Well before Full Moon Features and Empire Pictures, Charles Band was cutting his teeth during the 1970s as a producer. His first film was 1973’s Last Foxtrot in Burbank, which was a spoof of the controversial Last Tango in Paris. He produced 1975’s Mansion of the Doomed, which is most notable for featuring an early role for Lance Henriksen. Charles Band even dabbled in adult cinema with 1977’s Cinderella and 1978’s Fairy Tales, both erotic versions of classic stories. He directed 1977’s Crash!, starring José Ferrer and John Carradine, and also produced End of the World the same year. In 1978, Band founded MEDA Home Entertainment, one of the first home video distributors, which later became Media Home Entertainment. The same year, he produced a sci-fi film that would later go on to develop a small cult following. That film was 1978’s Laserblast, the sole directing credit of Michael Rae.
Teenager Billy Duncan (Kim Milford) hates the small town he lives in, feels abandoned by his mother, and gets bullied. Even though he has a loving girlfriend Kathy (Cheryl Smith) that cares, Billy feels dejected by everyone around him. Things change when Billy finds a strange laser gun while wandering in the desert that requires a special pendant. After he starts firing the laser gun, two aliens are assigned to go to Earth and retrieve the laser gun. Meanwhile, Billy starts using the gun against those who bullied him, such as Chuck (Mike Bobenko) and Froggy (Eddie Deezen). As Billy continues his rampage, government agent Tony Craig (Gianni Russo) leads the investigation with help from the local sheriff. As he continues using the laser gun, Billy finds himself being corrupted further, getting green skin and white eyes. Will Billy be stopped, and will the aliens get their laser gun back?
Laserblast is one of those movies where, after reading the synopsis, you’ll know whether or not this is for you. Most mainstream audiences will be put off by the weak story, mediocre acting, slow pacing, and general ridiculousness. However, if you’re the sort of B-movie connoisseur who enjoys watching these films on late-night channels, here you go. Like I said before, the story, though simple, is fairly weak, not helped by the incredibly dull pacing. With a few exceptions, the acting ranges between mediocre and terrible, with Kim Milford being arguably the weakest. Laserblast does feature classic actors Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall, and Ron Masak, all of whom do what they can. Also, the pacing is incredibly slow, with several scenes going on for what too long and not much exciting happening. Despite this, Laserblast is noteworthy for several reasons that make it worth a watch.
For one, the film marks the first collaboration between Charles Band and stop-motion animator David Allen, which became a partnership. The sequences with the stop-motion aliens looking for the gun are among the film’s highlights, despite not understanding their dialogue. Also, this marked the first time Richard Band worked as a film composer, and he’d continue working with his brother. For being his only directing credit, Michael Rae’s direction isn’t terrible, and he could’ve even gone on to better things. Laserblast has a look that could only have come from the 70s, right down to the drab color scheme. Some audiences might be put off by this, but I look at it as a time capsule of the 1970s. This is often considered one of the worst movies ever made, but it’s nowhere near as bad as that. Overall, Laserblast is a good slice of 70s B-movie entertainment.
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