Julia Starchild 4
After Julia 3, Zack Groove hides out under an assumed name in Fresno, then migrates to Santa Fe, where he detoxes in a holding cell after being busted for vagrancy. When he stops puking, they cut him loose. He is a lost scarecrow without the dope, without the money, without anything. He becomes a dishwasher, a janitor and a night watchman at Woolworth’s, all for cash in hand. He keeps his head down. He gets cleaner and cleaner. He has no idea that another man has been reamed for the murder he did back in California, but he lives in fear of every evil he has done. He doesn’t have the balls to turn himself in—and somehow he knows they probably wouldn’t believe him anyway if he confessed. He is doomed to walk the earth as an unpunished sinner. He is too cowardly to offer his soul to god. And the tremors of his former life as a drug addict take him in his sleep and fill his nightmares with blood and heat. He knows that he must find himself. It will not be here, not in a place called Woolworth’s. Finally he quits the security job in the dead of night, gathers up his meager belongings and hitchhikes into Texas. Lands in Houston. Gets a room at the YMCA. By now it is the spring of 1978. Spaceships and laser guns are the biggest thing ever in movies. He sees them playing everywhere in theaters and on TV. He bullshits his way into a job at a theater so he can get closer to it all again. He sees Star Wars nine times while sweeping up popcorn.
It blows his mind.
The movie, not the popcorn.
He can’t believe he never bothered to watch this before.
Maybe he was just disgusted that the big cheap suits in charge of Julia Starchild 3 were trying so shamelessly to cash in on the big space craze—but now he fully understands why. He sees wild galactic splendor and swashbuckling adventure and a hero’s power—all tied up in a universal Force, which burns in every living creature on every living planet. He sees that anything is possible in film and in the human heart. Sees that all the way-out visions he had before weren’t so way-out after all. There really are no limits, he thinks. It’s all so incredibly brilliant, this Star Wars thing—this Force thing. And this is the shining touchstone that brings him back from the dead. This is the power that resurrects his soul from the muck and lifts his spirit up one more time. He doesn’t need the dope. He never needed the dope. He is a man not a needle. He is a luminous being, not the horror of his past.
The Power of the Force is what saves him.
He must return.
He works for six more weeks and saves every penny. With half of those pennies he purchases a bus ticket back to Los Angeles. Right off the bus, he uses the rest of his money to buy a new suit—the first one he’s owned since he went in search of the Playboy mansion a lifetime ago—and walks straight into the offices of Avco Embassy Pictures. These movie places don’t have security guards—they have secretaries. And so he tells the secretary that he is Zack Groove and that he is the director of Julia Starchild and he wants to speak to the man in charge—and she only looks at him funny for a second before she sees the incredible resolve and passionate abandon in his eyes. She sees The Power of the Force there. She sees the he is a serious man.
Then she rings Bob Rehme.
Who is the man in charge.
They sit in his office and they talk about Julia. Bob says there were near a deal to make her next movie when the man who owned the rights was killed by his own bodyguard. Zack almost jumps for joy when he hears that. Just like he almost jumps for joy when Bob tells him the rights went to the widow Julia Starr by the letter of Rumpelstiltskin’s will. They’ve been trying to do a deal with her for months but she refuses to accept any offer they put on the table. Zack says maybe he can help. Says he will go to her and try to make it work. He knows he can.
Julia cries nearly the whole time they are together.
Her mansion glitters with silver and gold.
She is worth billions now and doesn’t have to work for one penny of it.
Zack wonders how she would react if he were to tell her that it was his actions that made it all happen for her—if he were to tell her it was his teeth that sank into the old man’s throat and granted her the keys to this miraculous kingdom. But no. Why say any of that? Let’s just make a movie, Julia. Let’s go back and get it really right this time. The guys at Avco Embassy still want in. The offshore investors are frothing at the mouth to force money on the project. And the two of us—we need this. We must be a family again—if only on film. He asks if he can see their son. She says he’s right in the next room. His son is now five years old. His son is smart and curious and beautiful. His son asks who Zack is, and Zack says he’s a good friend of the family.
Somehow, it was all meant to come down like this.
Zack’s heart is infused with the Power of the Force and he believes in magic all over again. This is what it is to be reborn. This is what it is to seek out and find true redemption. Even if the boy never knows who his real father is. Even if he never takes another step into the Promised Land. Even if every promise is broken from now until the end of time. It doesn’t matter. Because he’s home at last. Julia kisses his forehead and says yes, of course. One last time, as Julia. For you, my darling—and for our son.
Our son, whose name Zack finally knows.
She fucking named their kid Drydex.
I mean, what are the odds?
