Dir: Lewis Coates aka Luigi Cozzi
Stars: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, David Hasselhoff, Robert Tessier, Christopher Plummer, Joe Spinell
Speaking off Star Wars knockoffs that are a lot of fun, there is also Star Crash, which stars Caroline Munro as Stella Star, a roguish, lovable space outlaw who travels through space with her odd, superpowered companion Arkton, portrayed by the former evangelical child minister Marjoe Gortner. After pursuit and capture, the pair is eventually called for an assignment from the benevolent Emperor of the galaxy, played by Christopher Plummer, to find his missing son, lost when three launches took off from a space ship being attacked by the Doom Machine belonging to the diabolical Count Zarth Arn. Stella is joined by two space cops, the likable but oddly named Elle, a robot, and a blue humanoid alien named Thor, not to be confused with the thunder god, portrayed by the Dr. Evil-esque Robert Tessier.
The search for the missing son, who eventually turns out to be none other than the Hoff, is a lot of fun to watch as the heroes explore the planets where the launches crashed, finding various perils such as a tribe of scantily clad space amazons, of course, their giant robot, an ice planet that gets even colder at night, and a planet full of what seem to be mutant cavemen. When the son, wielding a fairly unapologetic light sabre clone, is finally located, they then have to come up with a way of defeating the evil count and his Doom Machine, though only after an epic battle between Arkton and two creepy looking stop motion sword fighting robots. These and several other creatures in the film show the distinct influence of Ray Harryhausen.
Shout! Factory has put out a deluxe set for this cult classic film, and reading the booklet that is included, with text by Stephen Romano, made me realize how much there is to appreciate about living in a time where films like this are available on DVD, remembering how in the olden times they were rare on VHS, and usually only in poor copies (though I do have friends who collect VHS originals, more power to 'em). Romano also makes an impassioned case for the soulfulness of this film. The effects are easy to see through, and space looks like Christmas with multicoloured stars , but there is a kind of dreamlike beauty to it all. I also like the costume designs quite a bit, they look straight out of comic books, with many shiny tunics, pointy shoulder pads and capes.
Star Wars took elements of old science fiction b-movies and serials and forged them into "A" material. Since there were several b-knockoffs, or perhaps more than several, another contribution Star Wars might be credited was in helping bring back to the b-movies what had been largely absent since older times, the planet tripping and space battles of heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers against goateed maniacal villains. Star Crash does it all again in grand style with more effects and slightly less clothes.