Traumafession :: Reader Donny O. on The Last Starfighter

Hey guys,

I love your site. When I was about nine or ten my father took me to see “The Last Starfighter.” I loved the movie but one scene nearly made me pee my pants. When the main character is sent off to battle aliens in space he is replaced in his home by a duplicate version of himself sort of like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” At one point, a blanket is lifted off of a bed and we get a glimpse of the duplicate before it is fully formed and its skin is pasty and its eyes are popping out. As a kid who had only seen rated G movies up to that point, it was totally gross and totally shocking.

UNK SEZ: Oh yeah! You’re talking about Beta Alex, the quirky doppelganger of Alex Rogan (as played LANCE GUEST of HALLOWEEN II fame)! We love THE LAST STARFIGHTER around these parts! Why, it was even directed by NICK CASTLE who played the original shape in HALOWEEN! Thanks for bringing this one up Donnie! As an added bonus, Aunt John made the gif below so you can stare at slimy Beta Alex as long as you like! Enjoy!

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5 years ago

Fun Trivia: Polybius is The Last Starfighter and might’ve inspired Nightmares 1983: The Bishop of Battle.

American skeptic producer and author Brian Dunning believes Polybius to be an urban legend that grew out of exaggerated and distorted tales of an early release version of Tempest that caused problems with photosensitive epilepsy, motion sickness, and vertigo.[1] He notes that two players fell ill in Portland on the same day in 1981, one collapsing with a migraine headache after playing Tempest,[1] and another suffering from stomach pain after playing Asteroids for 28 hours in a filmed attempt to break a world record at the same arcade.[5] Dunning records that the FBI raided several video arcades in the area just ten days later, where the owners were suspected of using the machines for gambling, and the lead-up to the raid involved FBI agents monitoring arcade cabinets for signs of tampering and recording high scores. Dunning suggests that these two events were combined in an urban legend about government-monitored arcade machines making players ill, and believes that such a myth must have been established by 1984, as it was referenced in the plot of the film The Last Starfighter, in which a teenager is recruited by a man in black who monitors him playing a covertly-developed arcade game.[1]

If you haven’t heard the legend, there was supposedly a cabinet back in the hey-day of arcade machines called Polybius that had strange, sickening effects on players. Dated around 1981, it was thought to have a Tempest-like schmup style of gameplay. It would cause physical discomfort like headaches and nausea, and in some cases, more serious conditions like amnesia and night terrors. So the story goes, occasionally “men in black” would be seen collecting data from the machines, and eventually they disappeared and were never seen again.
According to local news in Portland, Oregon, two kids fell ill at the same time in the same arcade — one of them while playing Tempest, and one notably while attempting to break the Asteroids world record. Around the same time, the FBI was looking into arcades potentially using machines as a form of illegal gambling, which could explain the visits from “men in black”.

We do know that at least two people fell sick from playing arcade games in Portland, Oregon in 1981. The Eugene Register newspaper reported on November 29, 1981 that 12-year-old Brian Mauro played Asteroids for more than 28 hours, trying to break the record, as local television crews watched. He finally bowed out with stomach discomfort, attributed to anxiety and all the Coke he drank. Researcher Catherine DeSpira, writing in a 2012 edition of online vintage gaming publication Retrocade, discovered that a Michael Lopez developed a migraine headache while playing Tempest on the same day and in the same arcade where Brian Mauro was going for his record. Lopez was reported to the police when he collapsed in pain on someone’s lawn. Two players knocked out in the same arcade on the same day. Stories spread like wildfire in the local middle schools: video games were freaking kids out, possibly even trying to take over their minds.

Anyone looking for corroborating evidence would have found even more frightening facts. Throughout the early 1980s, at least nine cases were reported of epileptic seizures being triggered by video games in the United States. It’s called photosensitive epilepsy. It’s rare and unpredictable, but very real.

Not only that, but there were, in fact, government agents poking around Portland area video arcades at that very same time. Just ten days after Mauro and Lopez crashed, state, local, and federal agents raided video arcades throughout the region. It turned out that some arcade operators illegally used their video games for gambling, by modifying them with counters that allowed owners to pay out cash to players based on how many points they made in their game, and thus increasing business. In preparation for this raid, FBI agents had been going around to arcades and taking photographs of player initials on high-score screens, hoping to identify potential witnesses. And officers had gone into every business in the city that had video games, and poked and prodded around the back of the machine, looking for these illegal counters.
the bishop of battle
(Nightmares 1983 Horror anthology)

5 years ago

You’re welcome uncle, I thought you and everyone else would dig it! Watching The Last Starfighter and Nightmares with a big bucket of popcorn sounds like a blast.

Compare the Tempest and the Gunstars Death Blossom.

Tempest Arcade – Green levels 999,113 – JMK

The Last Starfighter (8/10) Movie CLIP – Death Blossom (1984) HD

To the OP, Donny O: I would have freaked out too by an unblinking Simuloid under the right circumstances. If one had been placed in a chair by my bed when I awoken, I’d squealed like a little girl. That actually is an unsettling scene.

5 years ago

Dang, Dan O’Herlihy was the lizard co-pilot in freaking The Last Starfighter. I would have never guessed in a million years. Impossible to know trivia.

I wished it TLS had done better in the box office. An Atari game and action figures would have been interesting to say the least. As long as they didn’t make a spiritual sequel to ET the video game. lol

All this talk of Halloween 3 is making me want to watch Sean Clark’s Horror’s Hallowed Grounds.

You can see a part of it on Youtube.

Halloween III (1982) Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Halloween III: Season Of The Witch

3 years ago

I love this movie! I also love the Polybius urban legend. I wonder if Cyborg played that game?