Whatever.

Big Hair gets sentenced to some hard labor for twenty years, but Stellar Star gets sentenced to a life of hard labor.  I love the fact that the head makes sure to point out it's heard all the arguments, studied all the video tapes, and the accusations.  What kind of video tapes would there be?

Well, let's see what's life is like at the penal colony that Stellar got sent to. you think that was the outfit she was assigned, or was it something she already owned?

After a very brief fight that ends when a guy with a laser shoots a column a few times causing an entire building to explode (fortunately Stella sneaked out leaving everybody else to die), a spaceship lands in front of her and she just calmly walks aboard like it's nothing.  Who owns this strange ship, you might ask?  It's L the robot and his bald human companion!  It turns out they were sent to free her from the prison, which means all those people died for nothing.

The best line I've heard so far is said by L here:  "I only have logic and emotion circuits, no room for crazy."

L, Baldy, and Stellar go save Permy McHeadandshoulders (L has another great line when he says goodbye to someone with "Ay-dios, Chakta!") and yet I can't help but notice that nobody's given Stellar any kind of a shirt to cover herself up with.  Springy Curlyhair gets his old uniform back, but Stellar still needs to look like she stole an outfit from Dracula's "personal" dungeon.

L and Stellar take a two-person pod to a beach to look for a shuttle (L: "Mah seat belt's stuck!") which has crashed...I guess?  Fortunately, Stellar was able to change out of her leather outfit into something a bit more comfortable.  By which I mean they removed the center straps and everything colored red so it's now just a jet black bikini.

L and Stellar are then captured by, and I can't make this up, "Amazons on horseback."

The Amazons take L and Stellar back to their headquarters, when suddenly an Amazon jumps out from cover and shoots L square in the chest!  ...the reason why is never explained.  Stellar struggles against the Amazons and does a few judo chops to knock some down, but is captured again by the others, leading us to this scene.

For those of you who were curious, it's one of these shots that wound up on a lot of the box art for this movie.

The Amazon queen starts spouting off about how Zarth Arn will rule all while her henchwomen try to remember any acting tips they were given ("When in doubt, pout and show more chest.") and when things look their bleakest, L shows back up again and takes the queen hostage.

Again, one of the best lines comes from L:  "Give me any trouble and I'm going to clean out your sinuses real good, lady!"

Instead of keeping the Queen as a hostage, L lets her go as they seal the doorway to the throne room (I love how the queen yells "Stop them!" and her Amazons just kind of scamper forward like they were going to help look for a missing glove or contact lens she dropped), and L and Stellar have to blast their way out.  Fortunately, L's gun is the blaster from Captain N, so all of the people he shoots disappear in a green flicker of light.

But they aren't safe yet, because the Amazon queen walks up to a computer monitor showing a - well, words fail me.  Anyway, she shoots beams of light from her eyes that go into the screen and we get this happening next.

Yes.  It's a giant stop motion robot with robot breasts and a sword.

I- I just- it-

I really have nothing to say here that the picture doesn't already say for me.

The chase scene isn't really that exciting due to the limitations of the film (lots of shots of people running in the distance so the robot can seem bigger up close), but the movie makes up for it when L and Stellar attempt to take cover in a narrow rock passageway.  The robot, sensing that if it doesn't do something this might be the biggest disappointment in film history, reacts by throwing its sword into the gap, blocking Stellar from following L into it.

Folks, it is amazing.

Stellar, not being the best at, well, anything really, attempts to square off against the robot and starts to circle it, but can only take two steps before she falls down.  The robot makes a swipe at her with a giant hand, but misses.  L shoves the giant sword out of the ground (man, L is awesome) and rushes to Stellar's aid again, but there's not much that the two can do against Stop Motion Boobzilla.  Fortunately, their ship arrives and shoots the robot with pew-pew-pew lasers!  Silly robot, that's why you don't throw your sword away!

The robot dies in a scene that I'm not really sure about.  I think you were supposed to feel sorry for the robot somehow as it reaches out with a shaky hand towards Stellar and L as it's dying, but we just don't know about what it does during its off time to really care.  Does it knit giant sweaters?  Was it standing in the ocean because it really loves coral reefs?

Well, too late now.  Farewell, giant breasted robot.

The Amazons pursue Stellar and her crew into space, and we get the most confusing space battle I've ever seen.  The crew can't seem to keep track of how many enemies there are ("there's only one left!" "We've gone from six to five!" wait, what?), and Goldielocks seems to think that shouting "FIRE FIRE FIRE" over and over again is how you make enemy ships blow up.

So while I have no idea what the plot is (Stellar and her crew are searching for the other escape pods and the mother ship that were destroyed at the beginning, I guess?), I can't say I haven't been enjoying this.  Stay tuned as tomorrow we'll do part two of this review and hopefully get our first glimpse of some Hasselhoff!

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