Laserblastrecommended viewing

Take it in stride
Michael Rae
Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Eddie Deezen, Ron Masak, Keenan Wynn
The Setup: 
Guy finds laser in desert, shoots a lotta shit with it.

Okay, so it’s like this. I am writing this on my NEW AlphaSmart 2000 [actually, it’s the one that I bought for a friend but he never used], since my old one was stolen along with a PAINTING of mine [a one-of-a-kind painting that was giving me those semi-psychic feelings all day where you’re just like “I should NOT have this in my bag”], and my iPod and a shirt. Oh, and the word processor had a lot of reviews on it, and notes to films I hadn’t written about yet. Yeah, all gone, and virtually none of it, save the iPod, of any real use to anyone but me. Great! But I took it as a sign from God that he really does want me to move out of New York.

Anyway, Laserblast. I can’t recall how I first heard of this movie. Maybe in reading about Willard or Kiss of the Tarantula and they mentioned another teen revenge movies? Anyway, it went straight to the top of the list, and deservedly so, because it turned out awesomely entertaining from beginning to end. Or, well, beginning to 20 minutes before the end.

The first thing that greets you is a menu with rainbow striped options and a big green goon face! This is your salutation, and it’s as good a welcome wagon as I need. We soon find out that this is another pearl from the golden mind of Irwin Yablans. Then, it would seem, there’s some sort of mutant running around a desert. Some spaceship comes in, check out their extra-smooth landing, and two stop-motion turtle-like aliens come out. One says “Aaannk!” and the other says “Oooouuupk!” It would just so happen that, in 1978, aliens and mutants were having laser wars in plain day in the deserts of Southern California. Did you know that? I did NOT know that. So the aliens hit the mutant, but then a plane passes overhead, and the aliens duck. The plane happens NOT to see the giant spaceship parked a few yards yonder. The aliens get on board and take off, carelessly leaving the mutant’s laser there for just anybody to find. Fucking careless aliens!

Suddenly we’re with this blond kid from California. He is Billy Duncan, and basically all he does during his spare moments is sit around shirtless and stare at the ceiling. It would seem that his mother is trying to sneak out of the house without waking him and go once more to Acapulco, where she has been summoned. We never find out exactly what trade Mom is going to ply that requires her presence in Acapulco, but something tells me it involves her labia. So naturally Billy gets in his van, not stopping to don his shirt, and dives around while listening to the kind of trippy instrumental rock music that is supposed to stand in for “hit music” without actually being a recognizable song. He goes over to his girlfriend Cathy’s house, but runs into her crazy grandpa who calls himself the Colonel and won’t let Billy near her. Of course Cathy comes out one second after Billy departs. Grandpa, who may have some appeal to the daddy-lovers out there [okay, grandpa-lovers], is played by Keenan Wynn of many a TV Western.

Cut to the fuzz, officers Unger and some other one. Unger is a RED NECK with a big fat belly and scruffy beard. The other one is a low-rent Gomer Pyle and sits there smokin’ weed until Unger asks him to try some. Billy speeds by them and we have a little chase set to ragtime piano music [an odd tonal choice], then the cops give him a ticket. Soon after, he faces the mockery of some goon and his friend Froggy, played by Eddie Deezen, who you know from his nerd roles in Grease and Grease 2. This was his first film. Billy is gonna drag race the goons in his van, but it won’t start, setting him up for further mockery. Oh, the indignities this poor boy must suffer! It’s enough to make him want revenge.

So Billy goes out to the desert to collect his thoughts. He throws his Coke bottle away, and finds it suddenly explodes! Now, if a piece of refuse you toss away is violently incinerated, you probably agree that it’s a great idea to just go stick your face right down there in the blast radius. Billy does, and finds this huge laser. He picks it up, and then we are treated to the sight of a man in his 20s running around going “Pow! Pow!” with the thing like a ten-year-old. He’s in touch with the child inside, and you know, there’s nothing I would do to spoil that. There’s also an attractive pendant lying nearby, not unlike the fine merchandise they offer on QVC, and Billy finds that when he wears the pendant, he can fire the laser. You’ll find that Billy takes the finding of super-advanced alien technology just laying around the desert completely in stride. Kids today just don’t get worked up over anything.

So sinister secret agent Quaid [Quint? Something like that], who chooses to wear snug pants that showcase his manly appendage, comes into town. Meanwhile Billy and Cathy sneak away to chill in Billy’s van, where Cathy puts to use all sort of lines such as “There’s something inside you… so dark.” Cathy notices that Billy has a nasty white sore right in the middle of his chest [MRSA? Brown recluse spider?], but she doesn’t let that interfere with her lovemaking. Cut to space, where the turtle-aliens are bitched out by their boss, and told to return to Earth to retrieve the laser. There are a few times in this movie where you forget the whole alien angle, and are just watching a 70s teen revenge melodrama, when suddenly you’re confronted with the jarring sight of stop-motion-animated turtle-like aliens going “Mmmmneeeep!”

