Billy was a kid who got pushed around... Then he found the power.
Year of Release: 1978
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Michael Rae
Kim Milford ... Billy Duncan
Cheryl Smith ... Kathy Farley
Gianni Russo ... Tony Craig
Ron Masak ... Sheriff
Dennis Burkley ... Deputy Pete Ungar
Barry Cutler ... Deputy Jesse Jeep
Mike Bobenko ... Chuck Boran
Eddie Deezen ... Froggy
Keenan Wynn ... Colonel Farley
Roddy McDowall ... Doctor Mellon
Two extra-terrestrial bounty hunters chase down and destroy their quarry in the barren desert. In their haste to escape human detection, they leave behind the enemy's laser gun and "power pendant."
Billy, a local youth, whose quiet and sensitive nature make him the target of abuses, finds the gun and pendant on a desert outing. Unaware of the pendant's ability to slowly but drastically alter a human's personality and physical make-up, Billy begins to turn the gun against his enemies.
As the "power pendant" transforms and gains full control of Billy, he begins a reign of terror and destruction from which there is no escape. He leaves in his wake the charred remains of innocent and guilty alike. The police, the townspeople, even Federal Investigator Craig are unable to explain, much less stop the gun and its now-maniacal possessor.
The spectacular ending provides the only answer to the puzzling and horrifying tale of a youth with a power and hatred that control and ultimately consume him.
Laserblast, remindin' us that if your girlfriend hasta rescue you from Eddie Deezen, the MMA trainers association prolly won't be callin' about your application anytime soon. No offense if you're readin', Eddie; seriously, you're a king among men an the greatest actor to ever participate in two unrelated movies about intergalactic bounty hunters.
An speakin' of people who oughta be watched at all times, I gotta tell ya about the goll-dangedest thing that happened out on Bearcrack Mountain Saturday mornin'; I swear, a guy couldn't make this stuff up if he tried, you're gonna love this. It was the first decent weekend we'd had since... oh heck, September? So Billy Hilliard an I figured it'd be a good day to go see about findin' some horns now that they oughta be pretty well shed off the deer (plus Sadie Bonebreak was threatenin' to bring 'er girlfriend on our annual campin' trip if I didn't find 'er some mushrooms), so Billy fired up his truck an off we went in search of fun an profit. You can generally sell your finds to the Schwartzbergs who turn around an resell 'em as souvenirs in The Rural Mural gift shop, an sometimes Cleave Furguson'll buy 'em if he knows some pitiful executive who's in town on business an needs a rack mounted to prove to all the other wimps back at corporate that he's a real outdoorsman. Anyway, we got out there 'round about 6:30 in the AM an walked all *over* that dang mountain an come up with exactly three mismatched antlers, which's pretty dang pitiful, cause by this time of year they should all be on the ground. Well, after awhile we figured out where all the horns were when we came upon a herd of 100+ mulies bedded down about a half mile from Leech Creek - turns out most of 'em were still attached to the dang deer, an in late April no less. By now you're prolly thinkin' the trip was a big bust, but I came up with a sure-fire plan to score more racks than a congressional bachelor party, but first I needed some rope. So I asked Billy if he still had that old grey one that's been layin' in the floorboard of his Sierra since 1991 an he said he did, an so we headed back to grab it an that air horn he keeps in there to move cows outta the road, before headin' back to where the herd was nappin'.
"How tall you spoze those deer are?" I asked. It's a good thing Billy's always had a morbid sense of curiosity, otherwise I'da prolly been stopped mid-scheme over 1000 times by now.
"I 'unno, fow, fow'nuh half fee', why?" he grunted with this look on his face like I'd just asked how many peanuts he thought you could get up Barbara Streisand's nose.
"Just watch," I says before slowly an quietly stringin' his rope between fir trees until I ran out an crept back to where he was waitin'.
"Weoh, 'ow whah?"
"Gimmie that air horn an whatever you do, stay behind this rock," I told 'im, an crept ever so slowly around the herd's rear flank, got as close as was halfway sane, an mashed the horn's button hard as I could.
