krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I have the feeling that "Laserblast" is the "prime catch" of the "Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th Anniversary Collection," although I also have the feeling that for a lot of other people "Werewolf" will be the episode they already liked the most, and I've got a personal like for "Future War." "Laserblast," however, is the final episode of the show's "Comedy Central" run, and features the running joke that "Leonard Maltin gave it two and a half stars" (a few years later, Maltin himself would make a guest appearance on the show to promote "Gorgo"), as well as a lot more than that.

The movie opens with a strange green-faced person with a peculiar "laserblaster" made up of assorted odds and ends (I recall the "laserblaster" itself being eventually sold on eBay, and a selling point for it there being that it included an original Star Trek "tricorder" in its construction) on his arm ("Edward CD Playerhand."), shambling through the desert and being hunted by two stop-motion animated aliens. ("Hey, Yertle! You left your shell in the ship!") The aliens reduce the person to a charred black patch in the desert, but before they can retrieve the "laserblaster" or the pendant the person was wearing around his neck, a light plane flies overhead. They return to their ship and take off.

In the meantime, the 1970s southern California teenager Billy, blond and with his shirt hanging all the way open most of the time, is troubled by his thin and taut-faced mother ("She's one of the turtle aliens!") going away on a vacation. He's also troubled by the fact that his girlfriend Kathy is the granddaughter of an ex-Air Force Colonel played by Keenan Wynn and gone crazy for some reason ("Ever since the Colonel got back from the Spanish American War..." "The Army of the Potomac has us on the run, sweetie..."), by two local cops, one helping himself to confiscated dope and the other overweight and bearded ("Dirty and Hairy."), and by two other teenagers who drive around harassing him. Finally, after the first "host segment" has passed, Billy drives his van with black footprints painted on the side ("You know, every time I come close to not hating him I see those feet on his van.") into the desert, where his empty Coke bottle ("Pepsi gave them big bucks to put Coke in this movie.") is blown up by the "laserblaster." Billy eventually figures out which end he's supposed to stick his arm into and that the pendant is also necessary to make the thing work, and blows up some shrubs. ("Yes, Yahweh in a can. When you want to summon Yahweh...")

After Kathy hangs around a sort of shabby off-road rest area looking for Billy ("There's a point when it stops being a movie."), the aliens are informed by their superior the "laserblaster" has been found again ("When the movie starts showing you parts of itself, you know you're in trouble.") and turn around in space, and lots of teens hang out at a pool party ("Home movies are more tightly edited than this!"), the two teens in the car harass Kathy and get into a fight with Billy, after which he "laserblasts" their car. In the meantime, with what seems the introduction of a dollop of "they know" paranoia two decades ahead of "The X-Files," a lone government official in a variety of three-piece suits drives into town to investigate.

Where the pendant sits on Billy's bare chest is turning into something solid embedded in his flesh, so he goes to see "Dr. Mellon," played by Roddy McDowall. ("As Doctor Casaba Mellon.") Dr. Mellon cuts the solid thing out of Billy ("Frankly, Billy, I'm baffled and grossed out.") and drives it through the night to a lab technician, but Billy, face now turning green, "laserblasts" him. The solid thing is found all the same by the official in the three-piece suits. Billy blows up the two cops along with a gas station, makes out with Kathy at the rest area ("So they're just off County Road C going at it, huh?") until she happens to put the pendant on his completely restored solid chest thing and his face turns green again. The government official is respectful to Keenan Wynn for some reason and possibly even acquainted with him, and a light plane takes off. Spotting a figure out in the desert, the apparent cops in the plane start shooting at him. ("That's probably someone who did something. Let's shoot him!") The person does happen to be Billy, though, and he "laserblasts" the plane out of the sky, then shambles back to the highway and "laserblasts" the replacement car of the two teens, this time with them in it. Picked up by a hippie keeping the faith in a Volkswagen van, Billy "laserblasts" a billboard with the Star Wars logo and that alone painted on it ("Reminding one of the movie Star Wars.") and then the hippie. At last, "laserblasting" a mailbox and a newsstand in a deserted "East Coast southern California town," Billy is zapped by the aliens, who manage to collect the "laserblaster" this time. The government official shows up so that Kathy can embrace Billy's body in that specially bleak 1970s fashion I seem to keep associating with other episodes of the series as the end credits roll, and the "riffers," to pass the time, pick out movies from Leonard Maltin's guide rated around as good as "Laserblast."

The "riffing" is rapid-fire and entertaining in this episode, but there's also fun stuff going on in the "host segments" as the "Comedy Central" era comes to a close. Dr. Forrester has lost his funding, so he disconnects the "umbilicus" (although I find myself wondering if this would confuse people who've picked up this collection without having seen the first episodes of the sixth season). To keep from falling into the atmosphere, Mike and the bots manage to fire up the Satellite of Love's engines and hurtle into deep space, getting a chance to directly make fun of a good number of science fiction shows in the remaining "host segments." A "nomad-type" probe boards the Satellite and gets harassed before being tossed out again, the Satellite drifts into a field of giant "star babies" and Crow and Tom have to go outside to change the diaper of one as Mike channels Apollo 13, and Mike dresses as Captain Janeway to break the Satellite loose from a black hole (that combined with Apollo 13 and a good number of "Jim Carrey as 'The Mask'" references in the "riffing" itself seem to help date this episode to the mid-1990s) and hurl it further into space. At last, the Satellite of Love bumps into the edge of the universe itself, where everyone transforms into "pure energy" and bobbles away. Dr. Forrester has apparently still been watching all of this, and then knocks a wine glass off a table while greyer than usual, becomes a really old version of himself (played by Trace Beaulieu's father) lying in bed in the presence of "The Worst Movie Ever Made" (on a giant videocassette), and at last winds up as a regular-sized "star baby" collected by his mother.

Things seem much more open-ended with this episode than at the second and truly final close of the series, when it seems that the creators had concluded there was no chance of finding yet another channel to run on. I did notice in my attempts to collate "MSTings" posted to the MST3K Usenet newsgroups, though, that things thinned out a good deal in 1996 as if prefiguring the gradual close of the "MSTing era" after the show ended for good. (I've enjoyed a MSTing or two that did attempt to move on from this particular conclusion in advance of the show getting on the "Sci-Fi Channel," to be sure.) The DVD itself contains the second part of the show's history, in which the creators talk about how they got on cable and brought in new writers (everyone compliments everyone else) as well as how they worked on the show, wrapping up this segment right around when Joel Hodgson left. (He goes into just a little more detail about why than Josh Weinstein did in this same segment.)

Date: 2008-11-30 10:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazypadawan.livejournal.com
I first saw "Laserblast" on late night t.v. many moons ago, then a second time on MST3K some years later, figuring it would be a GREAT movie to riff on. Isn't this the one where they say, "'Falling Down' (in reference to the Michael Douglas movie about a shooting spree) starring Mark Hamill" after the teen boy starts laserblasting everything in sight?

Date: 2008-12-01 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
The "riff" is "Mark Hamill in Falling Down," delivered during the final rampage, and it's one of my favourites of this episode. Apparently (http://www.mst3kinfo.com/daddyo/di_706.html), Mark Hamill is (or at least once was) listed in the IMDB as appearing in "Laserblast," but this appears to be an error or wishful thinking or something. (He did appear in Corvette Summer along with Kim Milford, who played Billy.)

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