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THE ICE PIRATES

    

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: A 30-year-old film that finally makes its way to home video next Tuesday, Jan. 19 (courtesy of Warner Archive, the manufacture-on-demand DVD site) is this swashbuckling sci-fi adventure, which I reviewed for the Deseret News on March 19, 1984, which, for some reason, seemed to remind me of another swashbuckling sci-fi adventure.

A rebel fleet battling an evil empire, slapstick humor from robots, a feisty princess trying to help her father by enlisting the aid of a space pirate, a cantina populated by myriad strange creatures, a battle in a desert … sound familiar?

Sorry. It’s a new film — sort of: “The Ice Pirates.”

In this picture the rebel fleet is entirely made up of pirates, the robots are rag-tag piles of junk, the princess is played by Mary Crosby, the space pirate by Robert Urich, the cantina is on the pirate’s planet and the battle in the desert looks more like “The Road Warrior” than “Return of the Jedi.” But if ever there was a movie with latent “Star Wars” tendencies … or perhaps not so latent … it’s “The Ice Pirates.”

This film is, I suppose, intended as a spoof of and homage to “Star Wars” and other space films of the recent past, but seems more in a class with “The Three Stooges in Orbit.”

Clumsy comedy is the order of the day, punctuated by such up-to-date sophisticated ‘80s humor as a robot urinating oil, a little “Alien”-like monster called a “space herpe” popping out of food on a table, people at a party getting high — literally, the pirate trying to peer down the princess’ blouse as she sleeps, a black robot that talks jive, and a love chamber that seems inspired by Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.”

    

            Mary Crosby, Robert Urich, 'The Ice Pirates'

And if that’s not enough to keep you away, there’s the violence. Untold numbers of people are stabbed, slashed and blasted, along with two decapitations — one wherein the head continues to function.

The story has to do with water being a scarce commodity in the future and only one planet is able to supply it for the entire galaxy. Thus Urich and his merry men steal ice blocks in transit.

Crosby’s father, meanwhile, is sure a “Seventh Planet” exists which can save the universe, but he has disappeared, so she enlists the aid of Urich and his band to help her.

This vision of the future, by the way, is not a particularly pleasant one, as it often looks more like ancient Rome.

To be fair, the cast is not unappealing. Urich seems to be having fun (it’s a good thing somebody is), Crosby is attractive, Anjelica Huston is threatening as a hard-nosed warrior, and former footballer John Matuszak (fresh from his triumphant role in “Caveman”) has a couple of nice moments as a brainless bruiser. Even John Carradine makes an appearance here in one scene.

   

Co-writer/director Stewart Raffill gave us a treat with “High Risk,” a modest surprise a few years ago, but this one is a very poor follow-up. Next for him is “The Philadelphia Experiment,” partially filmed in Salt Lake City, which can only be a step up.

The “Ice Pirates” special effects are mostly cheesy (weak matte work, sand gophers that look like they’re made of plastic), the costumes look like leftovers from “Prince Valiant” (swords are more prominent here than laser guns — probably because they make victims bleed more), and many of the scenes are so crowded it’s nerve-wracking just trying to follow the action.

“The Ice Pirates,” rated PG, despite an abundance of gruesome violence, vulgarity and poor taste, is the worst kind of comedy. It isn’t funny. I think I may have chuckled once. And now I can’t even remember what it was that provoked that one mild chuckle.

If you really need a sci-fi fix, rent “Star Wars” instead. Seeing that one for the umpteenth time is much more satisfying than seeing “The Ice Pirates” once.

TRIVIA NOTE: Huston is the daughter of director/actor John Huston, and Crosby is the daughter of Bing and Kathryn Crosby. And she seems to be following in the footsteps of her mother, who starred as a princess in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” back in 1958. Wouldn’t Bing be proud to know his kids are carrying on his name in the movies — Mary in “Ice Pirates” and Harry in “Friday the 13th.”