- Directed by Stewart Raffill
- March 16, 1984
The evil Templars of Mithra control the last remaining drops of water in the galaxy but rebellious pirates and the possibility of the existence of the mythical Seventh World threaten their power.
The Ice Pirates is a mid-80s science-fiction action comedy done on the extreme cheap. This was a movie I discovered many years ago when local stations would run movie marathons on Saturdays and Sundays during the afternoons. I miss those times mostly because I discovered films I would not have otherwise come across such as this. I found some real favorites that I otherwise would never have been exposed to. We have numerous streaming services today that could not have existed then, but we often gravitate towards the familiar and avoid the different we may actually like.
I admit I have trouble swallowing the whole galaxy running out of water thing. Even from a fantasy film standpoint that is a tough sell. That’s my major beef with the story but given that this is not a serious film I can put that issue aside and simply enjoy the silliness.
The late Robert Urich stars as central pirate Jason. The character of Jason is pure Robert Urich of the time. Much the same way Robert Downey Jr. plays Robert Downey Jr. in every role, Robert Urich played Robert Urich in every part and it worked. He was cool and cocky and charming.
His African-American sidekick Roscoe (Michael D. Roberts) is a characterization firmly rooted in the era in which this movie was made. Then again the humor in this film is rooted in that era as well. You could not do half the jokes that were done here today as just purely jokes. There are gay jokes, dick jokes, sexual humor, and jokes taking jabs at race in a way that was common then but would be very frowned upon now. They have space herpes here!
Mary Crosby plays the Princess Leia stand-in of Princess Karina. While she is the eventual love interest, Karina is more than the token female character. She is just as capable if not at points more so than the male characters. Her focus is to find her father who has found the mythical Seventh World with a nearly unlimited supply of water which will end the control of the Templars.
Former football player John Matuszak as Killjoy is perhaps the funniest performer/character in the film but is criminally underused. Killjoy is a criminal with a near supernatural ability to remain connected to the crew and popping back in with them at points that make you curious how he could have gotten there. The silliness and oddity of it all just is not used nearly enough. He should have been played up more rather than slowly being pushed into the background after his introduction.
John Carradine as Supreme Commander seems to be in this movie just to give it more weight. The actor was not in his prime here and his part is little more than a cameo. We have a handful of other well-known or somewhat recognizable names in small roles. Ron Perlman as the pirate Zeno, Anjelica Huston as the pirate Maida, Bruce Vilanch as the android Wendon, and Ian Abercrombie as Hymie all appear here.
The Ice Pirates is entertaining but not perfect. I think the jokes could have been a little better polished and I think this movie should’ve received a slightly better budget. Perhaps with one more look at the script it might have might have gotten beyond just a cult following. There are some genuinely good nuggets here, but they just aren’t good enough yet.
The best sequence in this whole film is the time warp sequence at the end. It’s one of the more effectively executed time distortion/time travel concepts. In the sequence time is accelerating because they are travelling through a distortion that surrounds their destination. People age rapidly throughout it and then at the end everything gets reset back.
One good sequence, both in concept and execution, cannot make amends for bad sets and effects that were weak even back then. At points this looks like a well-produced TV movie. Perhaps that is because both Urich and Crosby are more known for their television work than their theatrical efforts. The stars do help.
Even so The Ice Pirates is fun and silly and just doesn’t take itself seriously. It does not try to be anything more than it is and in that it overcomes its flaws.
The Ice Pirates is not a film for everyone. It’s fun and entertaining and at moments funny. It is worth a look, but it is also niche.