DVD Review: LASERBLAST (1978)

PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

Review: Laserblast / Cert: 15 / Director: Michael Rae / Screenplay: Franne Schacht, Frank Ray Perilli / Starring Kim Milford, Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall / Release Date: Out Now

A man staggers through the desert, face and eyes an ugly shade of teal. Attached to his forearm is something that resembles a squashed Dyson. And – we've saved the worst for last – he's wearing flared jeans. If you remember anything at all about Laserblast (1978) after seeing it, it will probably be that image. Or perhaps the aliens who look like tortoises.

That's right, folks, welcome to the world of low-budget 1970s science fiction. The setting is a sleepy town in Nevada. Our hero, Billy (Milford), is a disgruntled teen who takes a drive out into the scrub and finds a laser cannon abandoned after an alien shootout, complete with a small power pack that he can hang around his neck. It promises to be a great antidote to his boredom, but unfortunately the thing triggers a personality change, turning him into a homicidal nutter who goes around torching cars and, eventually, people. It also spreads alien verdigris across his chest – nasty! What with there being a top secret military base nearby, it's only a matter of time before the government gets involved, the town is sealed off and there's a manhunt.

Actually, typed up in a few sentences, the plot doesn't sound all that bad, but trust us, it's the way they tell it. The film strolls along, padded out with aimless chitchat (there's a pool party), teen drama (there's a fight at the pool party) and humour at the expense of two local redneck cops (the best moments by far). Later on, when we get to the meat of the story, gaping holes in the continuity emerge as budgetary restraints kick in and scenes are cobbled together with insufficient footage. Two-thirds of the way along, the film wanders into the desert and never really comes out again.

Meanwhile, Roddy McDowall and Keenan Wynn appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. Wynn does his cantankerous oldster thing, and McDowall hardly has time to pick up a pair of forceps (he plays a doctor) before he's perishing in a flaming car-wreck. Bye, Roddy, till the next cameo.

What saves the movie, to some extent, is its dustily effective location cinematography, and its lazy small town vibe. Oh, and let's not forget the aliens who look like tortoises (it's their fault, by the way, that the laser cannon is left lying around in the desert). They're depicted using stop motion and back projection techniques that must have looked seriously ropey even back then, and connoisseurs of dodgy SFX will particularly enjoy their space ship, which wobbles to Earth like a flying TV dinner. 88 Films are doing a bang-up job of bringing obscure cult offerings to DVD, but sometimes obscurity is the kindest fate.

Extras: Original Trailer



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