The Ice Pirates (1984) – Stewart Raffill

1984 was an awesome year for me. I moved to a tropical country, and because there was no regular television there, and everyone else seemed to have one, my family bought it’s first VCR. And from there I was able to explore countless genre’s to my heart’s content. And seeing as there were so many genre films to explore there was always something to watch.

I remember The Ice Pirates, and I have to admit to totally digging the poster art, it just conveyed the film as being a ride with a sense of humour and a healthy dose of fun. I hadn’t seen it since then. So I was curious to see how it would play out some thirty-odd years later.

I’ll tell you this, it wasn’t as good as I remembered that’s for sure. There’s an interesting story at work here; wars have devastated the galaxy, and water has become the most valuable resource. There’s only a few planets that have it, and a group of evil templars control them, causing the rise of piracy in the space lanes. But there is a legend of a mythical seventh world that has gallons of this resource.

Jason (Robert Urich) leads his merry band, including his best pal, and genius engineer, Roscoe (Micheal D. Roberts), the Valkyrie-esque Maida (Anjelica Huston), and Zeno (the always awesome Ron Perlman!), as well as a cadre of robots that Roscoe has programmed and outfitted.

They get caught up in an adventure with a princess, Karina (Mary Crosby) who convinces them to join her on a mission to learn where her father has disappeared to. He was in search of the seventh world, and may have fallen victim to the templars.

I don’t quite get why the pirates used swords. They have laser pistols, spaceships, and cutlasses? I guess that’s the whole pirate thing, but it just seems weird. There’s some goofy, a glaringly racist moment, a fun homage to Alien, nods to Star Wars, and Errol Flynn movies and a battle in a time warp where everyone ages by the minute!

I think if they had developed the friendship between Jason and Roscoe a little more, it would have been nice. It’s obvious the characters are pals, and there’s a hint at some buddy banter, but never enough. I do like a lot of the ideas in the film, the execution could have been just a little stronger though. And with the mindset of the film, you can tell that it is very much a product of its time.

It’s also filled with reuses, like models and vehicles from Logan’s Run, and a brief cameo by Max Von Sydow (!). While nowhere near as fun and enjoyable as it could have been, or as it’s poster suggests, Ice Pirates ends up being a quickly forgotten flick from the 80s where better made films have continued to endure, but it makes for a nice distraction if you like your humour in the juvenile category.

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