Half the deer emptied their bowels when that thing went off, but *all* of 'em bolted straight for the rope just like I'd planned an sure enough, dang near all their horns peeled off when they passed underneath. At final count we'd scooped up 47 horns, but that ain't even the best part - see, we didn't know it at the time, but a group of enviros were camped not too far from Leech Creek rehearsin' for an upcomin' protest over a new loggin' contract, an when the deer came barrelin' over the hill most of 'em'd already shackled themselves to buncha Lodgepoles while the guy who had the keys'd gone down to get water outta the creek - which in April is generally flowin' like there's no tomorrow. Needless to say, the deer didn't give a damn that this poor S.O.B. was between them an the other side, an he got bowled over an swept away like a tampon down a storm drain. Musta gone at least four miles downstream before it slowed enough for 'im to crawl out, an by that time he was completely lost an freezin' his ass off. Lucky for him Butch Hogan was out checkin' his traps an found 'im when he did, but he was so beat up from slappin' against boulders that by the time he made it to the hospital Dr. Hynek put 'im under with a sedative as a courtesy, an that whole troop of tree-huggers ended up spendin' the night chained an howlin' like neglected basset hounds. I'm a little surprised none of 'em tried gnawin' through their own ankles when the Starbucks withdrawal kicked in. The guy told the nurses about his babes in the woods the moment he woke up, but I don't imagine that was much consolation by the time Amos Anderson showed up with the bolt cutters the next mornin'. All in all, pretty good weekend - picked about a pound of morels for Sadie, Billy an I got $100 each for the horns, an the enviros... well, they got what they deserved for spikin' trees to protest lumber goin' to good use rather'n bein' charred to a cinder.
It's too bad they were stuck lickin' moss off rocks all day, otherwise I mighta invited 'em over to check out Laserblast, which's not only flick #8 in my tribute to the 10 greatest Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies, but also one of the finest musical compositions ever put to film by Goldsmith the Younger. Joel was a modest guy, so he didn't really like to talk about it much, but you can tell he was damn proud of the work he an Richard Band put in on this sucker just from the fact that he waited for *exactly* the right project to come along before attempting to climb out of his dad's shadow. He coulda taken the easy route an did Superman or The Deer Hunter, but not our Joel - he wanted to do somethin' *meaningful*, that people would remember 'im for one day. So Joel, wherever ya are - we remember you. But there's a whole lot more to Laserblast than just a cool soundtrack, an lemme tell ya - this thing's a veritable cornucopia of sci-fi factoids, so if you'll indulge me for a minute an pay attention, in a very few moments I believe you'll find yourselves just a little bit wiser, an your lives slightly more complete. First, if interstellar bounty huntin's anything like the pizza delivery business, forgettin' a lethal piece of hardware on another planet's gonna cost a fortune in gas money to turn around an retrieve. Second, Roddy McDowall is essentially just Anthony Perkins with a good psychiatrist. An third, when there's a madman with a laserblaster on the loose, hidin' in an outhouse that hasn't been pumped since 1963 might not be your best course of action.
But what I'd really like to do now is discuss what it means to be "weird," cause this movie seems a little confused to me an I think that, if he were here, Inigo Montoya might have somethin' to say about these people's use of the word. So here's the deal - basically we got this kid, Billy, who we're supposed to believe is weird because his girlfriend says so, an since she once played Cinderella in that fairy tale porno movie of the same name, it can be reasonably assumed that she prolly knows weird when she sees it. Now, granted, of course he's gonna be a *little* weird, he is Californian after all, but my question is this: in what way is he any weirder than anybody else in this movie? Seriously, let's take stock here, we've got the two cops who do nothin' but smoke dope an cause traffic accidents; Billy's mama - who sneaks outta the house to attend swinger parties in Acapulco with people who voted for Walter Mondale; Eddie Deezen, a guy who thinks he can get girls while hanging out with Eddie Deezen; a depressed girl who eats 'er entire birthday cake by herself; a shell shocked Keenan Wynn whose every line of dialog sounds like part of a Coast to Coast AM transcript; an a guy who's best known for cosplayin' a chimpanzee opposite the former head of the NRA. So help me out here, am I missin' somethin'? Or is this an "Eye of the Beholder" deal? Cause other'n havin' Bigfoot prints painted on the side of his van an refusin' to ever cover his chest, Billy's probably the most normal person in this movie. I mean, this flick's like one big shroom party, an Billy's the designated driver... so is that the problem? If he's the only one that *isn't* strange, by definition, does that make him the weirdo? Somebody get Charlie Band on the horn an tell 'im we're gonna need a sequel to shore up this communications gap, cause our inquiring/asocial minds wanna know.
