Science fiction was hot in 1978. Star Wars proved to audiences and production studios that science fiction was a legitimate and fun entertainment theme. Quality special effects and good stories really could catapult viewers to galaxies far, far away. Worldwide, people hungered for stunning visuals and clever storylines.
None of this explains why Laserblast was made. This film deserves special honors among the trash films of the 70s. If you like low-grade B-movies, this movie still isnít for you. Considered a B-movie, this movie probably deserves an "F". If you donít believe me, find a copy and judge for yourself.
The film opens in a desert where a strange mutant stumbles along,
wearing a crystal necklace and carrying what can only be described as the Silver
Tube of Ultimate Devastation. This is an alien weapon whose origins are only
hinted at and never really explained. The mutant, something akin to a space
vampire packing heat, suddenly turns in fear as a spaceship arrives. We should
have seen this coming but Iíll admit, I was surprised when I saw it. There it
is, a spaceship flying over the desert. As 1970s spaceships go, its not a bad
.. and you got it! The thing lands and two space turtles emerge and look around. You hardly notice that theyíre stop-motion animations or that theyíve left the spaceship without their shells. In fact, youíre willing to forgive them for their stop-motion existence because their first act is to turn this freak into a smoldering streak of ashes. Our younger readers probably donít understand this, but as a movie-goer in the late 1970s, if something wasnít turned to ash by an energy beam in the first ten minutes of a Sci-Fi film you were ready to walk out, so on that level, Laserblast delivered the goods. As for the turtles themselves, I have to admit that they are actually the only redeeming element in the entire film. They are actually pretty cool, even if you donít have a passion for stop-motion space turtles, which admittedly, I do.
The turtles then hear an approaching airplane and rush back to their ship and take off, leaving behind, amid the charred remains of the unknown mutant, the crystal necklace and the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation. Since this was apparently the mistake they came all the way to Earth to fix, their sudden departure is a bit hard to understand. I figured that as soon as the airplane flew by theyíd come back and retrieve the items. I was wrong. I never was good at understanding the mindset of stop-motion space turtles.
Before we can focus too much on the turtles, we are introduced to young Billy Duncan, a hopeless misfit destined to capitalize on the turtleís mistake. Billy is a loser. Heís a sad teen who manages to go through a good part of this film without properly wearing a shirt. I would call him a nerd but in many ways that would be a disservice to nerds everywhere. Billyís mom isnít too concerned about his condition because sheís run off to Acapulco, again! Apparently she also isnít concerned about what young Billy might do with his girlfriend Kathy while sheís away. This is a pretty serious oversight since, in the Laserblast universe, losers still have acceptable looking girlfriends. For the most part, Billy is too distracted from pursuing what every other normal young teen male would spend every waking moment trying to pursue because he is constantly harassed by everyone else in the town, and yes we do mean everyone.
Billy ventures about the town in a van that has Bigfoot stickers all across the side. At first, I thought a real Bigfoot had walked across his van but if you look hard, you can see that theyíre really those big stupid stickers that were so popular in the 1970s. Of course, not with anyone I know but they sold a lot of them back then so someone must have bought them.
We soon suspect that theyíre not popular with the cops either because the two policemen in the town stop him to remind everyone that even the law enforcement doesnít like this kid. In this case, its understandable because the cops are both a couple of weed smoking hippies. Did I mention that in addition to losers having acceptable looking girlfriends, policemen can smoke illegal substances while on duty in the Laserblast universe? Isnít that funny? Alright, actually it isnít funny at all but it does show the lunacy of the thinking behind this film.
If you havenít gotten the point yet, nobody likes Billy. In fact, everyone he runs into takes a special effort to make his life miserable, except for Kathy of course, since in the Laserblast universe, losers still have acceptable looking girlfriends. Despite support from Kathy, Billy opts to temporarily escape from persecution of the town and this is a good thing because by this point, as a viewer, youíre just getting tired of watching the little twit get picked on. It just seems right that he would head off across the desert, seemingly without a care in the world. Most of us would start looking out for snakes or at least think to bring along a bottle of water. Not Billy.
In short order, Billy finds the blackened ashes of the mutant that was vaporized by the space turtles at the beginning of the film, and no, they havenít come back to get the crystal necklace and Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation yet. Damn, I really was hoping they had returned to get these obviously dangerous items! Both of those prized alien artifacts are still lying about, or would be if Billy didnít pick them up right then and there. He plays with them trying to figure out their function. The necklace is a pretty easy device to figure out and without too much coaxing, Billy manages to put it around his neck. He quickly realizes that this is no ordinary necklace. It powers the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation. Billy learns how to fire this thing, which emits a vicious and formidable laser blast. I bet you didnít see that coming either.
It turns out that Billy likes to shoot this thing, and who can blame him. After all, it is the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation. What Billy doesnít realize is that the necklace causes him to become a mutant who doesnít remember his actions, and those actions are to go about and take revenge on those who have harassed him. This is no small job because in this town, there are quite a few who need killing according to Billyís part-time mutant mind. The film follows Billyís exploits and details how he shifts from normal to mutant mode depending on the need for something to get blasted by the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation.
