Laser Mission

Plot Summary: The largest African diamond is stolen by Russians and kept in the Kavango by Cubans where a German physicist played by Ernest Borgnine is kidnapped because he can use the rock to make an atomic laser that might start World War 3.

I’m sorry, you need more? Read that summary again.

I see Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus (the prolific schlock duo behind Cannon Films) strung out on Rob Roys, spit balling some 3 am Sunday morning at Cannes in a not entirely hopeless attempt to one sheet there way out of debt, as crumbs slowly crowd their paunches and room service trays block all but the necessary vector to the shitter. Yet not even these two, in all their brazen stupidity and unconscionable genius, no matter the whiskey, could have brought themselves to finish such a mad lib.

“Ok Menahem, give me a country.”
“Again with the mad libs? That hasn’t worked since Gas Pump Girls… Africa.”
“Ok, noun.”
“Uhhhh, diamond.”
“Country.”
“I already said, Africa.”
“No, another country.”
“Russia.”
“Good. Another country.”
“Yoram, you horse thief! Our asses are the line here man! Cuba!”
“Ok…”

(silence)

“…Country.”
“Fuck you cousin!”

Off he storms in a cloud of racial slurs, a venomous rant esoteric beyond rationale, sputtering under and writhing over his breath in waves, like a bird caught in an oil spill, barking hatred through the phlegmatic muck being lodged from his lungs,”Cock Suck! There’s your country Yoram, the country of Cock Suck!” Rosey red by now and slamming the bathroom door he continues, the muffled roar only to be interrupted by the sounds of his body unplumbing itself of the night’s disparate fuels and anger caked deep within, bizarre phrases like “sad Jew Godiva” and “Yankee po boy” interspersed between flushes more necessity than courtesy. Meanwhile Yoram has paid his cousin little mind, finishing this, starting that, a reference to both the room of foodstuffs and the scant story arcs percolating like bile in his grey matter. Peas in a pod.

So how did it come to exist then? If it wasn’t the most likely scenario then how did this come to be so very real? Because, as I can assure you, I’ve seen this movie four times now and each time it becomes more real.

The thing to keep in mind with B movies is that they don’t have to be finished to be real. Chances are a less inspired attendee of the festival was digging through the Golan-Globus suite for nutritional purposes – rumor had it you could cobble together a decent party sub if you raked the shag carpeting of any room the pair holed up in – and after sniffing out a danish wedged behind the end table he peeled a crumpled sheet of typewriter paper off the raspberry filling that just so happened to contain a perfectly shitty movie plot. All he had to do was redact a couple ‘cock suck’ s, and voila! It was manna from heaven. (When used in low budget film circles, the phrase literally refers to disused food and movie plots stuck together and found on Cannon property.)

But if somehow, however it came to pass, this immaculate plot line isn’t enough for you, I present you with Brandon Lee.

Some people can’t act, or they refuse to. Jennifer Aniston has never acted a minute in her life; she just is. On camera, off camera, sleeping, on fire (one could assume) – always the same. Why they even bother to give her characters different names is beyond me, she’s just going to be Jennifer Aniston.

Then there’s William Shatner. Shatner is a classically trained actor gone rogue. His whole life is an act. I guarantee when we finally lose the fantastic bastard he’ll go into a series of contortions like he was run through with a forty pound bayonet, sigh away his love for a woman he’s never met and children he’s never sired – though god knows there’s probably plenty of each- wrench out one final belly whoop, spit, arch his back, whistle down to repose, grow silent and lay back motionless, then slowly peel open his left eye to make sure he’s made a good affect before he’ll finally let his heart actually cease its damnable function. And that’s how we’ll bury him, shovelful after shovelful scatter-piling over his one stubborn eye, a dead attempt to make sure we bought into everything he ever did[1].

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Where overacting meets laziness, a profound triple point [2]
On a scale of Aniston to Shatner, Brandon Lee- THE SCALE IS NOW BROKEN! His acting is awful in a way that takes the aforementioned spectrum and folds it upon itself so that the hand of Daria, apathetically sporting, reaches out for Yorick’s skull instead; so that Mommy Dearest monologues on wire hangers are espoused by Zach Braff, or more specifically the combination of his milky and cow-eyed stare, an SSRI and the tinkling of some indie muzak. Brandon Lee’s portrayal of Michael Gold – a cliched, cocky mercenary-with-a-heart type – repeatedly halves each extreme, pole to pole, into even more extreme un-extremes, until it could be confused with the intricate notes of school children and fit snugly into his classically 90s, awkwardly crotched khakis, a fecund little bouillon of pretension. The end result isn’t over or under acting, it’s both. He’s acting like what he thinks an actor acts like when he’s acting – too cool and suave to actually try, trying too hard to ever be cool and suave – and the end result is magic. He’s hosting the Academy Awards in an uncanny valley and winning every single one. I mean the man takes someone else’s glasses off to emphatically deliver a line! Bravissimo!

