Something of the odd one out in this stroll down movie memory lane, “The Ice Pirates” is a favourite cheesy movie that I came across much later in life than the age of 10 or 11 which excuses many of my other Craggus Comfort Movie choices. I don’t think this got a cinema release here in the UK otherwise I would have been all over it at the time but instead it was left for me to stumble across at the turn of the century on Turner Classic Movies of all places.
Set in the far future, when the galaxy has run out of water, Jason (Robert Urich) and his swashbuckling band of intergalactic outlaws are caught during a daring raid on an ice freighter. Saved from a fate worse than death by Princess Karina (Mary Crosby), the motley crew are pressganged into taking her royal highness on a quest to find her long lost father and – just possibly – the fabled lost ocean planet.
Goofy to the point of excess, you have to wonder what MGM was expecting when they commissioned this because what they got was a knowingly tongue-in-cheek, deeply irreverent and astonishingly lascivious sci-fi sitcom. A surprisingly eclectic and recognisable named cast assemble for what ends up feeling like the dirty old uncle of “Guardians Of The Galaxy”. Its scattergun humour is very of its time, glibly dropping throwaway gags and light bigotry into the script as its central adventure lurches forward unevenly.
Beset by behind the scenes shenanigans of every sort, its kind of amazing the movie emerged as coherently as it did. Urich’s got charisma and charm to spare as the heroic and sardonic Jason while his crew and the many, many robots provide great entertainment value. Stalwarts like Anjelica Huston and Ron Perlman provide a touch of class and everybody, behind and in front of the camera seem to be having fun and, crucially, be in on the joke meaning it spills over to the audience and helps you overlook some of the movie’s shortcomings. The effects are decent enough by the standards of the time and some of the sets and practical effects have a likeable ramshackleness to them.
“The Ice Pirates” is like a fever dream you might have if you binge-watched Glen A Larson’s “Buck Rogers” and then ate a wheel of cheese but if you’re on board with its self-aware silliness, there’s a lot of fun to be had with this wild and crazy cartoon brought to life.