It's probably important at this point to say that this film was made well before any of the known cases of mistreated teens seeking the widespread deaths of those who picked on them. Put simply, when this movie was made, high school, post office, and workplace massacres werenít a known phenomenon in the USA.
Its also important to note that the law enforcement agencies in
the Laserblast universe trail far behind even the most unobservant movie
viewer. After a number of things in town are blasted by alien energy, an FBI
agent decides he should probably investigate the situation. I was wondering
when that was finally going to happen.
Thankfully thereís more here to protect the honest citizens of the town than the two pot-smoking patrolmen. The FBI agent soon identifies Billy as a likely suspect and hauls him in for questioning. Billy doesnít spill the beans, mainly because he doesnít know anything. All the destruction heís caused so far was caused by his mutant form, which thankfully, his human form canít remember. The mutant knows everything though and knows that law enforcement canít get away with questioning the normal human Billy. So the mutant Billy emerges again and blasts the local gas station along with the two weed-smoking cops. Good, I didnít like those guys anyway.
While Billy is delivering alien firepower to crooked cops, the two space turtles are cruising the galaxy, looking for the next mission they can screw up. They are contacted by their boss, who identity is never really revealed but who I nicknamed, ďThe BossĒ. He seems agitated and scolds the two incompetent turtles. You canít understand anything the stop-motion animation creatures are saying but you just know heís saying ďYou dumbasses! How could you go all the way to Earth and not grab the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation and that funky crystal necklace that creates mutants out of otherwise harmless losers!Ē Just so we get the idea, he then shows them footage of Billy discovering the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation. Faced with scolding gibberish and reused film on their cockpit video screen, the aliens turn their spaceship around, and head back to Earth.
Billyís actions are taking a toll on him. His transforming into a mutant and blasting that which annoys him causes a red mark to appear on his chest where the alien necklace touches it. As things progress, the red mark becomes a metallic disk embedded into his chest. After far too long to be anywhere believable, Billy becomes concerned that there might be something different about him and opts to goes to the doctor.
Surprise! The doctor is played by Roddy McDowall. Yes, that really is Roddy McDowall, the man who was the star of all the Planet of the Apes movies. Heís playing a doctor in this thing. He removes the strange metallic disk and plans to analyze it. This would probably explain a lot to the audience but before he can perform this vital function, he is killed by Billy who has shifted back to his mutant role. Billyís face is now green and he uses the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation to blow up the good doctorís car, while the good doctor is still sitting in it. This is probably for the best because a fine actor like Roddy was a serious mismatch for this film. Plus, they misspell his name in the credits at the end of the film. It is a shame though. Had he been able to analyze the metal disk, he might have been able to explain why Billy is about to permanently turn into a mutant and why, once this happens, he will start blasting the entire town.
In the last possible scene where we can get to know and understand Billy, Kathy, using the intellect of a toddler, realizes the crystal necklace is similar to the wound on Billyís chest. So, to confirm the theory, she presses the crystal into the wound. She is shocked to see that they are the same size and shape. She is even more shocked when this alien crystal thing seems to malfunction. It causes Billy go berserk and permanently become a mutant. Yes, thereís no going back now. Billy, grabs the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation and goes out hunting inanimate objects.
quite a few of them.
In his rampage, Billy attacks
everything, and I do mean everything. Every object vulnerable to rotoscoped
energy blasts that emerge with a whoop, whoop sound becomes the target of
his fury. The town is no match for the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation
and neither is Kathy who runs away in horror. Her agent should have advised
her to keep running but donít worry, sheíll be back. She still has a vital
role to play in this film.
As things in the town are incinerating, the FBI agent, along with
everyone else who hasnít been turned into a pile of ashes, finally realizes that
there is something very different about Billy and that, since heís armed with
the Silver Tube of Ultimate Devastation, he must be stopped. He calls for a
lethal team of reinforcements. In the Laserblast universe, this means two armed
men in a Cessna, but at least they are reinforcements who will come to save the
dayóor they would have saved the day if Billy didnít blast them out of the sky
as soon as they appeared, which is exactly what he does with a whoop sound and
more rotoscoped energy.
Billy then declares war on everything in sight. He fires the weapon into the air and at useless objects and a brand new classic car that two more people who picked on him were driving home. The last was fine because I didnít like guys any more than the crooked cops. Billy moves on, blasting more inanimate objects for reasons only space mutants made from losers will ever understand. Then, suddenly, for a moment, he seems to regain some control and regret what he has done. You can tell, heís just trying to tell the audience, Iím really a nice guy and Iím sorry Iíve killed so many people and set the town on fire, but then the blasting gets good to him again and he prepares to cause more destruction.
It also gets good to the two space turtles who have finally returned to shoot their death ray at Billy. Billy falls to the ground just as Kathy and the FBI agent suddenly appear. Kathy runs over to hold Billy as he dies. Itís a great cinematic moment.
They just donít make them like that anymore!
After over two decades, this film has been nearly totally forgotten. Unlike other film disasters like Plan 9 from Outer Space and our own personal favorite, Robot Monster, Laserblast seems to have faded from memory despite the fact that the movie has been released on DVD. Additionally, a model of the aliens was released by Billiken but is now out of production.