Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.
Seattle gets a new arthouse theater this weekend: The Beacon, a 50-seat place on Rainier Avenue South. Let us collectively root for the success of this much-needed enterprise, which begins life with a week of free screenings. Founders Tommy Swenson and Casey Moore are opening the theater with some statement programming: unimpeachable pantheon titles (City Lights and To Be or Not to Be), a rarified Jacques Rivette gem (Duelle), a dash of vulgar auteurism (Speed Racer), and a helping of the just plain vulgar (the ineffable Starcrash). And more.
Any place that opens with a free double bill of Gold Diggers of 1933 and Magic Mike XXL is taking a stand. Future programming includes the shot-in-Seattle documentary classic Streetwise, a bundle of John Cassavetes/Gena Rowlands films, and a restored print of Last Year at Marienbad. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Beacon does for Seattle’s moviegoing habits—and you can take a peek at the near-future calendar here: http://thebeacon.film/calendar
As a refresher, here’s my take from a long-ago Amazon review of Starcrash:
Is there anything Starcrash doesn’t have? Robots, hyperspace, troglodytes, Caroline Munro in a space bikini, “reality” star Marjoe Gortner as an alien, a pre-everything David Hasselhoff, and—most incredible of all, under the circumstances—a terrific score by the great John Barry. This jaw-dropping 1979 Star Wars knock-off is a cult item, prized in equal measure for its anything-goes visual attack (the universe glitters with Christmas-tree lights) and its ludicrous dialogue and acting. Munro plays Stella Star, a space smuggler traveling the stars with sidekick Gortner (the former child evangelist who had a run of roles after the success of the 1972 documentary Marjoe). There is a plot of sorts, but mostly Munro stands around trying to channel Raquel Welch while director Luigi Cozzi kicks the story from one outlandish set to the next. Hasselhoff shows up halfway through, looking as though he’s auditioning to be a Studio 54 dancer—but everybody else in the picture looks that way too, even veteran villain Joe Spinell, as the universe’s cape-clad personification of evil. Cozzi tosses in a little Ray Harryhausen-style stop-motion animation, multiple references to other sci-fi classics, and lofty Christopher Plummer as a space Emperor demanding his forces to “Halt the flow of time!” Barry’s music (this is the same year he did The Black Hole) is truly enjoyable, and one theme suspiciously resembles a key melody in his subsequent Out of Africa score. The dialogue, meanwhile, sounds as though it’s been translated into English from Japanese, and is delivered in styles that range from the incompetent (Munro) to the deranged (Gortner). –Robert Horton
Oh, and a really vintage piece on Kurosawa’s High and Low, which also plays for free during the Beacon’s first week.
Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.