Starring Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Gianni Russo, Ron Masak, Dennis Burkley, Barry Cutler, Mike Bobenko, Eddie Deezen, Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall
Directed by Michael Rae
Expectations: Low. The boring pace of End of the World leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
On the general scale:
On the B-Movie scale:
Laserblast reportedly had a budget of $280,000, and producer Charles Band knew just where to spend it. Virtually every penny was sunk straight into entertainment and a finale that delivers slow-motion explosion after slow-motion explosion, further proving that the worth of a movie can exist on explosions alone. Add in some killer stop-motion aliens and a giant laserblaster as cherries on top and we’ve got ourselves a movie!
Laserblast opens as a crazed freak with a giant laserblaster on his arm jumps around in the desert. An alien ship lands and two upright-walking turtles without shells get out and pull their own, smaller laser guns. A short fight ensues, but the aliens are too clever and end up singeing the dude into fine black ash. They board their ship and set out for the far-reaches of the galaxy, but they forgot one thing. The human’s giant laserblaster!
Enter Billy Duncan (Kim Milford) who drives out to the middle of the desert after being humiliated by his mother, his peers and is turned away by his girlfriend’s yelling grandfather (Keenan Wynn!). Billy finds the laserblaster and plays around with it like a kid playing Army with his friends. Pew pew! When he finally gets it to work properly, his frustration with the world melts away as he blows up shrubs and ancient Joshua trees. Those assholes won’t fuck with him now! Only problem is that the power necklace leaves a nasty sore on his chest and he quickly becomes a zombie slave to the power of the laserblaster. I guess the moral of the story is that you have to take the good with the bad.
Laserblast actually shares a lot with last week’s film, End of the World. There are tons of unnecessary, dialogue-free sequences of Billy driving his van around or jumping around in the desert. The difference here is that these scenes help to give Laserblast its charm despite the boredom some of them might cause. One especially boring one features Billy’s girlfriend slowly walking around the area surrounding Billy’s van looking for where he might be. This can get excruciating, but later on these scenes give way to much more pleasing ones of Billy jumping around and flailing and thrusting his laserblaster wildly in a variety of locations. It is in these moments that the film hits its stride. After a mostly boring first hour sprinkled with bits of awesome stop-motion, the film literally explodes with excitement when the laserblaster takes total control of Billy, causing him to lose all higher mental functions and inhibitions towards violent rage.
Billy, what about those guys that humiliated you earlier in the film? LASERBLAST! Ah Billy, their car exploded, but the guys were inside the house when it happened! No worries, the guys are driving their new car down the highway just now and you happen to be standing on the side of the road! LASERBLAST! They weren’t so lucky this time. Laserblast features not one, not two, but six slow-motion car explosions shot from multiple angles and presented in grand 1970s fashion. The explosions are not limited to cars though, as a ton of other shit bites the dust over the course of the film as well. Pinball machine? LASERBLAST! Hippie Dude giving Billy a lift? LASERBLAST TO THE FACE! Mailbox? LASERBLAST! Newsstand? LASERBLAST! Star Wars billboard? LASERBLAST! The explosions come so fast and furious during the final minutes of the film that I literally was struggling for breath between laughing uncontrollably and yelling, “Fuck yeah! LASERBLAST! LASERBLAST!” I was as powerless as Billy in the face of the alluring power of the laserblaster.
In addition to the all the kick-ass laserblasting, the stop-motion work by Dave Allen is incredible. The turtle-alien characters move smoothly and with personality. They feel like distinct entities as opposed to just being inanimate FX created by movie magic. The scenes in their spaceship were my favorite of theirs as the constructed environment was visually interesting as well as perfectly blended with the characters. When the aliens step into frame with a human character their size and perspective is a bit off at times, but it is only a minor chink in their armor. It’s truly must-see stuff for stop-motion fans. Dave Allen went on to work magic on a number of other films, including Robot Jox and the Puppet Master series, as well as mainstream work with ILM.
Laserblast is a must for explosion connoisseurs and fans of 70s B-movie sci-fi. The story is lacking and the runtime is padded with loads of unnecessarily long scenes of nothing, but the finale packs so much of a punch that you can’t help but leave with a huge-ass grin on your face. Yes, this is not a shining example of filmmaking skill, but if you can’t have a good time with all the explosions this offers, then I only have one word for you. LASERBLAST!
Next Tuesday I take a look at one of the newer Full Moon franchises, The Gingerdead Man with Gary Busey!