The Ice Pirates
The Ice Pirates (1984) is yet another '80s camp classic that developed a cult following by virtue of its incessant airing on the various pay cable channels back in the day, where, after an unsuccessful theatrical run, it found and captivated its target audience: the 10-year old male. Sadly, given that his directing filmography begins in 1971, it's somewhat unlikely that Stewart Raffill was 10 when he filmed it, which at least would've given him an excuse. Co-writing with Stanford Sherman, whose previous credits included Any Which Way You Can, The Man Who Wasn't There (the Guttenberg variation), and Krull, Raffill crafted a strangely imprecise science-fiction spoof that very frequently seems to forget it's a spoof. But even when it's trying to be funny, it forgoes the rigors of classic gag construction and instead trots out halfway amusing premises in search of both setup and punch-line. Apparently, Raffill and Sherman believed the very idea of, say, a "Space Herpie" would slay 'em. Outside of an elementary school playground, they were sorely mistaken. Along with their inferior joke-writing skills, the duo are equally inept with narrative. The film begins with its titular swashbuckling crew raiding a "Templar" ship for its water stockpile, as the element has become perilously scarce throughout the universe, and, therefore, will fetch a hefty price in the galactic marketplace. The leader of this misfit band of buccaneers is Jason (Robert Urich), a suitably dashing fellow who essentially bungles this mission when he insists on kidnapping the beautiful Princess Karina (Mary Crosby, aka the woman who shot J.R.). Some of the crew manage to escape, but Jason and his second-in-command Roscoe (Michael D. Roberts) are captured. The Templars ship them off to their home planet of Mithra for "redesigning," a classed-up way of saying "castration." Their manhood is spared by Karina, who hires the pair to haul her all over the galaxy to look for her missing father, an explorer questing the mythical "Seventh World" where water is plentiful and peace constant. Along the way there are terrible visual puns, midgets, an infirm John Carradine, idiotic sexual politics (why would "redesigning" turn men gay?), offensive racial politics (Blazing Saddles this is not), and a cameo by Max Von Sydow. To be fair, the film does pull off one clever bit in which the pirates age rapidly while stuck in a time warp, but one fit of invention is hardly enough to redeem the rest of this sophomoric endeavor. Bruce Vilanch turns up late as the disembodied ruler of an army of amazons, and fires off an almost funny oral sex rejoinder at Robert Urich, thus giving audiences in 1984 a preview of every lousy Academy Awards broadcast from the mid-'90s onward. Worth noting: Late Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders defensive lineman John Matuszak gives the worst performance of his acting career. Also worth noting: There's a character named "Lanky Nibs." Warner presents The Ice Pirates in a decent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with serviceable monaural Dolby Digital audio. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.