The movie begins with this kid stumblin' through the California desert wearin' The Mask with an intergalactic leaf blower attached to his arm, only to run afoul of two Mitch McConnell aliens from Outer Space Triple-A lookin' to tow some guys that crash landed at Roswell who proceed to turn 'im into a toasted crop circle when he tries nukin' their turtle tushies. Elsewhere, some teenager (Billy) wakes up to find his mama runnin' away to Acapulco to root around in jacuzzis with wrinkly business tycoons to try fillin' the void in 'er life, so he hops in his van to go see his girlfriend (Kathy) but ends up runnin' into Keenan Wynn (Kathy's Grampa) who uncorks that mornin's InfoWars exclusive, forcin' Billy to leave until Kathy can get some booze into Keenan an screw his head back on straight. Then he goes blowin' by these two stoner cops who look like Jamie Farr an Hank Williams Jr., who pull 'im over an threaten to issue a citation for indecent exposure if he don't put a coupla Ace bandages over his nipples. As if that ain't embarrassin' enough, he then pulls into a gas station for a Coke an gets trolled by Eddie Deezen an this tool (Chuck) who looks like some bond trader's entitled son, only to have his van stall when Chuck challenges 'im to a race. Doesn't that just figure? Billy's big chance to win some respect with his six tons of lean, mean, racin' machine, an the damn thing won't turn over. Needless to say, Billy's a little bummed out, so once he's able to get his rig goin' he drives out into the desert to look for some peyote an discover his purpose in life an happens upon the souped-up alien Power Glove and an amulet that looks like a gourd that got left out in the sun for six months. Billy spends the next several minutes jumpin' around an makin' Batman sound effects with his lips before figurin' out how to actually fire it, at which point he ignites several brush fires that eventually force the evacuations of 10s of thousands of people, but which make 'im feel like a big man. Then he meets up with Kathy at an old campground where they make out an talk about how weird he is until Billy tells 'er about how she's so fuckin' special, an that he wished he was special, but he's a creep.
Meanwhile, in outer space, the two intergalactic Galapagos turtles're gettin' their asses ripped by Emperor Gamera for leavin' the Big Bang Bazooka Blaster on Earth, until they flip a hasty U-turn an haul ass back to the third rock from the sun in hopes of avoidin' a nasty employee evaluation. Then Billy an Kathy go to some rich girl's pool party where Kathy listens to 'er whine about how people're just usin' 'er for 'er pool between king-sized bites of cake until Kathy reassures 'er that a day will come where true friends are obsolete an that you'll be able to ascend to the nation's highest office just by havin' enough scratch to lure in manipulative toadies to do your bidding - Kathy always knows just the right thing to say to make a person feel better. But when she heads inside to change out of 'er wet clothes she gets ambushed by Chuck an Eddie who start gropin' 'er groceries until Billy finds 'em an hasta try fightin' 'em both at once til Kathy gets ahold of a tennis racket an bashes Chuck right in his shuttlecock-shaped head. Billy's P.O.'d, so he waits til after dark, straps on his Arm P.G. launcher, an turns Chuck's '62 Buick LeSabre into Pontiac Fireburst while Eddie cowers behind the birthday girl. That prolly didn't help the depressed girl's fragile mental state considerin' she already thinks nobody likes 'er, now her party guests' cars're bein' blown up in 'er driveway by ugly green guys with extraterrestrial arm turrets. Anyway, the next mornin' a guy who drives around in a Cadillac Fleetwood with a sour scowl on his face (Craig) shows up at the cop shop an tells the sheriff he wants the town quarantined, a guest list for yesterday's birthday party, an for his two dimwitted deputies to either learn to breathe through their noses or stop cookin' fondue in their police cruiser. Elsewhere, Kathy's forcin' Billy to visit Dr. Roddy McDowall to get the molten lead fungus growin' on his chest examined, an after gettin' a good look at it Roddy asks if it'd be okay if he pried it outta there an sold it to Art Bell to pay off his student loan debt an Billy says he don't care if it hurts an that he wants to have control, a perfect body, an a perfect soul. So Roddy peels the metal pepperoni offa Billy's chest an starts drivin' it over to a laboratory to get it examined, only in the middle of the night Billy goes green again an blasts Roddy's rig over an embankment an sends 'im rollin' in the Jeep.
