Happy Birthday today to Caroline Munro, who Stella Star-ed in “Starcrash”: This ain’t “Star Wars” (not that it matters)

By on January 16, 2016

On the anniversary of English-born sexy sci-fi/horror B-movie babe Caroline Munro’s natal day — she was born 16 January 1949 in Windsor, Berkshire, England — we thought we’d take the opportunity to take a look back at writer/director Luigi Cozzi’s 1978 Italian-made sci-fi film Starcrash (Italian: Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione), which features the lovely Ms. Munro as Stella Star, a brave space bikini-clad intergalactic smuggler who just might possibly be the best astro-pilot in the whole universe.

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As you might possibly detect from this French trailer for the film, Starcrash — released by Roger Coman’s New World Pictures in the United States — borrowed liberally from George Lucas’s 1977 Star Wars, a colossal worldwide smash, although director Cozzi (who also used the pen name Lewis Coates during his career) kicks his film up a few notches with the unintentionally humorous addition of nasty Amazonian space babes riding reddish-pink horse-like blobs, not to mention ugly/horny cavemen troglodytes, weirdo friendly green-skinned robots, a paunchy Darth Vader rip-off, and David Hasselhoff in one of his first movie roles, wielding a light saber sword.

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Munro’s eye-poppingly half-naked knee-high boot-wearing space babe Stella Star is from the planet of Amazons, and she is accompanied by her insipid yet loyal sidekick and co-pilot Akton, played by child evangelist-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner (you may remember him from The Food of the Gods; he just celebrated his own birthday on January 14th), who is not just a kickass swordfighter when armed with a laser sword, but he also endowed with certain unquestionable powers, like the ability to restore humans back to life, which certainly comes in handy in the film (you’d think he’d have used it once or twice on the screenwriter if given the chance).

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They’re helped by Robot L or sometimes spelled out Elle (played Judd Hamilton, no idea when he was born, but actually voiced by genre veteran Hamilton Camp), a robot cop who we’re led to believe can display or at least human emotions but he sounds like a cross between Star Wars’s C3PO and some kind of Texas-accent drawling Slim Pickens C-list character actor. He was once destroyed by cavemen, but was repaired by the Emperor’s men, the Emperor of the Universe being Christopher Plummer (his birthday was a month ago, December 13th), whose only son, Simon — played by the incredible Hasselhoff — is from a planet of Neaderthals, and has disappeared after a deadly encounter with their evil nemesis, the overweight menace to the universe named Count Zarth Arn, played by cult icon Joe Spinelli (who you may recognize from Rocky and the first two Godfather movies).

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The sadistic madman Count Zarth Arn is the galactic B-movie equivalent here of Lord Darth Vader, of course, who has nefarious plans to conquer every planet he comes across, determined to enslave whomever he finds alive after his forces storm their way through their weak defenses, and it all comes down to whether Stella Star, Akton and their crew can engineer a breakout from Zarth Arn’s prison colony, a forced-labor camp where she’s forced to wear the awesome outfit we’ve been describing, before she and her space-pimp Akton are helped by Robot L and Thor, the cops who had originally imprisoned them in the first place. Movie tough guy Robert Tessier (The Longest Yard, Cannonball Run) as the lightly green-skinned Thor.

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Stella Star has numerous costume changes during the film, in fact, so she’s not wearing the space bikini the entire time (shame, that), and we should point out somewhere that Ms. Munro’s dialogue was completely re-dubbed by numerous other actresses, including actress Candy Clark, for the English-language versions of the film, but we’re not sure why (almost all of the American and British actors appearing in the film were dubbed later, in fact, except for Christopher Plummer).

This wasn’t Munro’s first film: she’d previously appeared in various roles (small to medium-sized), in movies like Casino Royale, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, and The Spy Who Loved Me, to name just a few.

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Plus she’d also just appeared in a Noxema skin cream TV ad in 1977, which was banned from broadcast in the American South although she certainly appears in it wearing more clothing per square inch than she does in Starcrash (perhaps it had something to do with the ad’s use of  “great balls of comfort” in the jingle, we’re not sure) — and so she was already a cult movie favorite, and that’s what she remains today.

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The schlock-master Cozzi was known for making his uniquely Italian b-movie knockoff films that were not-so-subtle homages to great American movies — his Alien Contamination stole its ideas from Ridley Scott’s Alien, and his Lou Ferrigno-starred Hercules was his “homage” to Conan the Barbarian — shot the film in Rome, and is said to have faced numerous financial set-backs during the production, which took over six months, due to the fact that the American International Pictures company dragged their feet about paying for a movie they were reluctant to release. Indeed, they declined to do just that after seeing Cozzi’s final print, which is why Cozzi turned to Corman’s New World Pictures, who picked it up for distribution.

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For the film’s music soundtrack, somewhat amazingly, Cozzi was also able to bring aboard five-time Academy Award-winning composer John Barry (you no doubt recognize his name from Midnight Cowboy, and his association with the James Bond franchise, as well as Dances With Wolves, Out of Africa and many other feature films).

Movie critics — amateur bloggers and paid professionals both — have been particularly harsh about Starcrash (sometimes shown as Star Crash) over the years, and the interwebs are filled with all kinds of cyber-spew about the film being nearly unwatchable and, well, they’re mostly accurate depictions, but don’t those negative reviews dissuade you from seeking this one out if it seems to be a movie you’d enjoy, you should see it at least once, particularly if you’re a fan of movies like Flash Gordon and Barbarella.

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Starcrash was also released under the alternate title The Adventures of Stella Star, and had been scarcely available on VHS tapes since the mid-80s, and is typically a movie traded between those who like to share their VHS copies, and so the film for many years was seen this way, copies of copies and depending on the quality, it was often quite difficult to watch. The wonderful folks at Shout Factory corrected that egregious error in 2010 when they released a 2-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray and DVD, in association with New Horizons Picture Corporation, featuring bonus content including all-new interviews and commentaries with cast and crew, rare behind-the-scenes footage and much more!

Happy Birthday Ms. Munro!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • http://uglyradio.wordpress.com/ Richard Vachel Lindsay

    Judd Hamilton was briefly married to Caroline Munro.
    Starcrash must’ve had pretty good distribution for its time; I managed to see it back in the day in a big movie plex in the small town I grew up in.

  • Cliff Anderson

    Nice post (and pix!). Here’s my appreciation of the lovely Caroline:

    http://bmoviebabes.blogspot.com/2016/10/1-caroline-munro.html