A year ago, the idea of remastered, anamorphic DVD’s from the Roger Corman/New World library would have seemed absurd, Most exploitation fans had given up by then because they’d been given lackluster treatment twice over. The New Concorde discs were almost all made from recycled VHS masters, even the ones with special features. Fans got their hopes up in 2005 when Buena Vista acquired DVD rights for his New World-era library and put out the 1st ever anamorphic transfer of Death Race 2000… but it was all downhill from there, immediately going back to those old VHS masters.
Thus, it was truly a breath of fresh air when Shout! Factory picked up DVD rights and began the reissue series that gave us dazzling new versions of Death Race 2000, Piranha, Galaxy Of Terror, etc., all with quality remastering and plenty of extras. It’s easily been the event of the year in cult-flick DVD circles and they continue to do impressive work, often lavishing a-list treatment on films it would not have seemed possible for. Case in point: their new Starcrash 2-disc set. Not only has this delirious cult fave received a lavish remastering, it also features an amount of extras that will make your jaw hit the floor.
But first, the transfer. This set boasts a new, anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that was taken from the vault elements for the New World version of the film. The results are downright delicious: detail is sharp and the vivid, bright hues of the film’s candy-colored visuals pop right off the screen. It’s also nice to note that it sounds as good as it looks, offering both the original Dolby mix and a new 5.1 remix. Your Humble Reviewer listened to the latter for this review and it’s a real whizz-bang affair that makes strong use of John Barry’s heroic musical score and the carefully-layered sound effects (get ready for tons of laser zaps and explosions whooshing across the speakers).
Scads of extras fill the remainder of disc 1 and all of disc 2. It all begins with two (!) commentary tracks by Stephen Romano, an author (Shock Festival) and filmmaker who co-produced this set with Cliff MacMillan. As the liner notes Romano penned for this set reveal, Romano was stricken with an all-consuming love for this film at an early age and this special edition reflects that fixation in all its impassioned glory. He also wrote an unpublished book on the making of Starcrash so he’s got plenty to share.
The first track is a contextual affair that aims to establish how Starcrash fits into science fiction/1970’s filmmaking history. The first ten minutes gets bogged down in introductory rigmarole but smoothes out when Romano moves into the cinema trends that were at play when Starcrash entered the world, thus allowing him to create an interesting context for his take on the film. This is followed by a biographical sketch of Luigi Cozzi that segues nicely into the history of the production. There’s plenty of good info to be gleaned here for those who wonder how this cinematic odd duck came to be.
The second track is a scene-specific commentary and the most entertaining of the pair. Romano lets loose with a barrage of facts and anecdotes that cover everything from how specific visual effects were achieved to first-hand accounts of what was going on off-camera during particular scenes. He drops some mind-blowing facts that have never been heard before (the identity of the person who dubbed Munro is a golden nugget of info) as well as several great stories about Joe Spinell.
And those commentaries are only the beginning. The first disc also includes two featurettes, one a 40-plus-minutes interview with Luigi Cozzi and the second an analysis of the score by Mars, the composer behind Deadhouse Music. The Cozzi interview is a charmer, with the director going through the history of his career and the making of Starcrash in a humble, likeable manner. The music featurette is a novel inclusion, with Mars relating some interesting trivia about Barry’s work (it was recorded quickly at the end of the scoring sessions for Moonraker) and then discussing a few key cues in detail as they play along under his analysis. It’s a nice, accessible piece that does a fine job breaking down the scoring process for the layman.
The first disc also offers a collection of Starcrash trailers, including commentaries by Joe Dante and Eli Roth. Dante’s is a must-listen as he cut the trailer, the final spot he cut for New World. The disc closes out with a mammoth image gallery that covers everything from conceptual art to behind-the-scenes photos.
The second disc digs even deeper, beginning with a 37-minute assemblage of deleted and alternate scenes. Starcrash was cut by around 5 minutes for American release and this scene-by-scene collection shows how multiple moments play differently in the European version. There are also title cards before each scene offering helpful info about what to look for. The most fun of these is an alternate end credits scene offering a radical reinterpretation of the film’s main theme.
There is also another interview, a 72-minute (!) chat with Caroline Munro. It’s a bit too much of a good thing as it’s a static talking-head piece that’s only broken up by title cards for the question. It’s in serious need of cutaways to stills and film footage, not to mention a little pruning of the excess chat before and after each answer. That said, Munro hold court in her appealing, self-effacing style and shares a few good tales.
The other featurette on Disc 2 comes from fx-man Armando Valcauda and relates his memories via a montage of footage and behind-the-scenes photos. His title cards suffer from some broken English but he relates his tale with plenty of good cheer and kind words for his collaborators. Fans will want to watch it because it features rough footage of two stop-motion fx scenes shot but not used in the film.
The second disc is rounded out by a 20-minute collection of silent, black-and-white behind the scenes footage that Romano narrates and a DVD-ROM inclusion of the film’s script. The latter inclusion is different from the usual script-PDF because it also features stills, gorgeous conceptual art and annotations by Romano. Thus, it’s a must for the film’s obsessive fans.
Some reviewers have expressed disbelief at the obsessive nature and ragged edges of this 2-disc set — and if you aren’t accustomed to obsessive schlock adoration, it might seem a bit much — but it all makes perfect sense to Your Humble Reviewer. Like the film it pays tribute to, this two-disc set is a shaggy yet thoroughly ingratiating affair fueled by pure cinephilic love. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate Starcrash.