Laserblast (1978)

In our family’s circles, I’ve become known as “the guy who likes bad movies.” So for Christmas, instead of Austin Powers 3, Halloween Ressurection, Minority Report, An Evening with Kevin Smith, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings, Men in Black II, Ice Age, Grease, or Return to the Blue Lagoon, I got 1978’s Laserblast. The reasoning behind the purchase? “It looked like a bad movie to me, don’t you like those?” said Mom during Christmas dinner. Works for me.

Opening scene: A green humanoid-looking alien goes staggering across the rocky southern California plains. Suddenly, a space craft flies across the screen, and two stop-motion aliens that look a lot more like dinosaurs than aliens get out. The green alien, wearing a shiny silver coat and a six-foot long gun on his arm, fires at the two dinosaur aliens, but misses. The dinosaurs fire back, wounding the green face-painted alien. Then they walk over and fire again, this time disintegrating him, leaving only his amulet and his weapon. Before they can pick up the evidence, a plane flies overhead and startles the creatures, sending them running back to their craft and taking off.

Laserblast tells the story of Billy Duncan. Despite having the looks of a cool surfer dude and a sweet van with tunes to match, Billy gets repeatedly shit on by everyone he knows. In the beginning of the film, he catches his mother sneaking out of the house, leaving for a vacation to Acapulco without telling him. Just within the first ten minutes of the film, we see Billy getting yelled at by his girlfriend’s senile grandfather, teased by two local bullies, and harassed by the local redneck police.

Billy wanders off into the desert and by luck, discovers the weapon left behind by the green face-painted alien. “Why ask why,” as the old Bud Dry commercial used to say. At this point, the director must’ve said, “run around in the desert for five minutes, saying “pow pow pow” and pretending to shoot things,” because that’s exactly what Billy does. He also puts on the keen amulet, which looks a lot like a piece of string with a painted lightbulb hanging upside down from it. Billy tries out his new gun by blowing the shit out of at least five bushes, turning them into smoke, fire, and ash. Go Billy go!

The stop-motion dinosaur aliens, flying away from Earth at light speed, get a call from their superior. After being shown a few scenes of Billy blowing stuff up and getting yelled at by the head alien, they decide to head back to Earth and get the gun. Of course, I’m just guessing at the actual alien dialogue, as this entire five minute long scene is spoken in alien language.

Back on Earth, Billy’s life keeps getting worse. At a birthday party, the two hooligans who routinely harass Billy end up trying to rape his girlfriend Kathy. That makes Billy MAD and he tries to kick their asses, but instead they end up beating the crap out of him. Kathy saves the day by knocking the head bully out with a blow to the head using the netty part of a tennis racket, a scene worth watching several times for the bad sound effect alone (b-o-i-n-g).

This makes Billy even MORE mad, and so when he leaves the party he turns green like the Hulk (for real) and gets his secret space gun and blows the shit out of the bullies’ car. BOOM. I think Billy has officially had enough. Billy eventually calms down, turns “un-green”, and notices that the amulet has now buried itself into his chest. So, it’s off to the local doctor’s office to have it removed by Doctor Mellon (Roddy McDowall). The doctor decides to take the foreign piece of metal to a friend’s lab to be looked at. This makes Billy MORE MAD! Billy repays the friendly doctor’s good deed by turning him and his car into a huge fireball. Bye bye, doctor.

Around this point in the movie, Tony Craig shows up. At least I assume that’s his name, I had to narrow it down in the credits because they never officially introduce him. He works for “some agency” — again, we don’t know, and they don’t think to tell, so as a viewer you just kind of wonder who this guy is that shows up in town. Craig spends his time in the movie walking around flashing his badge to everyone, and eventually performs interviews, gathers evidence, investigates the case, searches the desert for evidence, and bosses the local police around. He’s kind of like Agent Mulder, but more mysterious and dumb.

Well, by this point Billy is pretty pissed off and all that teenage angst mixed with his newly acquired laser blast-o-matic cannon isn’t a good combination. Pretty soon, the cops are toast (literally), as are the teenagers who used to harass him. POW, BANG, ZAP! Billy spends the rest of the day blowing up half of southern California. Of course now we see more of “green” Billy than regular Billy. Whenever he has the gun, he’s “green” Billy, except when they forgot to put the makeup on for some scenes. Whatever.

Billy wanders out of the desert and gets picked up by a hippie hitchhiker who quickly becomes a pile of firey ashes, as does his hippie van, several billboards, a post office, and everything else in Billy’s way. Just when he’s about to blow up some big building, the stop-motion aliens return to Earth and kill Billy with a death ray, where he falls into the street. The movie ends with Kathy holding Billy’s dead corpse in the street. Happy ending everyone!

The special effects in Laserblast aren’t bad for the mid-70s, I guess I can say that. Actually, considering that this came out the year after Star Wars (which is referenced twice in the movie), it it does look pretty bad. The stop motion of the dinosaur aliens is okay, the laser bolts look silly, the “green alien” makeup jobs are just goofy, but all the pyro and explosions are pretty good. The audio in the movie is terrible. Most of it has been overdubbed, but it’s like they just added dialogue, sound effects, and the occasional piece of music, but no ambient noise. In one scene, while Kathy wanders around the forest looking for Billy, it’s dead silent with only an occasional bird chirp in the background. When people drive cars in the film, it’s usually dead silent as well. There are entire two to three minute scenes with no audio at all, so while they were playing I kept turning my TV up a notch at a time, until I finally heard a sound which was unbelievably loud. The acting in Laserblast is non-existant, despite the fact that SOMEHOW they managed to pull in a few big names. Billy is played by Kim Milford, who appeared in Corvette Summer and was a pretty big stage actor. As mentioned, Roddy McDowall portrays Doctor Mellon, and one of the two hooligans is played by Eddie Deezen (the nerd from Greese, the nerd from Wargames, the nerd from Spy Hard, etc).

After searching the web, it appears that Mystery Science Theater 3000 did an episode on this film. I hadn’t seen that or known anything about this film before watching it, but afterwards I can certainly see how they would love a film like this. I’ve already watched Laserblast a second time, and loved/hated it more than before. Highly recommended for fans of bad sci-fi or people who like to drink beer on their couch and say, “I could make a movie as good as that,” because this time it’s probably true.

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