Erik Estrada stars in the Italian Sci-Fi Action B-Movie ‘Light Blast’ (1985)
UAMC honors the Italian B-Movie Director Enzo G. Castellari and the ultimate action worthy Light Blast!
Light Blast (1985) is an action, crime, sci-fi B-movie by Italian director, Enzo G. Castellari. It stars Erik Estrada, best known for playing Officer Frank Poncherello in the television series ChiPs (1977–1983).
Good preparation for his role in Light Blast as a San Francisco cop. A city being held to ransom by a mad scientist with a death ray. His demand: five million dollars or he melts another target.
The Great Enzo G. Castellari
Light Blast is one of director Enzo G. Castellari’s later movies. Castellari started churning out Italian B-movies in the 1960’s. He started with the popular genres of the day including Spaghetti Westerns and War Dramas (sometimes called Macaroni Combat).
But where Castellari earned his reputation was with 1970’s crime dramas (sometimes called Poliziotteschi or Eurocrime). These pre-Ultimate-era action crime dramas were very entertaining. Quentin Tarantino agrees. He referenced some of them in his own films. Imagine movies such as The French Connection (1971) but with more action, violence and Italian style.
Fine, but why am I telling you this? Because after a five year gap, Castellari returned to action crime drama with Light Blast. Only this time updating the formula for a 1980’s American audience.
Erik Estrada to the Rescue
Remember the face melting scene from Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)? You’ll be seeing much more of that visual effect here. Erik Estrada saves San Francisco from this fate with police procedural plotlines and copious action scenes. Those action scenes include fist fights, gun battles and car chases.
In fact the stunt and explosion laden chases are my favourite scenes in the movie. And as far as I’m aware, no one else has done a Baja buggy chase through city streets. Another thing I enjoyed was the soundtrack which partly imitates The A-Team theme. Also good is the pacing with action scenes well distributed throughout the film’s running time.
Light Blast’s Ultimate Potential
Holding Light Blast back from greatness are a few problems. Chief amongst which is the budget which is too low. By the mid-1980’s, Italian cinema was starting to struggle. Audiences around the world were happy to watch big-budget American action movies on home video instead of supporting their home-grown cinema industry.
Under those circumstances, it’s impressive how well the production team managed to make Light Blast look like a big American action movie. They achieved this feat partly by saving money in creative ways. My favourite being the demolition derby scene. To save money, Light Blast reuses demolition derby stock footage.
That same stock footage previously used during the title sequence of Disney’s Herbie movie The Love Bug (1968), and romantic race-car musical Fireball 500 (1966). Elsewhere in the movie, the cheapness is inescapable. The visual effects when the death ray is fired look particularly cheap and old fashioned.
Overall, Light Blast is good fun. It has all the action you’d hope for from a 1980’s action movie. Just not done in a big-budget Hollywood way. Light Blast is instead a cheesy, low-budget, Italian version of the 80’s American action movie. And in my opinion, a good example of those things done well. Recommended unless you demand big name actors and directors and high production values.
Hywel Price-Evans is currently seeking the Vice President role within OCP’s Security Concepts Division after the position recently become vacant. He is passionate about the future of urban pacification and discovering obscure action movies from the home video era.
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