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Pulp Librarian @PulpLibrarian
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"Imperial Battleship, halt the flow of time!"

Today in pulp I look back at a 1978 Italian-made B-movie that ram-raided the Star Wars franchise mercilessly, with the help of a Bond girl, a Von Trapp and a very young David Hasselhoff.

This is the story of Star Crash...
In 1977 Italian horror director Luigi Cozzi thought he might make a 'space opera'. As Star Wars hadn't yet opened in Italy he drew inspiration from Alan Dean Foster’s novelization for his plot. He then pitched the idea at Cannes and began gathering finance for a film.
The film he came up with - Star Crash - is certainly an opera. The Emperor of the Universe is looking for his son Simon, who has disappeared after an encounter with the evil Count Zarth Arn, who is building a planet-destroying giant space station.
Enter saucy space smuggler Stella Star, who along with a lightsabre-wielding sidekick called Akton and a Texan gunslinger robot called Elle, dash around the Galaxy looking for the three escape pods which may contain the missing Prince.
Many silly things happen in Star Crash, and the film ends with a huge space battle as Stella flies a massive fist-shaped space cruiser straight into the Count's deadly space station (hence the film's title). Fortunately she survives...
Cozzi cast Hammer Horror actress and model Caroline Munro in the lead role of space smuggler Stella Starr. Munro had just finished filming The Spy Who Loved Me, having turned down a role in Superman to play a Bond villain.
Christopher Plummer played the Emperor of the Universe in Star Crash; he signed up because Cozzi was shooting some scenes in Rome. "Give me Rome any day. I'll do porno in Rome, as long as I can get to Rome!" Plummer later claimed.
Star Crash was also the first main movie role for David Hasslehoff, who at the time was starring in TV soap The Young and the Restless. He was cast as Prince Simon, the Emperor's missing son.
Joe Spinell pretty much steals every scene he is in as the evil (hiss, boo...) Count Zarth Arn. It's an impressive performance!
The filming for Star Crash was chaotic: Hasselhoff had to use sign language to make himself understood to the French and Italian crew. The project kept running out of money. Hasslehoff and Plummer even had to rewrite the film's ending to make it make sense.
Special Effects were a mix of model filming and stop-motion animation overseen by Armando Valcaudo, who had been shown a bootleg VHS copy of Star Wars and asked to do his best to copy the style.
Star Crash is certainly a maximalist film: every idea going - from Barbarella to A Fistful Of Dollars - is crammed into the movie. The dubbing is awful, the post-production SFX is comical, the acting is accidental...
...and yet, through a triumph of energy and improvisation, Cozzi pulls off a kind of bizarre triumph with Star Crash. It's a brash, outlandish, over-excited film that just wants you to feel happy and excited about sci-fi. It's a true Space Opera!
Alas Star Crash did poorly at the box office: despite being completed just before Star Wars it was shown in America a year after A New Hope had been released. It seemed destined for obscurity...
However the late 1980s VHS boom brought Star Crash to a new audience, helping establish it as a cult sci-fi classic. Support from Roger Corman and a great soundtrack by John Barry also helped.
There was a 1981 sequel: Star Crash ll (aka Escape from Galaxy 3 ) starring Slade drummer Don Powell and Zombie Holocaust star Cheryl Buchanan. The only thing it had in common with Star Crash however was the same SFX - including the blue fist-shaped spaceship.
Star Crash is a Euro-pulp tribute to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon that rides the Star Wars wave. It's still worth watching, and if it's a choice between Stella Starr or The Phantom Menace I know what I'm putting in the toploader VHS...

More stories another time.
P.S. - it's available on Amazon Prime...
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