Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Last Starfighter

A teenage guy is so good at an arcade game about shooting spaceships that he gets shanghaied into space and fights enemy spaceships. I believe this film was sold to producers on that line, but for some reason it works pretty well, even though it's still silly.

I remember seeing posters and ads for The Last Starfighter (called Viimeinen suuri seikkailija / "The Last Great Adventurer" in Finland, maybe they thought referring to "space" would scare the audience) and feeling sorry for not seeing the film. We didn't have a VCR at our house, so I wasn't able to see even it on video at the time. Not long ago I bought the film on VHS cassette for 20 cents and was able finally to watch it.

The Last Starfighter was directed by Nick Castle whose other films are not much of interest to me, with a possible exception of his first feature, T.A.G.: The Assassination Game. Castle of course was the guy behind Michael Myers's mask in Halloween. The Last Starfighter was an early example of incorporating computer graphics into a feature film alongside with Tron. I believe this one was more successful commercially*, but it's nowhere near the innovative graphic look of Tron, although The Last Starfighter is more entertaining than Steven Lisberger's stiff movie. The Last Starfighter benefits from two good veteran actors, Dan O'Herlihy and Robert Preston. Lance Guest as "the last starfighter" isn't bad either. He should've had a better career. The main plot about the battle in space is silly and clichéd, but the aliens look delightfully goofy.

I would've loved this as a kid, and there's still enough charm for me to like it even that I'm now a cynical adult. More Overlooked Films here (when the time comes).

* In IMDb's biography for Lance Guest it is said: "He was told that Starfighter reportedly made no money on it's initial release, so he returned to the theatre", but Wikipedia states thus: "The Last Starfighter was a financial success, earning over $28 million on an estimated budget of $15 million."

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