Craig is slightly beyond his baseline level of P.O.'ditude, but he manages to recover the alien fishin' lure outta the wreckage an takes it to be analyzed by the local extracelestial metallurgist who confirms its origin as bein' from somewhere out yonder. An to think, people scoffed when he opened his 24-hour alien metallurgy lab. Unfortunately by this point the interplanetary pendant's mind controllin' Billy on a nightly basis, an that evenin' he ends up turnin' into The Incredible Sulk an blowin' up the town's only gas station, both deputies, their cruiser, and an outhouse whose Fresh Step kitty litter was obviously no match for methane levels of that magnitude. The next mornin', Kathy an Billy get together in their special meetin' place again an make some more dirt angels, only when Billy falls asleep she sticks the cosmic costume jewelry on his chest an pretty quick he goes all Jolly Green Giant an sends 'er packin'. Then he goes into town an shows everybody what he thinks about those "buy local" ads on the radio by nukin' all the storefronts until he hasta fall back to the desert where a sniper in a crop duster shows up an starts firin' on 'im like a Trumpian border patrol agent. Bad news though, cause all those years spent as an outcast playin' Space Invaders have honed Billy's marksmanship skills into the stuff of arcade legends, an when the duster passes over he spreads it across the countryside like a plague of flaming whitetop an swings his anti-matter missile launcher around like Leatherface at the end of Chainsaw. Then he goes down to the freeway an sees Chuck an Eddie cruisin' around in Chuck's brand new '55 Chevy an mercifully blows it up to prevent Eddie from gettin' typecast as a goofy Jerry Lewis impersonator. From there he hitches a ride with this hippie who avoided the horrors of Vietnam by agreein' to smoke a coupla hundred Agent Orange-laced joints for research purposes an Billy ends up gettin' agitated an firin' his quasar cannon at this Star Wars billboard before vaporizin' his baked benefactor an drivin' into town to blow up everything in sight an gleefully jump around like a zombie ninja. I know you folks've got lives you've got to attend to so I was careful to cut out all the stupid stuff that didn't really matter, but if the flick sounds as action-packed as I think it does, you won't wanna miss the excitin' climax. You prolly will cause this movie ain't got one, but at least the outer space turtles come back one last time.
Alrighty, well, Billy was a kid who got pushed around... until he found the power. Nintendo Power. That dog from Duck Hunt prolly shit himself when he saw the Zapper gun Billy was packin'. Laserblast was Charlie Band's first stab at movie making to feature the Roger Corman principle; e.g., make something sleazy and exploitable based upon a current hot commodity - only Charlie musta stopped reading the instructions about halfway through and had Cheryl "Rainbeau" Smith keep her top on throughout the proceedings to secure a PG rating. Obviously intended to ride the coattails of the recently released Star Wars Episode IV, Charlie evidently wasn't content to assume people would make the connection from the content of the trailer and took the added step of having the protagonist blow up a billboard advertising Star Wars - ya know, just in case anybody was still confused. Pretty gutsy, considering Laserblast was shot over the course of three weekends for the change Charlie had in the ashtray of his car. I still have no idea how they got both Keenan Wynn *and* Roddy McDowall to appear in this, given that even the lowliest of character actors would generally expect $5000 a day for their work (and Wynn and McDowall were nowhere near lowly at any point in their careers), though it goes without saying both actors are pretty well wasted in their roles here. Kinda wonder if their checks actually cleared. Either way, Laserblast was probably Charlie's biggest *genre* success up to that point (Cinderella and the shortly to follow Fairy Tales being his real cash cows of the era), back in the pre-Empire Pictures days where his output included the likes of End of the World, Crash, and Mansion of the Doomed, Laserblast stands out as the most fun, at least until 1979 when Tourist Trap was released. Fun for the audience at least, since during one point in the shooting schedule some yokel took the term a tad too literally and opened fire on the production crew as they were filming one of the vehicle explosions in the dead of night. That's where "guerilla" filmmaking gets ya though, you start blowin' things up without permits out in the hills and you're bound to set off at least one para-military paranoid who's isolated himself from the rest of society to keep the electric company from spyin' on him. I really can't tell ya what makes this movie likeable other than being a time capsule - it's disjointed, the characters are one-dimensional, the props are silly, the script is meandering, there's clearly very little direction being given - and yet, you can't help but smile when Billy picks up that sonic leaf blower and starts swingin' it around like a 6-year-old kid playin' spaceman. The fat cop constantly stealin' the little one's food is funny, Eddie Deezen as a bully is funny, the burnt out hippy who reacts simply with "faaaaaaaaar out!" after Billy whips out his nuclear bazooka and blows the shit out of a Star Wars billboard from his moving vehicle is funny, so yeah, it's bad, but I like it.
