• Film reviews

    #614 – Star Slammer (1986)

    Star Slammer (1986)

    Film review #614

    Director: Fred Olen Ray

    SYNOPSIS: Taura, a freelance miner working on the planet Arous, is arrested after helping the locals stand up against Captain Bantor and his crew, who are attempting to stop the uprising. Taura is arrested and sentenced to be imprisoned aboard a space prison ship. there, she must survive the warden and the inmates to try and escape…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Star Slammer (Also known as The Adventures of Taura, Prison Ship, Star Slammer: The Escape, or any combination thereof) is a 1986 sci-fi film. The plot centres around Taura, a freelance miner who gets caught up defending the inhabitants of the planet Arous from Captain Bantor and his minions, who are there to quell an uprising on the planet. After burning Bantor’s hand in a volcanic acid plume, she is arrested and sentenced to prison on board a space ship. Once there, Taura must survive the warden, as well as the other inmates, and find her way home. It should be no surprise to learn that this film is mostly just about showing off scantily-clad women fighting each other; but it is what it is, and it doesn’t really try to be anything else. The plot is threadbare and has little to latch on to, but at least tries to fill in the gap with the aforementioned half-clothed women. There is a clear lack of pretension in the film and its direction: it knows what it is , and it proceeds to run with it as far as its menial budget will allow.

    The characters aren’t all too interesting: Taura is a fairly standard lead, and the rest of the inmates have a bit of personality, but nothing special. The most notable performance for me was the Warden, played by Marya Grant, who delivers such an exaggerated and over-the-top performance that you cannot help but take notice. The film also ropes in veteran movie star Aldo Ray for a a small part, which was apparently mostly used to show funders to back the project.

    Filmed over the course of three days, the film is restricted to the opening being shot outdoors, presumable somewhere in the California hills, and the rest on the prison ship on set. However, the film can mostly get away with this, given that a prison ship is a fairly compact and small setting. Despite the production constraints, the film still manages to accomplish a lot more than other films would have with the same budget (and probably more): the sets themselves have a decent amount of detail and authenticity, and the practical effects aren’t terrible. It’s difficult to be too harsh on the film for this reason: it has a self-awareness, and it feels like some effort has gone into it, and at least some of the actors are trying. The story could definitely have used refining, as its mostly forgettable, but it never loses a self-awareness of its own limitations. One of the big drawbacks is that the film doesn’t seem to want to veer to much into the ‘women prison’ softcore scenario, so there’s only two topless shots and implied sexual scenes, which is fine, but without going too far in the genre, it has an empty space where the more lewd stuff should be. Overall, Star Slammer is trashy sci-fi that could definitely be a lot worse than it is, and has some funny moments, but some weaker elements definitely drag it down; ultimately though, you should never lose sight of the films self-awareness regarding its own limits and what it is trying to be.