With the Power of the Force whipcracking through every living molecule of his body, Zack steps up and takes charge. He feels like a sleeper awakened. He insists that the film be shot on locations all over the world—real exotic locations that actually look like alien planets. The suits all say yay. He insists on hiring experienced professional special effects guys who will use all the latest technology to make the space battles more dazzling that any ever seen on film. The suits all say yay. He even finds the old Italian guy who did the first three movies and offers him a gig, even though the old Italian guy is three weeks away from dying of emphysema. Zack swears to the old man on his deathbed that this will be the one they remember him for—Zack will see to that, even after he’s gone. He will put the old man’s name in credits and on the posters and make sure everyone remembers—and it’s a promise he keeps, much to the chagrin of the actual people who end up doing the work.
The work, which will take years to complete.
Star Wars 2 is on the way, and Zack is racing it to the finish line. They say this new Star Wars has a budget north of 30 million—that it even has a planet of snow in it—and so Zack works the ice world from his aborted Julia 3 script into this one. The suits really say yay for that. They say so much yay that they even insist the ice planet be in the title of the film. It’s the first compromise Zack makes, but it’s all for the good of the project. Of course it is. He carves out an extra two months to develop and rewrite the screenplay, with Julia and Bob Rehme’s input. He’s never spent this long writing a film script before. He listens to the people around him because his mind is not hammered by drugs into complete tunnelvision and the story grows more and more meaningful, ambitious and dazzling.
Zack’s offices are in New York now. This is where he finishes the script. He’ll never work in actual Hollywood again because that place is filled with the Dark Side—it’s where his parents died, where everything went wrong. He must be headquartered in his true home, where it all began. He will rent a soundstage on Manhattan Island and finish the movie here—after they are done travelling the world.
It will be a bold, glorious adventure.
Or something like that.
The story takes place 100 years after the events of the original, and completely disregards the last two movies, more or less. Julia only ever refers vaguely to several events from those films as strange dreams of a “life that was once mine, in a dimension of darkness”—which, of course, is Zack’s way of apologizing to all of us for raping our childhoods with Julia 3. But of course nobody takes any of this stuff more seriously than the actual die-hard fans.
And there are a few fans out there.
I am waiting to be saved, like Zack was saved.
I am waiting for Julia to return.
Julia Starchild is re-envisioned as an agent of cosmic love, travelling from planet to planet on orders from The Galactic Federation of Empires, on a seemingly endless mission, bringing the word of passion and togetherness to peoples who know nothing of such things. The sex angle is totally played down, though there will be sexy stuff, sure. Plenty of nudity and romance, lots of bloody action. No explicit lovemaking though. Julia will find Charlie Lazer—her next great love—on a frozen world, deep in the Plutonium Nexus, and she will rescue him from alien slave traders who subsist on the “blood of human souls.” The aliens chase the “interstellar lovers” to the far moon of Dystopia, where they are taken in by a band of emotionless peace seekers—men and women who neither love nor hate. They just are. Julia teaches them to find their passion and their courage as the alien slave traders of the ice world descend on them all in force—and a great battle begins, with the Power of Love finally winning out in the end, after the last starship has been destroyed. Julia merges with the living spirit of the ice world and resurrects every fallen solder in the great war, and the script ends with a hundred thousand smiling faces staring into space, as Julia dances her final farewell, winking across the stars and vanishing forever, assuming her place in the heavens as the Great Goddess of the Galaxy.
There is no torture this time, no bondage, no blood.
It’s a good old fashioned adventure story with heavy religious overtones—and the suits just love the fucking shit out of that. In fact, they decide not to even put Julia’s name in the title this time. It might turn off some people. Zack disagrees, but he’s okay with thinking about it. They will eventually compromise and put Julia’s name heavy in the ad materials—though the official name of the movie will be simply Battle Beyond the Planet of Ice.
Catchy, Zack thinks.
Okay, why not?
They start filming on location in Bosnia one week into the sixth month of 1978. Everything goes immediately wrong. They barely get their shots together, as a monsoon hits the jungle location they are on. They all get sick with food poisoning. Then they limp into the next location in the frozen Alps of Switzerland, where the weather conditions are so bad that no shots are completed at all. Zack has to rewrite things on the fly. He has to explain to his beloved Julia that this is a more complex and ambitious film than all the others combined. He pulls his hair out and starts thinking about using dope again. But he doesn’t think about it for long. Too much shit is blowing up in his face and he’s not only the director—but the producer and the writer. The weight of the world crashes down around his ears. It’s the most difficult and dangerous shoot he’s ever been on. Five shots are finally obtained in sub-zero temperatures—Julia’s crash landing on the Ice World and her struggle for survival in the frozen wastes, where she meets Charlie Lazer. It’s beautiful, but it’s costing way too much money. And time. And everything else. After the next exotic location falls through, the suits tell him to bag it and come home. They’ll fix it all in post.
