Come with me, dear Outposter, as we travel back to a simpler time, and a happier time. It was a time before the internet. It was a time when one of the most important places in a young Outposters life was almost certainly the local video emporium.

These magical places sprang up out of nowhere in the 1980s and they really were a glittering palace of delights. There are simply no words to describe the sheer and unbridled joy of time spent browsing, and discovering a new movie you knew nothing about. Whether in an out-of-town strip mall, or weirdly attached to a gas station (yes, it happened!) these were, to us, as the diner was to a 1950s kid.

This was pre-Blockbuster, pre-Hollywood video. There was no chain here. These were independent. Started by brave entrepreneurs who could see the coming home video revolution.

With no internet and many movies having short theatrical releases in faraway cities and even other countries, the first time you would ever discover them was almost by some act of accidental destiny. You were almost called, mysteriously, to that corner of the shop where something would catch your wandering eye. Then you proceeded to try and glean as much information as possible from the meager blurb on the back cover, from the one or two images, or some spectacular cover art.

Once selected, the movie would be rushed home for immediate viewing, and like a game of televisual Russian Roulette, you would discover your viewing fate. One time, I met my destiny in Ahmed’s finest gas station, convenience store, and video rental emporium, I won the VHS jackpot and rented The Ice Pirates.

The Ice Pirates

In a distant future, water is so scarce and rationed that it is considered an immensely valuable substance, both as a commodity and as a currency in ice cubes. The Templars of Mithra control the water and they destroy worlds that have natural water, leaving the galaxy virtually dry. Ice Pirates dedicate their lives to raiding ships and looting the ice from the cargo holds to make a living.

Jason is the leader of a band of pirates that raid a Templar cruiser for its ice, and discover the beautiful princess Karina in a stasis pod. He decides to kidnap her, setting off a pursuit across the galaxy as the Templars try to reclaim both the ice and the princess.

So begins a swashbuckling space adventure featuring head-chopping, eunuchs, time dilation, space herpes, a fat emperor with a pet owl, and malfunctioning robots. With a famously slashed budget immediately before production, it is every bit as terrible as you would imagine, and yet somehow it is also absolutely fucking glorious.

I mean it. It is not even into cult-classic “so bad it’s good” territory. It somehow manages to be a temporal distortion of a movie, simultaneously existing in three universes at once. One where The Ice Pirates is a really bad movie, while in another, it is a fantastic film, and then somehow these two realities have collided directly in the middle of ours. I am still not sure how it achieves this.

Maybe because of the pedigree. For starters, check out the cast. Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, and Michael D. Roberts are the Han, Leia, and Luke of the proceedings, but they are supported by Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine, and former football player John Matuszak.

The film was made at MGM, which was struggling financially and was led at this time by David Begelman. It was originally called The Water Planet and had a $20 million budget. There were high hopes for the project. It was based on a script by Stanford Sherman, writer of Krull.

Then Krull bombed over at Columbia, while MGM’s financial issues deepened. As a result, their bankers put a limit of $8 million on all projects.

Production of The Ice Pirates was thrown into chaos and it never really recovered. In fact, things simply got more chaotic for The Ice Pirates.

When it became time to cast, MGM already had a contract with Robert Urich to make a TV series, so they insisted he had to be in the lead. Producer John Foreman was personal friends with Anjelica Huston, so he insisted she got a role. John Matuszak was cast because one of the financiers liked him.

Things then got, comically, even worse. MGM got a new studio head in the form of Frank Yablans. Producer John Foreman was good friends with Paul Newman. Yablans had once said something derogatory about Newman’s wife, so Foreman had punched him.

As a result, when Yablan came in, he immediately set about trying to sabotage the movie and pulled even more money out of the production. According to the director Stewart Rafill, Yablan was:

“…eventually found out to be stealing money from the company. He was a little problematic sort of a fellow.”

With all this going on, it is amazing it even got finished. The entire movie is as chaotic as its back story. There are times when you are not completely sure what is going on, or why. Yet this somehow adds to the whole thing.

The Ice Pirates has a delightful Blakes-7 feel about it, with sets clearly filmed in warehouses, or constructed from old car parts and injection molded plastic. I think what makes it work is how it gleefully leans into every shortcoming and just plows forward, regardless. Be under no illusions. It is a terrible film, but so much fun that you still find joy in it, and then end up enjoying it so immensely that you overlook its many glaring issues.

I have a feeling many Outposters will know exactly what I mean. For those of you who don’t, because you have never seen The Ice Pirates, try it, you might like it!

Just don’t blame me. I will deny everything.


Check back every day for movie news and reviews at the Last Movie Outpost


The post Retro Review: THE ICE PIRATES (1984) appeared first on Last Movie Outpost.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.