Laserblast (1978)

This B-film from the late seventies has a wonderful concept going for it. Well, I think it's wonderful anyway ... perhaps I have delusions of power and destruction, who knows. But finding an alien laser-gun that can vaporize/explode anything it's aimed at, sounds like enormous fun to me. However, a concept is basically all this film has. It's so poorly executed, it's quite hard to sit through unless it's just on a love-the-cheese level. Even Roddy McDowell's cameo is completely wasted. Let's take a quick look at some plotlines and then smell some of the laser-blasted cheese.

Beginning in an American desert, some funny little turtle-aliens, courtesy of stop-motion animation maestro Dave Allen, completely vaporize a mutated-looking humanoid who wields a laser-gun the size of a bazooka. The humanoid has a sort-of Star Trek costume on, so I assume he's an alien too. Anyway, all that's left of him is a black smear in the sand and a large pendant, plus the laser-bazooka. The turtle-aliens depart, communicating between each other in their strange, croaking, echoing language.

Billy Duncan (Kim Milford) is a teenage - even though the actor looks in his late twenties - loner, drifting around the edges of his social group, alienated from his mother who goes on endless business trips. He has a girlfriend Kathy (Cheryl Smith) who lives with her crazed Grandfather, but Billy and Kathy's relationship doesn't seem that loving, even though Kathy tries hard with the distant young fellow. Billy find the gun and pendant on one of his solitary trips to the desert. At first he plays with it as a child would, pretending to zap things left right and centre. You already have to start questioning his mental health after this scene. Finally he puts two and two together, working out that the pendant activates the gun, and starts blowing the desert apart. Well, the cacti anyway. The blasts coming out of the gun are pretty dissapointing - just short little bursts of light - I kind of imagining a huge blasting beam coming out of it, but it wasn't meant to be!

Feeling pushed around by people, and after an attempted rape of Kathy by some bullies they both know at a party, Billy blasts the bullies car to exploding pieces. Folks, this film has a lot of explosions - at least they're reasonably well-done. At this point, though, his face takes on monstrous, mutated features when he uses the gun, his mind become primitive - he just growls and groans - and a open burn-wound begins to grow on his chest. Once he's used the gun and had his fill of destruction, he reverts back to his normal self, although the wound is still there. At Kathy's urgings, he goes to visit Doctor Mellon (sci-fi stalwart Roddy McDowell) to have the wound looked at, and Mellon removes something inorganic from Billy's chest. However, driving home that night, Mellon encounters Billy, looking even more monstrous, and is blown to pieces by the crazed creature. I cannot believe McDowell's role in this film - he's in it for a few minutes at most, has about three lines and is blown to kingdom come with no real effect on the plot. What's going on in this topsy-turvy world? I know all about cameo roles, but really ...

Kathy finally sees Billy in his laser-blasting monster-form as she accidentally puts the pendant in contact with his chest. Fleeing in terror, she runs into Tony Craig (Gianni Russo) an agent from the government, investigating the whole alien situation with the local bumbling sheriffs. They try to track him down to help, but Billy, now totally mutated by his contact with the gun, is running amok in the town. Hunched, growling and roaring with neanderthal features and fangs, he blasts apart cars, shops, and police-cars arriving at the scene. I think this film should be know as the explosion movie after this scene, which goes on forever. Waving his gun in the air with primevil delight, the Billy-creature is stopped in his tracks as the turtle-aliens arrive again, aiming their own lasers at him. Will he survive, or be reduced to ashes like his humanoid predecessor?

I've probably made Laserblast sound like fun viewing from this description, and in a way, it is. I do have a small soft spot for it, remembering it being advertised in my childhood, probably imagining how great the central fantasy of the all-powerful gun was. Yes, you psychologists and Freudians out there can read into this what you like, I care not! In the end, though, the film is a failure. The special effects are pretty lousy, the several alien scenes, though interesting, feel like they're from a different film, clumsily spliced into this one. The acting is completely wooden - even McDowell looks embarrassed. Kim Milford is verging on appalling as Billy, I feel sorry for him as he's trying to convey the exhilaration of using the gun. The film is poorly staged, filmed, edited, and loaded with padding scenes of the teenage party, the bullies driving their cars, the inept, pot-smoking local sheriffs arresting Billy, abusing each other, eating junk food, smoking pot, ad infinitum. The action and "alien-monster factor" is kept to a complete minimum.

Despite all the negative aspects, Laserblast is a completely B-grade, drive-in piece of seventies science fiction fluff that has its entertaining moments, many more such moments than the average Hollywood drivel being churned out these days. So on the right day, in the right mood, the kind of person who enjoys this website will probably get something out of it.

I guess I will just have to wait patiently for the ultimate loser-finds-alien-laser-cannon-and-runs-amok movie. Surely it can't be far off ....

© Boris Lugosi 2005.


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Review written: 02/13/2005 10:22:33