Spring Break on the Lens: Laserblast (dir by Michael Rae)

Before I say anything else, I should admit that I fully understand why some of you are going to say that the 1978 science fiction film, Laserblast, is not a spring break film.

First off, it takes place not on the beach but in the desert.  There is a scene that takes place at a pool but it’s one of those cheap pools that all of the desert towns have.

Secondly, the film itself doesn’t take place during the spring.  It takes place during the summer, when the sun is bright and harsh.  The teenagers in the film might not be in school but that’s just because it’s their summer vacation.

I get it.

But, as far as I’m concerned, Laserblast is spiritually a spring break film, even if it isn’t technically one.  I mean, just look at the film’s hero, Billy.  As played by the very handsome Kim Milford, Billy is a mellow guy with blonde hair, stoned eyes, and the attitude of someone who can say, “Right on!” and make you believe that everything will be right and on.  Billy even drives a totally 70s van.  Everything about Billy and his girlfriend, Kathy Farley (Rainbeaux Smith), screams Malibu.  Even in the desert and in the summer, they are the ideal spring break couple.

Billy, of course, gets in some trouble over the course of the film.  He stumbles across a space gun in the desert.  Billy doesn’t know what we know, that the space gun was accidentally left there by two adorable claymation aliens who previously visited Earth so that they could kill the gun’s owner.  Billy just thinks it’s a cool gun.  Soon, Billy is blowing up the town and turning into a green-skinned monster.  Billy even blows up a sign that’s advertising Star Wars, which is made doubly interesting by how much Kim Milford resembles Mark Hamill.  (The same year that Laserblast came out, Hamill and Milford acted opposite each other in Corvette Summer, with Milford’s mellow confidence providing a nice counter to Hamill’s somewhat hyperactive earnestness.)  Much like a drunk spring breaker who ends up vomiting into the ocean, Billy has found something that he enjoys and he’s allowing it to take over his life.  The space gun represents every vice and addiction that’s out there to tempt people into risking their lives and their sanity and their totally 70s van.  (We don’t see much of the inside of the van but I’m willing to bet that it has shag carpeting and a strobe light.)  The spring breakers in The Real Cancun spent their week drinking themselves into a stupor.  Billy, on the other hand, spends a week blowing stuff up and turning into a monster.  Of course, that’s the great thing about spring break.  How you spend your time is your business.

Laserblast is a low-budget film, one that is often listed as being one of the worst films ever made.  Myself, I love the film because I think the aliens are cute and I enjoy Kim Milford’s performance as Billy.  Actually, for a film that didn’t cost much to make, Laserblast has a surprisingly impressive cast.  Technically, it’s not a shock to see Roddy McDowall in the film, since McDowall apparently accepted every role that he was offered in the 70s.  But Roddy’s trademark neurotic eccentricity is still welcome in the small role of Billy’s doctor.  The great character actor Dennis Burkley shows up as a fascist deputy.  Gianni Russo, who played Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather, plays a government agent who shows up from out of nowhere and who wears a cream-colored suit that makes him look like a wedding DJ.  Keenan Wynn, who also apparently accepted any role he was offered in the 70s, plays Rainbeaux Smith’s drunk grandfather.  Best of all, Eddie Deezen, who was best known for playing stereotypical nerd characters in films like Grease, shows up as a bully named Froggy!  After getting bullied by Eddie Deezen, who wouldn’t pick up the first space gun they found and start blasting rocks?

Laserblast is fun, just like spring break.  I like it, just like spring break.  So does Arleigh so be sure to check out his review, as well!

Harry Brown (2009, directed by Daniel Barber)

Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to Michael Caine!

For longer than I’ve been alive, Michael Caine has been a star.  He’s one of the last surviving icons of the British cultural invasion of the 1960s, a venerable actor who went from being Alfie to being Carter to being Scrooge to being Alfred Pennywise without missing a step.  In many ways, he was the cockney Jack Nicholson, a working class actor with his own very identifiable style who still managed to play a wide variety of different characters.  Like Nicholson, there have been frequent reports that Caine has retired from acting and, if anyone has earned the right to enjoy their retirement, it’s Michael Caine.  Caine himself has said that he doesn’t ever see himself fully retiring from acting and he’s already proven that, even in his twilight years, he’s still as capable of giving a good performance as he was when he first started acting.

Take Harry Brown, for example.

Michael Caine was 76 when he played the title role in this violent British thriller.  Harry is a former Royal Marine who, now elderly and suffering from emphysema, lives on a London council estate that has been taken over by a gang of violent drug dealers.  The nearby underpass is so dangerous that even Harry is scared to walk under it.  Because Harry has to take an alternate route to the hospital to avoid all of the gangs, his wife dies without Harry being at her side.  When his only friend is then killed while trying to stand up to the dealers, Harry snaps.  Harry starts tracking down and killing the dealers and the gang members who have made retirement so unbearable for him.  Detective Frampton (Emily Mortimer) suspects that Harry is the vigilante but, before she can move to stop him, both she and Harry are targeted by the local drug lord, who turns out to be someone who Harry never suspected.

Harry Brown is really just an updated version of Death Wish, set in London instead of New York.  It has its share of good action scenes and director Daniel Barber does a good job making London look like the worst place on Earth but, ultimately, it’s as predictable and heavy-handed as any of the films Michael Winner made with Charles Bronson.  What makes Harry Brown special is not the script but instead the presence of Michael Caine, giving one of his best and most heartfelt performances and making the movie work, even when the story tries to sabotage him.  Caine brings an appropriate amount of righteous fury to the role but he also plays the role with a lot of heart.  Harry would much rather be enjoying his twilight years in peace but he feels that he was one last mission to pursue.  He would rather die protecting his friends and his neighbors than live his life in fear.  Harry also knows that, because he’s old, everyone underestimates him.  That’s a mistake that he uses to his advantage.

Harry Brown is like many Michael Caine films in that the main reason to watch it is because it’s a Michael Caine film.  At the time he made the film, he said that he expected Harry Brown would be his last lead role.  It wasn’t.  Just like Harry Brown, Michael Caine still has more to show the world.

Music Video of the Day: Ocean of Dreams by Taoufik & Anas Otman (2022)

Here’s a bit of relaxation to help ease you into week.  I know many people out there wish they could be at the beach right now.  Spring Break should be for everyone.  Well, I can’t give you the beach.  I don’t have that power and that’s probably a good thing.  With great power comes great respons …. well, you know how the saying goes.  But, even if I can’t give you the beach, I can share this video of the beach.