The first step in Gould’s suicide mission of rescuing Borgnine’s Professor Braun from the clutches of Russian and/or Cuban evil is meeting up with his daughter Alissa, a KGB operative moonlighting as a veterinarian[3]. Enter Debi Monahan, an actress you might vaguely recognize by confusing her with that guy that’s been on SNL your whole life. In a grating pitch she spars with Gould, shitty quip for shitty quip, and marches her cleavage through the literal and figurative deserts of the movie. There’s such a parched lack of chemistry I wouldn’t be surprised if this is used in conversion therapy, assuming asexuality is the goal.

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Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine, seen here with a bunch of rocks

Perhaps more baffling than the plot or the acting is the editing. The editing is abrupt, cantankerous, and completely indifferent to the scenes themselves. Music cuts out, scenes jump, we’re in Africa, we’re in Cuba, CUBA BECOMES AFRICA! To top it all off whoever edited this thing forgot to edit the fact that different people are credited that very work in the opening and final credits. Either they had so little respect for what they’d done (SURPRISE NINJA!) that they pawned the blame onto two unassuming schmucks they fingered from a phonebook, or they were so bad at their job they couldn’t even copy/paste it onto their resume. To top it all off, if you get the Diamond Entertainment DVD release[4] you literally fall into a worm hole and watch three full minutes of this movie twice in a row. Ahhh, diamonds. So many wonderful facets some are bound to be repeats.

It’s not that Laser Mission has bad acting and poor editing, every B-movie could make that boast (admission?), this movie has flair: Ernest Borgnine runs around with a shotgun; there’s a bizarre twist on the bumbling henchmen routine; a villain that comically refuses to die and another that’s a cross between Joseph Goebbels and Richard Simmons; all the cheesy car flips and machine gun mow downs you could want; and it rockets along faster than comprehension, all wrapped up in a torture-for-all-ages PG13 package.

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“Schvet’n to zine oldies, yaaa!”

Wait, this things rated R? For what? … “violence and brief nudity”… Oh please. If you’re stuck watching a re-run of Gunsmoke with your grand dad over the holidays and a Viagra ad comes on you’ll have been exposed to as much sex and violence. Clearly the MPAA didn’t fact check this submission. The trade association joins the director, the editor, and the distribution as people you couldn’t pay to watch the film. That or they just gave them an R for effort, the writer and director pleading their case for the street cred of a Restricted rating. Based on their work they couldn’t have been more than fourteen. Must have got a ride from BJ’s mom and had her park a block away to avoid the embarrassment…[5]

Well however it happened, it happened. Somehow Brandon Lee was born without an ounce, not a single ‘Woooo’ of his father’s charisma. Somehow Ernest Borgnine was so strapped for cash he couldn’t turn an offer down; to the point where scanning his output you expect to find, somewhere between Code Name: Wild Gees and a bit part on Murder, She Wrote, his standing in as Keeper of the Tefillin at the Gurzenstube Bar Mitzvah. Somehow a stuntman, whose oeuvre trumps even Borgnine (ranging from stunts for an episode of Knot’s Landing to the like function for Playboy’s Video Centerfold: Playmate of the Year Stacey Sanches[6]), was put in charge of directing this film[7]. Just this once, let’s not argue. We all know fame for fame’s sake is a blemish on the already stained history of celebrity, that crystal meth is a life destroying addiction, and above all, people whose only skill involves falling a story and a half onto their head or blowing things up, people like, say,  Michael Bay, have no business directing a film. But for once nature fought fire with fire with fire, in triune serendipity, and no one was burned. Well except for Borgnine.

Crystal meth is a son of a bitch.

 

Notes

[1] We didn’t.

[2] Graph shows, from left to right, in degrees Anister: Jennifer Aniston -100; Steven Segal -98; Keanu Reeves -86; Megan Fox -71; Vin Deisel -62; Charlie Sheen -59; Jennifer Lopez -53; Air Bud -43; Jason Statham -38; Kristin Stewart -29; John Wayne -16; Morgan Freeman -13; Tommy Wiseau 0; Christian Slater 9; Angelina Jolie 20; Sharon Stone 28; Pauly Shore 29; Johnny Depp 31; Jeff Goldblum 47; Elizabeth Berkley 58; Brendan Fraser 63; Baby Bop 66; Al Pacino 71; David Caruso 72; Faye Dunaway 83; Nik Cage 93; Jackie Chan 95; Deborah Reed 99; William Shatner 100.

