Sunday, 20 March 2016

Light Blast (1985)

A mix of mad villain sci-fi film and urban cop thriller, Light Blast is a gloriously cheesy slice of entertainment.

Dr Yuri Sobada, a crazed scientist, has created a laser weapon that can melt people on contact (especially sexy teens getting naked in a disused railway carriage) when fired at large digital clocks, and is now holding the city of San Francisco to ransom, for the sum of $10 million dollars. Inspector Ron Warren, played by no less than Erik Estrada, is the maverick cop sent to stop him, using his own renegade methods to get results, with firing guns and chasing take precedence over questioning suspects and filling in paperwork.

Like so many Italian genre and exploitation films of the 70s and 80s, Light Blast feels like a producer had a good idea, then maybe he (or another producer) had another, then another, until finally the poor scriptwriter is tasked with sewing the disparate elements into a screenplay. With a story revolving around a cop hunting a madman terrorising San Francisco, the main influence is obviously Dirty Harry. Like Inspector Callahan, Warren has a penchant for shooting first and asking questions later, if there’s anything left of the suspect to question, as well as his own unique technique of ending hostage situations. Callahan likes to drive a squad car through a shop window, while Warren employs a plate of chicken, a tight fitting pair of underpants and a surprisingly concealed firearm. The mad scientist is a movie staple but it’s interesting to see it matched with the cop thriller. The producer must have also had a soft spot for Raiders of the Lost Ark, or at least the melting face special effects of the climax (Temple of Doom had been released the previous year, so perhaps it was fresh in their minds), as a similar, albeit cheaper attempt crops up here.

Like so many of his contemporaries in the Italian film industry, Enzo G. Castellari helmed a dizzying number of films from all genres. Here he handles the different elements perfectly competently, especially the car chases, shot with a street level, in-your-face feel. It’s a low budget film, and it’s hard to imagine them having the cash to get permission to shut down the highways in a busy city, so I wonder if there was some guerrilla filmmaking going on.

Castellari also knows not to over stay his welcome, and wraps the whole thing up in a tight 90 minutes. There aren’t many lulls, and when they do crop up, they are the perfect opportunity to run to the fridge and get another beer, the perfect accompaniment to this goofy, highly entertaining piece of fun.