Color, 1978, 82 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Michael Rae
Starring Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Gianni Russo, Ron Masak, Dennis Burkley, Eddie Deezen, Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall
Full Moon (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1)
This zero-budget wonder shot around Santa Clarita, California has earned quite a reputation as a stinker over the years, and... well, yeah, it still is, but it's a very entertaining one. One of the earlier films produced by Charles Band before he went on to greener pastures with Empire Pictures and Full Moon, Laserblast (which was memorialized in a particularly rowdy 1996 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000) is mostly remembered today for some really fun stop-motion alien effects by David W. Allen, Randall William Cook, and Jon Berg. The alien creatures (and copious explosions) give it sort of an Equinox / Flesh Gordon charm, and it's also a bit noteworthy for its overachieving synth music score by first time composer Richard Band (brother of Charles) and Joel Goldsmith, which ended up being recycled in many later films.
Somewhere around a desert town, jabbering aliens have just vaporized a strange-looking, shaggy-haired man wearing an amulet and stumbling around with a big laser cannon attached to his arm. Cut to teenager Billy Duncan (late Broadway star Milford from The Rocky Horror Show and Hair), whose mom is heading off for Acapulco and leaving him to hang out with girlfriend Kathy (the always charming Smith). However, he's given a hard time by her paranoid grandfather (Wynn) and several of the locals, which sends him off for some alone time where he comes upon that laser cannon. While wearing the amulet, he finds he can use it as a high-powered weapon, which attracts the attention of the aliens who decide to keep an eye on what develops. Meanwhile Billy starts developing green skin and going on a murderous, laserblasting rampage that could send the town down a path of complete destruction.
Drawing obvious elements from Carrie and, well, just about every sci-fi movie around, Laserblast was famously rushed to theaters to cash in on the sci-fi craze following Star Wars before studios had enough time to jump on the bandwagon. It's also odd to see pros like Roddy McDowall (basically a cameo) and Wynn turning up in this film, not to mention perpetual movie nerd Eddie Deezen in his debut (just before Grease and 1941) cast way against type as an ill-fated bully. A much-loved cult figure from films like Caged Heat, The Swinging Cheerleaders, and Lemora, Smith doesn't have much to do here but manages to radiate star power all the same. Almost everyone involved described the production under the guidance of one-off director Michael Rae as an impoverished mess, but its scrappy sincerity and fun effects made it a minor favorite on cable TV and on VHS from Media. Since then Full Moon has been pretty diligent about exploiting it on home video, including a 2006 flat letterboxed DVD with no extras apart from some bios and bonus trailers for Assault of the Killer Bimbos, Beach Babes from Beyond, Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, and Creepozoids.
In 2017, Full Moon gave the film its Blu-ray debut (timed to coincide with a comic book series, believe it or not) with a transfer that obviously catapults miles beyond the soft-looking DVD; basically it looks like a really solid 35mm print with accurate flesh tones (finally) and far, far more detail, as well as very minimal damage. Audio is adequate enough with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mono audio options, though lossless would have been nice just for the score alone. Interestingly, this marks the first time Charles and Richard Band have sat down for a commentary together (as they claim right from the outset), with a lot of discussion about the engineering of the effects, the story behind how Joel Goldsmith came aboard (for his only official co-credit with Band), the filler used to pad out the running time ("More frolicking... more frolicking..."), and comments about the historical value of the cast's appearance. Also included are bonus trailers for Cinderella, Crash!, The Day Time Ended, Fairy Tales, Mansion of the Doomed, and Tourist Trap.
DVD FRAME GRABS
Reviewed on October 14, 2017.