Please note that while registering on the Anister Spectrum is often dubious it does not directly reflect ability. Case in point the incredible Faye Dunaway.

[3] If you’re looking for an explanation, try again. I told you right off the bat this movie was insane, and you’re even crazier if you think I can square away that circle with a measly footnote.

[4] I wonder how many companies got the distribution rights to this movie anyway. If you Google this thing it’s got more covers than Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

[5] “I think it’s wonderful you two are being so creative.”
“It’s not ‘creative’ ma. Gawd, you make it sound so lame.”
“Can’t a mother be proud? Well you two better just hop to it is all I can say, you know Shelly’s got piano this aft and the Ulstadt’s are come’n over for dinner so I can’t be bum’n around all day here.”
“Jesus Christ mom, I get it.”
Up until this point Mrs. Davis has been carefully adjusting a perm that wouldn’t give for a hurricane force gale, some fluffy orb between a pandered shrub or your average loofah, stroking its fringe with her palm and fingertips to no purpose; but at the sound of the Good Lord’s name she snapped to like a coin purse, like her mother’s beaded clutch with it’s kiss lock, or her father’s auburn leather briefcase with it’s stiff folds and the smell of his cologne. Efficient, paternal, compartmentalized. That’s exactly how she felt when she whipped her body half around, a stern look into the back seat.”Now you watch that mouth of yours young man. For shame!” A long, strained silence. “Bite down on that devil tale of yours or you won’t get to see these movie people about your Ps and your PGs.”
“We’re gonna get an R mom.” Head down, embarrassed, defiance and obedience all at once. He hates being made a fool of in front of Dave.
“Well whatever it is,” she rights her self in the car, rolls her eyes and the rest of her body follows to stare blankly out the drivers side window in open mouth chagrin. “The only Ps and Qs you should be worried about are with me there mister. I don’t wanna hear anymore talk like that. Ya hear me?” the question punctuated with volume.
Muttering over one another, “Yes, maam” “Yes, Misses Davis”
“Good. Now you got your watch on’ya BeeBee?” the cloud has clearly passed as she’s back to flurf’n the hedges with the help of the rear view. “I’ll be back in one hour, that’s 11:45, now hop to it.”

Let’s follow Ma Davis’s advice and skip ahead. I’d love to describe to you the exact height of the sun, and how the building cut it into geometric shadows, and the cocky struts they talked themselves into and out of like the fear they felt walking into the place – and I’m sure you don’t doubt that I would – but let’s skip ahead to the meat. They’ve muttered and blushed their way past the best guard-dog money could buy for the circumstance, a receptionist who meets the standard definitions of beauty (beginning “Round” and continuing “in all the right places”), and now find themselves settling into and being swallowed by two square office chairs that are already ridiculously sized for their normal task of humbling adults.

“So I hear we missed the mark.”
“You’re darn right ya did!”
Looking up confused from the curled lip of a contract, stapled at precisely 45 degrees (voluptuous guard-dogs are good for a few other things), “Kids, I’m sorry, you’ve gotta get outta here. Very important meeting. Very important.”
Some kids are hard wired to lose most of their conviction with a surprise crack up-side the head. These two were some kids.
“Oh. Oh. Sorry.” Embarrassed, they waddle out as quickly as they came, BJ shutting the door like a thief hacking a safe in reverse, shutting himself out with a delicacy, bent over the nob, turning it just so, no noise from the latch.

The man thumbs his way back to page. The emphatic scratch of his signature here, next page, marching the pen down the page, initial there, marching- phone rings – “Yah… Huh? That was Laser Mission? What are they twelve?… Fourteen, twelve, whatever, look… Yeah, I know we bungled that last pair of kids… That was years ago… Hey, I don’t need reminders coming from you… All right, all right. Send em’ in. Just remember what the job market’s like out there for someone with your skill set.”

It was hard enough for our pubescent heroes to maintain the motor functions of speech through one encounter with Ashley Jane, with her two impossible first names resting on the lip of her desk, gilt in gold glasses, hair pulled back. Two large tired eyes. Two, two of everything! Her two large impossible first names… being pressed against the desk as she bent in to turn the page of the guest registry! And now they faced her for a second time, crashing from the adrenaline of the first!

I’m sorry. I believe I was skipping. Well it was a miracle that got them back in the office of J.R. Henton, as everything that happens to us between consciousness seems a miracle, and in their weakened state Henton had to do most of the talking.

