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Traumafession:: Unk on Laserblast (1978)

May 12th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 9 Comments

Back in the earliest days of VHS (yep, I’m that old), my family used to rent from a joint called STAGE DOOR VIDEO in King of Prussia Mall. It was actually more like an expanded kiosk that would pull down a metal gate when it was closed. Anyway, the horror/sci-fi section seemed immense to me at the time though in reality, it was probably less than a hundred films. My favorite, most trusted VHS label was easily MEDIA because they offered the likes of HALLOWEEN and HELL NIGHT and so it was only a matter of time before I rented another title on their roster, LASERBLAST. I had seen much more disturbing horror films by that time, so it’s not exactly accurate to say that LASERBLAST scared or traumatized me but it did in fact, freak me out a bit. Which may be a little odd as it’s widely considered to be an inept film (it was even featured on MST3) and its poor reputation miraculously has not improved one iota over the decades. Still, a recent re-watch reminded me that once it gave me a strong feeling of nauseous unease.

For a weird kid like me, LASERBLAST had a rather irresistible power fantasy plot, It’s about a bullied, socially awkward young man named Billy (KIM MILFORD) who finds a laser gun/arm cannon left behind by a stop-motion alien; Billy then decides to exact his revenge by blowing all who wronged him into smithereens. The creepy element for me, at the time, was that the more Billy used his newfound power/weapon the sicker and more monstrous he became. The actor who played Billy just happened to bear a strong resemblance to MARK HAMILL as Luke Skywalker (surely not by accident) and so, in my post STAR WARS head, it was almost like watching Luke become a sick, deranged ghoul. Now, I was not the healthiest of kids and had spent much time dealing with doctors and hospitals due to allergies and asthma (that has mostly gone away) so the idea of getting sick, catching a disease, really got to me (and is probably why this memory is resurfacing now during a pandemic). My viewing also took place during the early eighties when many a nightly newscast and weekly news magazine were reporting on AIDS at regular intervals with horrific images and a rightfully panicked tone. Billy’s dark, sunken eyes mirrored the headlines.

So yep, this kinda dopey (yet not uncreative) movie got under my skin more than a little bit and at least deeply enough for me to remember it all these years later (and I can almost smell some pungent doctor office scent as I do). As faulty as it may be, it’s hard to hate on such a simple and pure fable about the corrosive nature of revenge and exploited power. LASERBLAST may not be remembered fondly by many (although an ethereal performance from CHERYL “RAINBEAUX” SMITH of LEMURA fame is reason enough to watch it), but it’ll always represent a particular part of my awkward youth and certain fears that lay far back in my brain, ready to resurface.

I’d still like to find a laser gun though- I promise I wouldn’t abuse it…much.

Tags: Traumafessions

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 12, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    I just wanted to add that THE FLY (86) and LEVIATHAN (89) gave me the same paranoid hypochondriac unease…

    plus, both LASERBLAST and LEVIATHAN are available on TubiTV…

  • 2 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // May 13, 2020 at 3:40 am

    Man, it’s a bit creepy how much your experience of this movie mirrored mine. From the Mark Hamill lookalike to the childhood asthma, I was 100% there with you. But I can tell you, as goofy as this movie might be, my little kid brain absolutely loved this movie; so much so that I looked it up later in life just to reassure myself it wasn’t just an asthma-induced fever dream. I can remember being so obsessed with the arm cannon that I’d take the big cardboard tubes that the Christmas wrapping paper came on, stick one end onto my hand and pretend I was blasting everything in the neighborhood, especially my older brother. And though the animation wasn’t Ray Harryhausen-quality, it was still awesome.

  • 3 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // May 13, 2020 at 3:51 am

    I just looked it up on IMDB and there were some relatively heavy hitters in this film like Roddy McDowall, Keenan Wynn and Eddie Deezen. BTW, the alien who originally had the arm cannon was played by special effects specialist Steve Neill who would go on to do effects for movies like Battle Beyond the Stars, Forbidden World, Q, The Stuff, Puppet Master and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

  • 4 SmallDarkCloudNo Gravatar // May 13, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    I’m going on rough memory here, as I haven’t seen the movie in several years. Doesn’t the kid actually shoot a billboard advertisement for Star Wars with the laser gun in one scene?

  • 5 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 13, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    That’s wild! So glad somebody had a similar experience with this movie! I thought I was alone. John doesn’t even remember this one. I was surprised how many memories it brought back. Sad that it seems like most people really hate it but I can’t help having a soft spot for it- even just checking out that time period and the seventies clothes again. I’ve never seen the MST3 version somehow. It looks like it’s never been on disc but I’m sure it’ll pop up somewhere.

    Have you ever seen THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) ? Its charming in the same way I think- and has some hard to resist stop motion effects as well…

    That’s the one! I should have grabbed a screen shot of that but I was lazy and swiped all my images from IMDB

  • 6 JennyD13No Gravatar // May 13, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    I have never heard of this one, but now I want to see it! It’s surprising, because it sounds like just like something that my brother would bring home to scare the crap out of me, like Monster in the Closet or Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Although, the thing that got me the worst was in Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. LOL I was a cowardly kid.

  • 7 SmallDarkCloudNo Gravatar // May 13, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Those two Ewoks movies had some moments of heavy kindertrauma. In the first, there was the scene where the boy is trapped in the lake, when the surface becomes solid glass (a witch’s spell, I think?).

    In the second one, the parents from the first movie are killed off in the opening, making the kid heroes orphans.

    It’s kind of amazing that ABC’s standard and practices department accepted both movies as suitable for children. Not that I’m complaining (my childhood self was freaked out).

  • 8 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // May 14, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    OOOh! You should write a traumafession on Ewoks:Battle of Endor! We’ve never gotten one on that one before! would love to hear more!

  • 9 jsnificationNo Gravatar // May 16, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    ha ha ! saw this on mst3k !

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