Back in NYC, the sets are half-built, but they start shooting on them anyway. This is when everything finally starts to seem like a real movie. He has a huge crew this time and they all want a piece of each other. The makeup girl is fucking the props guy who’s boning the first AD. And all like that. Drama queens. He never had to deal with it before because he’s had more ten guys on his crew before. He used to cut corners and snort the rest. But whatever—he’s on top of things now. Even with all the drama, the interior shooting blows by so much faster on than those damn locations. He still has to compromise stuff—but that’s always been the name of the game in making movies. He has to rethink and re-shoot and simplify, simplify, simplify. It gets easier and easier. He remembers his old groove—Zack’s old groove—and he starts flying through weeks like they are days. He gets a brainstorm one morning and comes up with an idea about bringing a laser sword battle into the climax. Julia must find an artifact of ancient power which she can use to channel the Power of the Ice World. With this weapon of love she will battle a new surprise villain—whom Zack writes into the script in one frantic night.
This means the return of Drydex, folks.
Which means the return of the actor who played him the first film.
Which is the beginning of Zack’s return to the Dark Side.
The actor’s name is Joe Marcus and he’s a native New Yorker, of course—and though Zack never saw any of the things that made him so notorious on his other movies, he sure as hell sees them now. The guy is rabidly nuts and stoned all the time. It is hell and a half dealing with the man at first. Then Zack starts working with him creatively and they do late nights discussing Joe’s character—and Zack even smokes a little reefer with Joe to take the edge off. They become fast friends. They go out for wild nights on Times Square and it’s the first time Zack has been there since the old days. It’s a wild adventure every night with this man. The partying plugs his soul back into the berserk essences that made him want to make movies in the first place, as the tracer streaks of the Deuce blast through his heart at a million miles per. He soon starts doing some blow on set with one of the higher-ups—a sexy production manager who has a really loud voice. She sucks his dick in a storage closet and tells everyone Zack is her boyfriend later. More drama queens. His beloved Julia sees him going to the Dark Side and smiles sadly. His son visits the set and Julia’s smile turns even more sad. Zack is drinking now in front of the entire crew. He’s doing rails of speed to stay awake during inhumanly long days. Joe wraps out his last shot with Julia and, just seconds after the cameras stop rolling, he jumps out a four story window in a screaming-mad attempt to commit suicide that only breaks his right leg when he hits the pavement. Zack hardly notices. He’s too busy to notice. People say Joe does that all the time. So whatever. Zack gets calls every other day from the effects people in Burbank, and they all complain about not having enough time. So Zack just throws more money at them and gives them a hard deadline. The suits start to worry, but the footage looks great. Zack is actually working with his beloved Julia now—not just sticking her in front of camera and saying “ACTION!” He’s making her do her best, shooting scenes dozens and dozen of different ways—giving himself enough choices in the editing room that he’ll be able to cobble together an “Oscar-brilliant performance.” Um, sure. Weirder things have happened, right? (Maybe.) Six months after the shoot started, they are still shooting. Zack is a mad genius now—wants total perfection in every image. It all looks amazing, though. They wrap out the final shot a day before Valentine’s Day in 1979. It is Julia’s final wink goodbye. It is the last time she will ever play this character.
Zack comes up for air and realizes space moves are everywhere now.
This is the year of The Black Hole, Disney’s big one.
It will come out at Christmas, later this year.
We have to beat it into theatres, the suits say.
So they run like hell. Zack hires two editors and he whips the effects guys into shape. Those crazy hippies jury rig shots that cost millions at Disney and they look pretty incredible. Some guy-from-nowhere named Jim Cameron is coming up the ranks in their little shop, and he’s a notorious yeller—screams at everyone to get it right. Spends lots of money. Makes it looks amazing. The film is now 9 million in the hole and the mad geniuses keep tinkering.
For all of 1979, Zack tinkers too.
He is mad just like Jim.
The Black Hole beats them to the finish line, but it turns out to be so awful and the critics hate it so much that Uncle Walt’s space-bourne abortion queues up their film for instant victory. The official release date of Battle is now August 7, 1980. They’re releasing the film with a sound process called SENSURROUND, which they get on loan from Universal. The sound will shake every theatre the film plays in and give the distributor more reason to crow in the ads and posters. Zack has hired John Barry again to do his music—to write an all-new score for Battle, and after some bad noise about the sonic recycling done on the last two, after Zack explains he didn’t even have anything to do with making those films (which is not the biggest lie of all, but in a reasonable ballpark)—they get the guy. The music is written and recorded in London. Zack flies across the ocean once again to Abby Road and supervises and it’s better than old times. Barry is a busy guy these days—he even did The Black Hole—but he squeezes this film in, and it sounds like victory when they are done. Heroic and magical. Zack is shooting heroin again by the time the sessions are over. Fifty-three special effects shots have not yet been completed. He worries about it, sure—but these days he has a new relationship with worrying. He just allows himself to let the lightning in his brain rule the universe. And everything is fine. Because it is. There was never any need to worry. Just lay back and cruise.