“Guys, listen, this ain’t an R, OK. I seen the superclip you sent me, nothin’ raw on that whole roll. Huh? Nothing.” BJ and Dave are caught in the headlights. “Little blood. Language? Mehhhh,”smirking, waffling his hand.
“We said the B,”Dave mutters sheepishly.
“And F!”BJ with some confidence now. The injustice of overlooking there use of the word made blood rush to his face. This man clearly had no idea what they risked saying that in the back yard, let alone writing it down. And recording it?!
“That’s a 13, I’m sorry, there’s just nothin’ to it. You say it once, that’s nothin’. People go, ‘what was that, duck? pluck?’ They don’t know. Ya got a character named Chuck? They don’t know.”
“We got sex!”
“Guys that was- you- you’ve- it, it was only inferred.” Pleading now. The absurdity of the situation is starting to sink in.
“They banged so hard! He was doing, with her, and the same time, with him, and just- just goin at it, like- like you wouldn’t believe.” BJ, overwhelmed with righteous indignation, articulates himself by comically changing voices.”And she’s got these tits, and he was like, aaaaaah yeeeeaah. You should’ve seen it. Ohhh man, the…”

Meanwhile Dave is falling into a vertigo of guilt, distorting his space time continuum into a bassy slow motion blur, and all he can think about as his friend slowly jostles an invisible pair of breasts and moans with a face choked up in an overly-horny gag, is how they’ve wronged Ashley, how it’s all connected, how little they deserve her! It was nauseating. He could feel the earth rotating. What was keeping him from falling off? He wanted to lay down. To keep from slipping, slipping, all the way off, when she leaned forward, his eyes saw everything, but he didn’t want to, no, not at all! Not any of it! Not the half baked daydreams he constantly “inferred,” not even that little smudge of lipstick on her teeth. How could he tell her? Oh how little they deserved her. He would kneel down and touch her ankle and tell her, feeling her nylon and not her. How sore her feet must be in those high heels. They didn’t deserve her feet! And he would kneel down and tell her to remove the smudge of them with their R ratings from her teeth!

“It’s OK Beau. PG is fine,” Dave swam, somehow, upright, staggering to his feet. “I’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” It was coming from the bottom of his vertiginous well: this defeated, fatigued, guilty plea to his friend. But that’s not how Henton heard it: Dear Christ, she was right! Another lawsuit! “Now boys, no reason for things to get hostile. You understand how it is, everything can’t be an R. If everything’s an R, an R means nothing.”

But Dave was still heading to the door. No argument, no matter how succinct, no matter its logic, was capable of penetrating his echoing numbness. How had he caught the flu so quickly? The flu, means you hid in bed. He wanted the lights off. He wanted his muscles to come back. To sleep the days back into his muscles. He had BJ under an arm pit walking him resolutely to the door. “The hell’s the matter with you Dave,” roared BJ, annoyed by the pit, trying to shake himself free. “Now, now boys. Lets not be hasty,” and hastily Henton slid in front of said door. “An R. Your right, what’s one more. One more is nothing. Now let’s just sit right down, a couple signatures and you’re on your way. I’ll have Ms. Jane bring them right in.” The name shocked Dave into another bit of lethargy and Henton took advantage.

Within a few short minutes Beau had his R, Dave was three Freuds deep in concocting his sexually impossible Madonna, and Henton had two shaky signatures waving their rights to “mental damages that may or may not have occurred in the watching of Indiana Jones part 2, the Temple of Doom, or any other movie rated by the MPAA, and hereby attest to validity of MPAA statements that any such parental guidelines are meant in no way to supplant or guide parental units.”

Now before we get too up in arms over any weak kneed or shady dealings by the MPAA, keep in mind the pressure they were under in those formative years. You had the likes of Spielberg blockbusters (Jaws, Indiana Jones, Gremlins, Poltergeist) doing all the schmoozing they could to keep a PG rating and thus a wider audience; you had the B-movie schlock, the Laser Missions of the world, doing as little as they could to get an R rating, and thus any audience at all; you had the Exotic Dancer’s Alliance drawing three nipples in the sand, demanding that awkward number of areolas be a bare minimum for the restricted rating, that it be earned the good old fashioned way; and Tipper Gore, fresh off the victory of her Parental Advisory record labels, was adamant the devil’s speak of ‘gall-darn’ and ‘jeepers-creeps’ went beyond all measure of taste, to say nothing of the nipple, which, she was happy to say, she was “fortunate enough to never have to look directly upon in all [her] adult life.” The movie rental industry demanded the uniform and strict enforcement of the ratings sighting consumer expectations, hoping to ensure adult entertainment, while government agencies, sighting the very same expectations, sought enforcement to curb such entertainment. This was the schizophrenic state of things and we shouldn’t be surprised with any rating stamped in this half-decade plus.

[6] Stacey Sanches’ previous modeling and “acting” might better be recognized by screen names such as the mild alteration Stacey Sanchez, the vague euphemism Anita Moore, or lastly the bland Ashley Jane.

[7] THIS MOVIE WAS DIRECTED BY A STUNTMAN!!!

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