There are low budget movies, there are next-to-nothing budgeted movies, and then there are movies like 1978’s Laserblast, which looked as if it’s budget consisted mostly of whatever loose change producer Charles Band managed to find under the seat cushions of a Tijuana brothel. We’re not just talking low production values but something on a subterranean scale that is almost staggering in its sheer awfulness, and the truly shocking thing here is that as bad as the movie looks the script was even worse, it’s 82-minute running time is a complete collection of utter nonsense that ends without a single question being answered that was raised in the preceding 80 minutes. Laserblast is so bad you almost have to respect the audaciousness of it all.
The movie doesn’t so much as have a plot as it does a series of events that happen before the end credits finally roll, but if one were forced to sum it up you’d have to call it a revenge fantasy about a picked-upon teenage kid being granted great power, which he does not use with great responsibility. The movie has a bizarre opening where we see some green-faced Eddie Munster-type dude, sporting a clunking weapon of some kind on his arm, running across the desert landscape until a spaceship lands from which two turtle-looking alien guys disembark.
Eddie Munster (Steve Neill) opens fire on the turtles but his laser gun is pretty ineffective and he is quickly disintegrated by one of the aliens, leaving behind only a scorched outline as well as his laser gun and a funky necklace. It was up to this point I thought I was watching some post-apocalyptic science fiction movie and that Eddie Munster was some mutant survivor of the war, a war that must have involved these turtle dudes, but then the aliens are startled by a passing Cessna and they hustle back to their ship leaving behind the laser gun and the necklace.
So in this early “twist” we learn that the film actually takes place in a contemporary timeline but for some reason, there are green-skinned humanoids and alien turtle guys running around trying to kill each other, all while trying to keep a low profile for some reason, and just to make things more confusing we jump cut to our hero Billy Duncan (Kim Milford) as he bolts up in bed as if being awoken from a nightmare.
Was this a dream? No, because later Billy stumbles across the sight of the mutant murder, so that opening must have actually happened. Could it have been some kind of vision that links our hero to these strange events? Sadly we will never know because this film doesn’t bother to ever address the issue, which leads one to believe that it’s more a case of sloppy editing than anything script-related if, in fact, this movie had a script. Weird nightmares are the least of Billy’s concerns as he has a lot of problems in his life and other than his girlfriend Kathy (Cheryl Smith) no one seems to understand him, and even his mom (Janet Dey) abandons him so she can go have sex in Acapulco. He is hassled by dope-smoking redneck cops, yelled at by Kathy’s deranged grandfather Colonel Farley (Keenan Wynn) and taunted by local bullies Chuck (Mike Bobenko) and Froggy (Eddie Deezen) who one minute are challenging Billy to a car race then the very next they are going for the attempted rape of his girlfriend Kathy.
Unfortunately for Chuck and Froggy good ole Billy had stumbled across the abandoned laser gun in the desert and after fooling around with it for a while he gets it to work, yet after the attempted rape Billy doesn’t rush home to get his weapon of death he simply goes to sleep where he tosses and turns until properly possessed by the power of the laser gun. So Chuck and Froggy get a temporary stay of execution.
Now that’s just me assuming this is the case as the film is never clear as to what the weapon and its corresponding necklace are supposed to be or even do. Was Eddie Munster an evil mutant being hunted by the turtle guys and after being killed his spirit was trapped inside the necklace, now possessing any who dare wear it? Right there I probably put more thought into this movie’s “plot” than the screenwriters did because nothing about anything we see is ever explained, not..one…thing. Without rhyme or reason, Billy suddenly goes on a laser gun-fueled rampage all the while looking like the Incredible Hulk’s sickly nephew.
Later Kathy notices a strange wound on Billy’s chest and she convinces him to go get it looked at by Doctor Mellon (Roddy McDowall), who upon discovering a metallic disc embedded in the kid’s sternum tells Billy it would be a good idea if he had removed. Once the operation is completed the good doctor quickly calls the local police laboratory to set up an appointment to have the disc examined, but sadly things don’t go as planned because for some reason Mutant Billy doesn’t want the disc examined and that night he blows up Melon while he is on route to the lab.
Did I mention that there was a strange government agent wandering around town asking questions? Well because the movie hasn’t made a lick of sense up to this point it decides to double down by introducing government spook Tony Craig (Gianni Russo) who everyone in the town seems to know but we just don’t how or why they do. We never even find out what tipped him off to the alien menace in the first place as he arrived in town before Billy even got a chance to go on a proper rampage, and somehow he also has a device in his briefcase that beeps when Billy is near…because?
Billy eventually goes on a right proper rampage; he shoots down a police sniper who was taking shots at Billy from the air for some unknown reason (Note: This movie’s tagline should have been “For Unknown Reasons”), he blows up a pinball machine, a hippy who offers him a ride gets blasted out of his own vehicle, Billy explodes a random phone booth and then finally gets around to murdering the two failed rapists from earlier. Eventually, he makes it to the city or going by appearances the studio back lot equivalent of one, and while there he continues to blast at arbitrary objects for no discernible reason. Kathy and Agent Craig arrive, to presumably talk the boy down from this carnage fuelled rampage, but before they can so much as say “boo” to him those turtle aliens return and hit Billy with some kind of beam. The ray gun the aliens use on Billy doesn’t disintegrate him as it did the Eddie Munster dude from the beginning of the film but it does kill him, and it also removes the laser gun and necklace.
Now I’ve seen some pretty fucked up movies in my day but Laserblast is a whole new level of bad, and I’d like to believe that the script was developed using Boggle tiles and the daily word jumble. The only consistency in the film is that not one bit of it makes any sense, not the beginning nor the middle and not the end. Characters are introduced without any sort of proper backstory or eventual payoff, and it’s clear that veteran actors Keenan Wynn and Roddy McDowall did their work in a single afternoon and were probably paid in sandwiches, and aside from stop-motion effects man David W. Allen, who created the really cool alien turtle dudes, nobody else deserved even that.
With the lack of any perceivable budget, I’m not sure what one could expect from director Michael Rae but even Ed Wood managed to hang his flying saucers bullshit on some semblance of a story, while in the case of Laserblast, its script would embarrass an autistic chimpanzee with Tourette’s syndrome. Now I don’t need to have every “T” crossed and every “I” dotted when I watch a movie but this wasn’t about filmmakers leaving a few mysteries unresolved because they don’t bother to explain one single thing.
• Who was that Eddie Munster dude the aliens disintegrated?
• Why did the aliens leave behind the laser gun and necklace?
• Who the fuck is Agent Craig and what is the relationship to the aliens?
• Why was there a police sniper shooting at Billy from a Cessna?
• Why did the aliens come back, did they realize they’d fucked up?
• Why didn’t the aliens use that rainbow ray gun on Eddie Munster in the first place as it worked quite well against Billy at the end and left no evidence?
The only positive thing I can say about Laserblast is that it was certainly never boring, any viewer of this film will be too busy scratching their head in confusion to get bored. Its lack of budget, and that it forgoes having any semblance of a plot or believable characters makes this a film I can only recommend as riffing material amongst like-minded friends who brought a proper amount of alcohol for the viewing.
Producer Charles Band is notorious for his bad films and Laserblast is easily one of his worst, I just hope those involved in writing this script received the psychological help they needed.