The Ice Pirates (1984)
A tepid sci-fi retread in the unmistakable mold of “Star Wars,” “The Ice Pirates was a big-budget production in the early 1980s that attempted to capitalize on the outer-space mania that George Lucas created in 1977.
The film’s title refers to the scarcity of water in the future, causing wars to erupt over H2O. As a consequence, cells of intergalactic pirates sprung up, with their preferred booty being ice.
Robert Urich stars as Jason, the Han Solo-esque leader of a band of such scoundrels.
Of note in the film is the futuristic setting, but most of the characters wear medieval-inspired costumes that include leather and chainmail, and in addition to laser blasters swords are the weapon of choice. Robots are heavily armored and lumber around resembling knights, complete with swords.
The narrative centers around a princess (Mary Crosby) whose father has disappeared looking for a mythical planet with a large supply of water.
Most of the visual effects are pretty good for the time period in which it was made, and for the most part the costumes and sets are believable given the time period, though there are certain dated technological references, such as an on-board “viewscreen” that resembles an Atari game (and becomes a video game joke as one of the heroes tries to defend his ship against villains, before he loses and the screen reads “Contest Over.” The sound effects are juvenile and are straight out of 1950s sci fi.
The film is very tongue-in-cheek, showing cultural functions like using eunuchs as slave labor (and often forcibly castrating men to pull them into the labor force). One scene shows the main characters, Jason and Roscoe (Michael D. Roberts) on an assembly-line-type conveyor belt, with large metal jaws threatening to chomp their groins.
Other jokes include a small, but still monstrous “Space Herpe” that looses itself from a pod and roams the ship wreaking havoc on the crew and Anjelica Huston as a tough-girl who does the old delayed decapitation bit.
The film is rated PG and could be a family film but for the numerous sexual innuendo. In addition to the castration jokes, there is a love scene that has no nudity but is still relatively long and graphic for a family audience. Jason begs “will you remove my sabre?”, referring, of course, to his sword. “It’s so hard,” purrs his lover.
The film’s climax centers on the heroes’ ship entering a time warp vortex and aging rapidly, as well as consequences from a couple of previous scenes springing up as well.
Best line honors go to Roscoe, an African-American who Jason, who questions if he intentionally made a robot he constructed black: “Sure… wanted him to be perfect.”
Overall it’s a pretty obvious attempt to crib George Lucas’ classic film series that failed spectacularly, but leaves a cult legacy for b-movie fans.