I was bound to get to this one sooner or later.
I actually saw Laserblast when it first came out. I’d seen and had already been underwhelmed by Star Wars. I saw a trailer for this one and thunk, “Okay maybe this is a little more my speed.” Compared to the former, it seems like it would at least be a little edgier, especially to 1978 me. To an extent it is, plus it has Roddy McDowall, but that edge becomes severely dulled by the overall hotness of mess this movie actually is.
I’d more or less forgotten about it until it turned up on MST3K and became one of my Top 10 Favorite episodes (now there’s a list I need to do).
One major problem with Laserblast is it tries to do too much. Sure it’s good to aim high, but let’s be realistic. How successful your high aim will be correlates directly to the equipment you’re aiming with. Is it a bazooka? Or is it a cap gun? Knowing the answer matters, but sometimes that answer slips past people. Or they forget. Or they willfully ignore it.
Now, I love Charles Band, but I’d by lyin’ if I didn’t admit that on occasion he fits squarely into that final category. He unknowingly admits as much himself. In a 2005 interview, Band says he at one time considered Laserblast as a kind of “mini-Star Wars.” Not long after that, he had this to say:
There were a lot of revenge stories out at the time: Death Wish and all sorts of films. The thought was why can’t some kid that has been pushed around a bit and hasn’t been treated very well at school find some crazy alien weapon and blow the crap out of everything and every person who tormented him.
To be fair, that’s pretty much what happens. After a particularly bad series of unfortunate events, bullied and disillusioned teenager Billy goes a-wanderin’ about in the desert. Like ya do. There, he finds the laser cannon. Also like ya do.
It was left there in an earlier scene when a couple of stop-motion aliens (who look like de-shelled Galapagos tortoiseses) vaporized the green-skinned dude whose arm it was attached to. Along with his is a metallic pendant the dead guy had on pre-vaporization.
Billy puts the pendant on, picks up the laser canon, and hilarity ensues. Sounds like the makins of a fun flick, yes? Don’t get yer hopes up. Laserblast doesn’t exactly do what it says on the tin and instead degenerates right quickly into your standard “Depressed teen exacts vengeance upon those he feels make his life miserable” fare. Kinda like Massacre At Central High meets Carrie. But with a laser cannon. And aliens.
Again, don’t get yer hopes up. The description makes the movie sound a helluva lot better than it really is. In reality, there are loads of unanswered questions: how/when the laser canon works, the mysterious metal disc that appears in Billy’s chest, when/why he transforms back and forth between normal and monster, why do the aliens leave their tech behind twice? etc. etc. I’m not merely suggesting there are plot holes. I’m saying slice it up and put it on a Reuben.
And yet, I still find something appealing, even lovable about this movie. I mean come on. Teen angst. But with a laser canon. And aliens. Plus I’ll take stop-motion animation any day. In this case it’s the work of who Dave Allen who had a long working relationship with Band. He also worked on bigger budget movies like Batteries Not Included and Young Sherlock Holmes and headed his own effects company. His career damn near matches Ray Harryhausen’s.
The main problem is that ultimately Laserblast just doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be, and ends up as a prime example of “Throw everything at it, and see what sticks.”
And boy does stuff get throwed. Including a laser cannon. And aliens. And boy don’t none of it stick.
BODIES- 10 (not bad for PG)
Stream- Full Moon, Hoopla, Plex, Pluto, Roku Channel, Tubi
Rent- Prime (I get the camp factor, but $5.99 to rent this? In SD? Oh come now, Jeffy. One rocketship ride is enough. Let’s go get you a lemon phosphate)