When they are dubbing the film in the early summer of 1980, he asks his beloved Julia to marry him and she tells him no, of course, But she does agree to allow their son to know who his real father is.
He truly meets his son on the dubbing stage.
His son cries and embraces him.
It’s all been worth it.
Every life that was lost, every race that was thrown.
Every promise that was broken.
All of it.
The effects trickle in and the film is still not done five weeks before theatrical distribution is set. When they all sit in a screening room and watch the answer print, there are still missing shots. Zack cries real tears. Not because of the missing shots—but because he has risen. Even incomplete, it’s somehow the best film he’s ever made. It teems with style and flash and the whole affair is even hard-edged in certain places enough to get its usual R-rating. There is danger and peril and swashbuckling adventure. There are bloody fights and crackling thunder and adventures on a million alien worlds. (Really, only four, but who’s counting when you’re this amazing?) Julia’s legacy will finally be secure because of the work he’s done here. His life will have meaning. He will be at peace.
The last slots come in three weeks before the official premiere.
They paste them in and watch the movie again and Zack cries again. The music thunders off the screen in SENSURROUND. The battle is won in epic, spectacular style. His beloved Julia—the real Julia—kisses him gently in the dark as the end credits roll. Their son is right next to them, calling Zack daddy and telling his daddy that he loves him.
And what do the critics have to say about all this?
Well, they’ve got good news and bad news.
“The sultry B-movie character of Julia Starchild—part Barbarella, part intergalactic love goddess—is somehow resurrected into an A-list picture atmosphere, filled with elaborate space chases, laser sword wars and a lot less nudity than in the past films. Its still a cesspool of repressed juvenile sensibilities—most of them cribbed directly from a certain George Lucas film—but it works in its own perverted way. I had fun.”
“That Julia Starchild ever got a decent film to showcase her awesome talents—all two of them—is a mystery film historians may be pondering until the end of time. What really amazes is the film’s berserk freewheeling tone. It’s familiar ideology from Parts 1, 2 and 3—but it’s mostly, incredibly, solid filmmaking. The visual effects are periodically shoddy—but more money has been spent, so why pick nits?”
“Flashy garbage, worthy of a Dino de Laurentiis misfire.”
“Totally enchanting, willfully stupid pic that everyone will see because it’s all about space stuff.”
“Gritty fairytale for adults that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but what do you want from a film with heroine named Julia Starchild?”
“Among the worst films this year—among the worst films ever, really.”
“Star Dreck. Pure and simple.”
“Space garbage. Please stop making these stupid movies!”
“A wonderful send up. Masterfully directed.”
“Delightful and insane. Not for kids, but for adults who are in touch with the kid inside them.”
And old Roger Ebert? What does he have to say?
Well it’s like this:
“I enjoy silly films when they are sincere and well-made on their own terms. This film reeks of crass commercialism, designed to capitalize on the Star Wars craze. Only the acting talents of one Julia Starr save the picture. She is truly radiant and is a literal star in the making.”
Julia reads that review and cries joyfully on the day the film is released in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Texas. She calls Zack from a restaurant to say thank you. She then goes home to her five million dollar home, takes an overdose of sleeping pills and ends her own life.
This will be a secret for a very long time.
It will never be reported in any media in 1980.
The death of Julia Starr will be mourned that year only by those who loved her best. Her final movie will be seen and admired—and indeed debated—for decades. But she will never again shine on the screen as Julia. She has truly gone to the stars.
I do not know this.
It would break my heart to know this.
The only thing I know now, walking out of the theater in Houston, is that for three years I was submerged in darkness—and now I am alive again. I feel the Power of the Force. I am now fourteen years old and out on my own, working as a dishwasher and living at the YMCA because my mom threw me out of the house for beating up her current husband, who was a monster just like the last one. I said goodbye to her with tears and hoped she would never forget me. I came from Muleshoe to Houston to find myself, I guess, but I only found despair and mediocrity. My only friends were my movies and my books and my writing. Everyone thinks I am 25 because of my giant arms and fake ID and the fact that I am more than six feet tall—but I am barely a teenager. I’ve wanted to end my life for making my mother hate me and fear me the way I did. I’ve wanted to end so many other lives because of the rage that lives in me.
But now . . .
NOW . . .
As I leave the theatre, knowing that I will return so many more times, I feel as if my childhood has been re-explained to me. I feel as if being a kid was not robbed from my life, after all. I feel as if some amazing truth that was lost has been returned.
And I know also that one day I will find her.
The real Julia—I will find that woman.
And I will thank her for saving my soul.
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