Unfortunately, it's time to face reality now, so let's tally up all the laser blasts this thing put through its feet and see if its enjoyment factor can keep it from bleeding out. The plot is alright when only the bigger picture is examined, but there's a lot of running time where the protagonist is basically just living out the mundane existence of a suburban Californian teenager with no social life. He's also not particularly sympathetic, and the idea that his entire life has been spent being bullied is a bit tough to take as well, considering the cops only hassle him when he's breaking the law, and of the dozens of other kids he encounters, only two give him much grief, none of which is physical. Guy's got a hot girlfriend, his own set of wheels, and apparently doesn't go to school or have a job, so... yeah, my heart bleeds for him. The acting, while never good, is seldom terrible, but it doesn't help that the most likeable characters in the movie are probably the bullies. Eddie Deezen's always a welcome sight in a comic relief role, the two deputies are fun to watch, and Keenan Wynn is equally entertaining in his disdain for Billy; but while that may make the movie more fun, it's probably not ideal when the goal is for all of your characters to play a particular role in creating the proper relationship dynamic. The rest of the movie is such a mess that Roddy McDowall's legitimate talent comes across as being out of place, and both Kim Milford and Cheryl Smith are pretty bland and boring much of the time, so generally speaking the acting is really uneven and bolstered by precisely the wrong characters.
Here's who matters and why (less Roddy McDowall, with whom most folks should be acquainted): Kim Milford (Wired to Kill, Nightmare at Noon), Cheryl Smith (Parasite 1982, The Incredible Melting Man, Massacre at Central High, Logan's Run, Phantom of the Paradise, Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural), Gianni Russo (Super Mario Bros., Red Dragon, Stay Tuned), Ron Masak (The Aliens Are Coming), Dennis Burkley (Suburban Commando, Nightmare Honeymoon), Eddie Deezen (Teenage Exorcist, Beverly Hills Vamp, Critters 2, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, WarGames, Zapped!), Keenan Wynn (Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star, Zoo Ship, The Clonus Horror, The Dark 1979, Piranha 1978, Orca, Wavelength), Simmy Bow (Beetlejuice, Vamp, Ghost Warrior, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Alligator, End of the World, Dracula's Dog, Mansion of the Doomed), Joanna Lipari (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Jaws: The Revenge). Shockingly, several people would live to act again, and not just in the B-movie world, so if you're interested, here are the credits the actors' agents would prefer you examine: Gianni Russo (Carlo in The Godfather Parts 1 & 2), Ron Masak (Sheriff Mort Metzger on Murder She Wrote), Dennis Burkley (Dog in The Doors, Mac Slattery on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and voiced Principal Moss on King of the Hill), Eddie Deezen (voiced Mandark on Dexter's Laboratory, and played Eugene in Grease 1 & 2).
The special effects are okay for the time and budget, but haven't aged well in the era of the 100 million dollar movie. They're great from a cheesy time capsule perspective, but that's not how the scoring works, and at the end of the day we're lookin' at some green facial prosthetics, Star Wars laser blaster effects, stop-motion space turtles, and a lotta explodin' vehicles. It's actually surprising just how much stuff they blew up on a budget this small, because while it's easy to swap out a functional car for a jalopy, they also blew up what looks to have been an entire gas station. I'm assuming it was scheduled for demolition or something, but it's not a miniature and there's no way they had the budget to build a set and acquire pumps to put out front, so their pyrotechnic efforts were certainly decent. As for the rest, well, stop-motion is what it is, because even if you enjoy it, you recognize its shortcomings. The shooting locations present a believable small desert town atmosphere that makes for a pleasant backdrop against a movie that boasts less action than it needs. It's an easy-going place, with a cast that maintain the kinda carefree attitude most of us hope one day to share in away from the crushing tedium of modern life, and it's all well shot by cinematographer Terry Bowen. You've got several residences tucked away (but not too far away) from what little bustle the area holds, as well as a small campground in the hills, a dilapidated old bridge, and miles of open sage desert that, while not aesthetically pleasing, are geographically logical. Even the police station and the laboratory used in the examination of the alien material are decent, so the shooting locations are definitely the film's strongest asset.
The soundtrack is also decent, having been co-scored by first time composers Richard Band and Joel Goldsmith. Neither had ever composed a soundtrack before, and while Joel no doubt had the benefit of being around his father's work for many years, they had to figure it out on their own with a coupla synthesizers and the $1000 budget Charlie provided for the occasion, and while it's certainly neither man's best work, it's really pretty good for two first timers on a shoestring budget. They seem to have employed the same method Phantasm would use the following year wherein they took their main theme and tweaked it in different ways to recycle for multiple scenes (which is something you only ever do if your basic piece is catchy enough), and it actually works pretty well. It's kind of a melancholy little soundtrack, but it's got sufficient science fiction flavor and does a decent job of injecting some much needed atmosphere on occasion. Overall, this one's good enough to pass from an entertainment perspective, but not by a margin strong enough to overcome its technical inadequacies. Still, we're getting closer to that elusive passable Mystery Science Theater movie, and I'd highly recommend you ignore the obscenely devalued IMDB rating and check this one out for the camp value, as it plays pretty well even without the show's commentary.