After noticing that Mr. Quaid is sans-a-belt, our scene shifts to a backyard barbecue and pool party, where the cool goons from earlier are shouting “Get your red-hot franks here! Get your red-hot franks here!” Then, suddenly, everyone decamps for the pool. Except the suddenly-introduced [and just as quickly dropped] character Fran bemoans that people only pretend to like her for her pool. Meanwhile, Billy is feeling sulky, until he finds Cathy almost being molested by the two goons. It’s not too long before he blows up their car with his laser [what, no human casualties?], which in turn draws the attention of the two redneck cops and their cigar-smokin’ police chief.

So the sore on Billy’s chest is green and white and Cathy suggests that he go see Dr. Mellon, played by Roddy McDowall. Dr. Mellon taps it and finds the center is hard like a rock, then pulls the thing out! Billy thanks his for his service by blowing him up in his car. I should mention that we see every explosion about five times from different angles. The cornucopia of explosions in this film may have something to do with the fact that the director was formerly a stunt coordinator. And once more we jarringly transition from 70s teen movie to stop-motion aliens.

So the redneck cops are out when the weed-smoking nerd among them stops to buy a Coke. Billy is there and blows up their car. Then Billy and Cathy have gross sex despite the fact that he’s got a nasty green-and-white crater in his chest [sound appealing, ladies?], but when Cathy touches the pendant to Billy she finds he suddenly transforms into a green-faced mutant with pointy teeth, which totally ruins the mood.

Meanwhile Mr. Quaid has gone to the Colonel’s house to question him. There’s a hilarious transition from the genteel Colonel saying “Would you like a drink?” and elegantly pouring out a cocktail to Billy’s demonic green face going “Gnnnaaarrrgh!” Billy is full-on maniacal now, and jumps around like a moron making idiotic noises—and I love it. You don’t get enough outright maniacs anymore. He is hunted by a hot mustachioed sniper in a police plane [I have SO got to date a sniper] before Billy blows the plane up. He goes to the road where the two goons just happen to be coming along in their replacement car, and blows them up, too. He then hitches a ride with this talkative hippie in a van—words cannot do justice to the hippie’s speech—but soon blows the guy out of the van while speeding down the highway. Oh, but that’s after the part where he blows up the roadside billboard for Star Wars. I love the whole concept that 20th Century Fox would advertise Star Wars with a spray-painted wooden sign on the side of the road.

After that Billy just goes on a maniacal rampage, blowing up shit left and right, willy-nilly! He blows up a pinball machine! He blows up a telephone booth! If you read the comments on the IMDb you see that people who grew up with this movie as kids love it and have watched it multiple times, and I would guess that’s because the fourteen-year-old boy in everyone just loves the idea of running around with a super-powered laser and just blowing the shit out of everything!

Well, as you know, all good things must come to an end. All good things must come to a sudden, senseless, stupid end. So Billy’s on his rampage when the aliens just shoot him with a beam and kill him. That’s it. Mr. Quaid and Cathy, who just happen to be there, run to Billy’s side, taking the fact that there is a giant alien spaceship hovering in the sky completely in stride. Wow, Southern California folks really ARE mellow. Now, you might think that, since this is at least their second trip back, the aliens might take the time to pick up that little laser that’s causing so many problems, but nah, they just leave it on Earth for someone else to find. You see, even aliens engage in self-destructive neurotic behavior. We’re all the same, deep inside!

It was pretty delightful, until it got boring. There is the fun of some dork running around blowing shit up with his laser, sure, but the movie also takes diversions to detail the lives of the low-life redneck cops, the goons in their hot cars, and Billy’s Mom, off to Acapulco. I don’t know why Billy’s Mom is in there at all, but who cares, she’s kind of funny and it helps flesh out this bizarre world with amusement. And then of course there’s the jarring amusement of watching this tame 70s teen melodrama suddenly divert to stop-motion aliens on a spaceship.

The guy who plays Billy, Kim Milford, went on to co-star with Mark Hamill in the charming Corvette Summer. The woman who plays Cathy is Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith, who also graced The Incredible Melting Man, and was every bit as insipid there, too. She was also in Caged Heat, Up In Smoke, and Independence Day. Mr. Quaid is that guy you’ve seen all over the place in various tiny roles. It’s a star-studded cast! The DVD includes all sorts of trailers for many low-budget softcore films, including the “Bimbo” series, featuring such films as Assault of the Killer Bimbos. So that about wraps it up then.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, it’s a wacky and fun blast of sheer destructive stupidity.