Laserblast (1978)

For years, I wanted to see this movie. In 1978, my options were limited as it never played our drive-in, or if it did, I was six, so I couldn’t just drive out and see it. But I’d see stills of it in Starlog and think of how cool it looked. I mean, just take a glance at the poster!

It wasn’t until years later that I’d realize that my dreams of how awesome Laserblast could be are way better than the actual final product.

The one and only directorial effort of Michael Rae — I don’t count the Full Moon mixtape Aliens Gone Wild — this movie was produced by Charles Band, who in addition to producing so many movies that proclaim his love for puppets also directed movies like Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn and Trancers.

The alien effects are by longtime Band collaborator David Allan. As we discussed back in our review of The Dungeonmaster, Allen had an interesting life. He got his start on the movie Equinox and worked on Flesh Gordon, Laserblast, The Howling, the Puppet Master series, Willow and so much more. But after dying in 1999, a crazy story emerged.

Allen used to be married to a woman named Donita Woodruff, who learned that Allen had an ex-girlfriend named Valerie Taylor — who also used to be a man and had enough of a criminal record that Woodruff found evidence that she’d committed murder in 1979. As a result of that evidence, Taylor went to jail and Allen and Woodruff would eventually divorce, according to Woodruff’s book Deadly Masquerade: A True Story of Illicit Passion, Buried Secrets, and Murder.

But hey — let’s talk about Laserblast.

A green-skinned man is wandering the desert when two aliens emerge and blow him away, returning to their spaceship without the weapon and pendant he was wearing.

Non-sequitur time: Billy wakes up millions of miles away. He’s played by Kim Milford (Rock-a-Die-Baby, Wired to Kill), an angry teenager miffed that his mother is leaving to go on a trip to Acapulco. He goes to visit his girlfriend Kathy (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith, who will forever be Lila Lee in Lemora, but she’s also Lavelle in Caged Heat, Cinderella in Cinderella, Mary in Massacre at Central High and so many more roles, as well as a drummer who played with a bastardized version of The Runaways and with Joan Jett; see du-Beat-e-o), but her insane grandfather Colonel Farley (Keenan Wynn!) is so bonkers that he just leaves.

Billy hates the town he lives in and everything and everyone in it, like Chuck Boran, Froggy (Eddie Deezen in his first role) and the cops (who include Dennis Burkley, one of my favorite sitcom stars as Cal on Sanford and Son; he’s also the biker Dozer in Mask).

Our hero — I guess, he’s kind of a spoiled jerk — wanders the desert and finds the laser cannon and pendant. Whoops — I guess aliens aren’t as smart as we think they are, leaving that kind of weaponry behind on our backwater planet.

Chuck tries to pick up Kathy, which means he has to pay. Billy uses his new firepower to basically nuke Chuck’s car from orbit.

This show of force puts government official Tony Craig (Gianni Russo, who was Carlo Rizzo in The Godfather films — well, the first two that matter — and was also the owner of a Las Vegas club and casino at one point. Once, a patron was bothering a female guest and Gianni intervened. The man broke a champagne bottle and stabbed the actor, who pulled his gun and shot the man twice in the head. While that was considered a justifiable homicide, it turned out that the dead man was a member of Pablo Escobar’s cartel. A hit was ordered on Russo, but canceled when the drug lord learned that Russo had been in The Godfather; good thing he never saw Laserblast) on the case. He works with the sheriff (Ron Masak, who was a commercial voiceover guy who is the first cousin of Family Ties and Tremors star Michael Gross and Saturday Night Live castmember Mary Gross — who I never realized were related) to find out what the hell is going on.

Billy has a growth on his chest, so Kathy makes him go visit Doctor Mellon (Roddy McDowall, who deserves better; he definitely deserves better than to have his name misspelled as McDowell in the credits), who removes a metal disc from Billy’s chest. For this act, he and his car are blown up real good by Billy, which is a mercy killing, removing McDowall from this shoddy film.

It turns out whenever Billy wears the pendant, he becomes a green-skinned killer. He wipes out the deputies and nearly kills Kathy before she escapes. He also gets Chuck and Froggy before going full-on alien and screaming like a petulant child as he destroys his hometown. He feels like me, yelling at people who won’t let him skate at Rite Aid with his crappy Valterra skateboard back in 1988.

The aliens return to kill him, but guess what? They forget the pendant and laser gun again! Aliens! What is your problem?

This is a movie that takes potshots at Star Wars, including blowing up a billboard advertising that film. I’m trying to think of an analogy, but instead, whenever something inferior takes a cheap shot at a much better thing, I’m going to say, “That’s like Laserblast making fun of Star Wars.”

If you watch this and wonder, “Where have I heard this music before?” perhaps you’ve seen Band’s film Auditions. Or Robot Holocaust. Or The House on Sorority Row.

It was released along with End of the World by the Irwin Yablans Company, the same folks who brought you the first thee Halloween films. There was talk of a sequel in 1988, but the money never showed up. However, the Band production Deadly Weapon is exactly the same story as Laserblast.

What else can you say about a science fiction movie shot over three weekends for basically no money on an abandoned 1920’s Chicago set somewhere in California? Just imagine if you’d seen this movie under its awesome Spanish title of El Rayo Destructor Del Planeta Desconocido (The Destructive Beam of the Unknown Planet) or Greek name O Ektelestis Me Tis Aktines Thanatou (The Performer with Her Death Ray), two incredible names that would make the disappointment of watching this hurt even worse!

You can watch this with or without Mystery Science Theater riffing on Tubi. You can also get the blu ray of the film directly from Full Moon.

Best of all, you can grab one of the aliens from the movie from Big Bad Toy Store. I kind of love that these exist!

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