Also known as Prison Ship, Fred Olen Ray's 1986 pictures Star Slammer is kinda-sorta a women-in-prison exploitation picture, albeit one set in the outer space of a far-flung future. If that doesn't sound like your bag, don't bother, but for some of us that prospect is hard to ignore. But does the movie deliver the goods? Mostly. It's a pretty fun low budget affair, if nothing else.
When the movie begins, a warrior woman named Taura (a genuinely charismatic and rather fetching Sandy Brooke) comes to the aid of an elderly mage who just so happens to possess a handful of powerful crystals. Out to steal these crystals from the old wizard is Bantor (Ross Hagen), a tough guy who aims to get his hands on the prize and bring the crystals back to his employers at The Sovereign. Needless to say, when Taura gets involved Bantor is none too pleased, particularly when she takes his hand in battle. The old man winds up dead and Taura, accused of his murder, is sentenced by a judge (John Carradine) to do some hard time on a prison ship under the watchful eye of Warden Exene (Marya Grant).
Before you know it, most of the WIP tropes are put into play. Taura gets into it with fellow inmate Mike (Suzy Stokey) and later is tortured at the hands of Muffin (Dawn Wildsmith), who just so happens to be Exene's second in command. Making matters worse is the presence of The Inquistor (Aldo Ray), who is basically some sort of professional torturer. Bantor, however, hasn't forgotten about Taura and it isn't long before he's making his way into the ship to get his revenge. Meanwhile, Taura and the other inmates soon realize that they have to put aside their differences and work together to overthrow Muffin and Exene and put an finish to the endless cycle of oppression and abuse suffered at their hands!
Clearly made on a low budget, Star Slammer is at least an entertaining slice of mid-eighties space based exploitation. While not as over the top in the sex and violence department as some of its WIP counterparts, the picture nevertheless offers up plenty of scantily clad girl on girl combat and of course, the requisite lesbian character or two thrown in to spice things up a bit. Ray does what he can with obviously limited funds, recycling footage and props from other films (look for an obvious cameo from one of the monsters left over from The Deadly Spawn!) but he knows what he needs to do to keep the audience involved and he does it well.
The acting is a bit less than perfect, but it doesn't really matter when your female cast members are able to fill out a fur bikini, a fetish leather ensemble or a skimpy prison outfit as well as the inmates of the Star Slammer are able to do. This isn't deep, nor does it try to be and the costuming is pretty ridiculous all the way around. There's a sense of humor to much of what we see and you've got to appreciate the novelty casting of old timers like Carradine and Ray in the film. They don't add much to the picture, really, but it's fun to see them pop up here. Clearly their parts were shot quickly, probably in a day, as they don't get a lot of screen time here.
The bulk of the action takes place inside the ship, which keeps things limited in terms of what we see on the screen. There are a few space battles in the last half of the movie but again, they're clearly a very low budget affair. This'll either work for you or it won't, but those who can appreciate the creativity and resourcefulness behind pictures like this ought to get a kick out of it. Optical effects are employed well in a few scenes, and while they clearly mark the picture as a product of its time, there's nothing wrong with that. The closing credits promise us that "The Adventures of Taura will continue in CHAIN GANG PLANET" but that second film never materialized.The Blu-ray:
Kino presents Star Slammer on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc. The picture quality on this disc would appear to be ‘true to source' meaning that it looks like an accurate representation of what was clearly a very soft looking film to begin with. As such, while detail definitely rises above SD levels, there are quite a few scenes where it doesn't seem quite as strong had the movie been shot differently. Having said that, there aren't really any issues with Kino's presentation. Colors look quite nice and black levels are solid. When print damage shows up, it's minor and there's a reasonable amount of depth to the image. The image is reasonably grainy but naturally so, and there are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track in English, there are no alternate language provided nor are there any closed captioning or subtitles provided. Again, we are limited by the source material here. There are occasional sibilance issues that are hard to miss, though they're thankfully not a constant, while dialogue is sometimes a little flat and garbled. Balance is fine, and the score sounds alright, but the audio here is less than perfect, though it is at least serviceable.Extras:
The extras for this release start off with an audio commentary featuring Fred Olen Ray. Those who have taken the time to listen to other commentaries that the man has delivered over the years will know what to expect: lots of insight into what it was like directing the film, who did what on set, his thoughts on the assets of his cast (particularly the actresses employed in the film), what works and what doesn't, what went into some of the sets and effects featured in the picture and more all delivered with a good sense of humor and an amiable vibe.
Outside of that we get bonus trailers for a few other sci-fi films available from the Kino Studio Classics line, static menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Star Slammer is good dumb B-movie fun, never taking itself too seriously and intent on offering up some cheap thrills in place of a serious plot or deep characters. For what it is, it works quite well and proves to be an entertaining watch. Kino's Blu-ray release won't win any awards for presentation but it's more than serviceable enough given the source limitations and the director's commentary is both enjoyable and interesting. Recommended for B-movie fans and genre buffs.