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Film / The Ice Pirates

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The Ice Pirates is a 1984 comedy/science-fiction film. It was directed by Stewart Raffill (of Wilderness Family and Mac and Me fame), who co-wrote the screenplay with Krull author Stanford Sherman. The movie stars Robert Urich and Mary Crosby. Other notable featured actors are Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Michael D. Roberts, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine and football great John Matuszak. It is considered to be a Cult Classic by many science fiction and B-movie fans because the movie doesn't really take itself seriously and everybody involved seems to have a great time hamming it up.

The film takes place in a future where water is an immensely valuable substance, both as a commodity and as a currency. Princess Karina (Crosby) is a spoiled princess who purchases captured space pirates Jason (Urich) and Roscoe (Roberts). They then proceed to locate a "lost" planet that contains massive amounts of water. The planet must be approached on a specific course or the ship will be suspended in time forever. The course apparently contains some sort of time distortion.


The Ice Pirates has examples of:

  • Action Girl: Maida, the only female pirate in Jason's crew. Though she isn't involved in the fight of the climax (as she's too busy piloting the ship), she uses her laser gun as much as any of the guys throughout the movie, and has a memorable sword duel in the middle of the film, where she decapitates her attacker!
  • Amazon Brigade: All of Wendon's guards are, for some reason, scantily-dressed gladiator women.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: The film's main premise was severely undermined by the realization that water is one of the most common substances in the entire universe, being found even on Mercury. (Not to mention the room that appears to be sort of projection-slash-makeout room. The scene shows the characters getting drenched by an artificial rainstorm. To be fair, the obvious posing to make the characters look like a cheesy romance novel cover probably was the point of the scene.)
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  • Artistic License – Physics: Even given the premise of water being rare, it's still the classic of ill-researched science fiction films — it would be difficult indeed to actually monopolize all the water in the galaxy, as the expository crawl claims the Templars have done.
  • Beta Couple: Maida and Killjoy, two supporting characters who have tension throughout the movie, until they finally kiss at the end.
  • Big Bad: Zorn, leader of the evil Templars
  • Big Guy: Killjoy, the tough thief who Jason and Roscoe meet in prison, and who later joins their crew.
  • B-Movie: Is considered this by many critics, despite the fact that it's a comedy and was corny on purpose.
  • Battle Butler: Percy the Robot, who wears a bow-tie and speaks like a gentleman, but can kung-fu chop anyone who threatens the princess.
  • Bounty Hunter: An entire crew of them, who chase after the bounty that Zorn places on Jason's head (in a scene that spoofs Mad Max).
  • Bullet Time: Inverted in the climax.
  • Camp Gay: Any character played by Bruce Vilanch, really.
  • The Captain: Jason
  • Cool Car: The desert truck driven by the Bounty Hunters, in the scene that spoofs Mad Max. Imagine a monster-car, with a pirate ship's helm for a steering wheel, and a horned alien skull adorning the front.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The castration machine scene, which could qualify as either a Funny Moment or horror (if you're male).
    Jason: (to line worker) Want to get together later?
    Female Line Worker: Oh, I don't think you'll be up for it.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Buford, the robot who Roscoe builds and paints black, because "I wanted him to be perfect!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Maida, who treats Killjoy's flirtations, Jason's rash decisions, and Wendon's nonstop talking all with equal disdain.
  • The Dreaded: A Mass "Oh, Crap!" when they find out the ship has Space Herpes.
  • Dude, She's Like, In Stasis: How Jason first meets Princess Karina.
  • Earth That Was: The Seventh World, a paradise planet that still has a water cycle, rumored to exist at the center of the galaxy. Reaching this planet becomes the ultimate goal of the protagonists.
  • The '80s: A trippy soundtrack filled with keyboard music and echoing drums? Check. Laughably dated CGI laser beams? Check. Glittering dresses and leotards that would make the creators of Labyrinth jealous? Check-a-roo!
  • The Empire: The Templars, the greedy aristocrats who control all of the water in the galaxy. However, it is made clear that not all aristocrats side with the Templars; Karina and her father both wanted what was best for the whole galaxy, and are either shown or told to have been treating commoners and even criminals far more kindly than the evil Templars.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As per Fantastic Racism below, the unscrupulous bounty hunter leader will not tolerate casual overt racism from his underlings. Primarily because he's also African-American.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's about pirates who steal ice.
  • Express Delivery / Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Karina gives birth and raises her kid while in the time-warping zone, allowing the son to join the fight as a young man and save the rapidly-aging heroes.
  • Fantastic Racism: Averted wonderfully by the bounty hunter leader and one of his thugs.
    Swordsman: There they are, the attractive woman and the [N-bomb].
    Bounty Hunter Leader: (gives swordsman a dirty look)
    Swordsman: (looking sheepish) I meant the attractive woman and the nice black gentleman over there.
    • And again by Roscoe
    Jason: I don't mean to be rude, but why is this robot black?
    Roscoe: Because I wanted him to be perfect!
  • Fate Worse than Death: Zorn promises this to Jason, just before sending him to the castration belt.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Roscoe, the robot expert, who builds and fixes robots throughout the movie, and who recognizes both Wendon and the Omega robot of Karina's father for what they really are.
  • Genius Bruiser: Killjoy, the biggest of the pirates, is also the smartest.
  • Groin Attack: What else to call it when the main heroes are threatened by the scariest-looking castration machine in the history of mankind?
  • Gratuitous Princess: Princess Karina, who is a clear nod to Princess Leia of Star Wars (she's a beautiful brunette who fights an evil empire, and has a Slap-Slap-Kiss romance with a pirate).
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Well, not all hyperspace; just the infamous Time Warp.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: The costuming is one of the silliest, at at the same time, seriously beautiful things about the movie. Most of the main characters' costumes have elements of Medieval or Ancient Greek clothing (even chain mail!), all dripping with extravagant detail. In the sea of minor and background characters one can find Medieval knights, cowboys, 1980s leotards, gladiator women, and ancient Arabian garb.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Epitomized in the following line:
    Zeno: I hope no one minds, but I have no intention of facing this sober.
  • Instant Soprano: The eunuchs, and the heroes when they impersonate eunuchs.
  • JiveTurkey: The black pimp bot.
    Pimp Boy: Hey, Jack, hey blood! Want some titties? Finest titties on Mithra!
  • Killer Robot: In this galaxy, it's normal for ships to have armies of robots to do some of their fighting for them.
  • Macguffin: The Seventh world.
  • Mars Needs Water: While it's not an invasion, water is the most valuable substance in the universe, to the point of being the movie's MacGuffin.
  • Mooks: The Templar robots.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Plus Kung Fu robots!
  • No Peripheral Vision: Very parodied!
  • Off with His Head!: Complete with a delay of a few seconds before said victim's head actually comes off.
  • Planet of Hats: The 7th world, whose particular hat is water. Also, the planet Mithra.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Jason's crew, which consist of a robot expert; a runaway princess and her nanny; a female pirate; a thief who escaped from jail; a funny guy who seems to prefer cooking over fighting; an a disembodied head.
  • Railing Kill: Jason shoving a defective robot over a railing, rather than getting it fixed. This motivates the other robots to do better.
  • Rapid Aging: Everyone in the finale of the film, due to being stuck in a time-warp while fighting invaders. Things get weird until the Reset Button kicks in.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Wendon, the nerdy outcast Templar, was "set up on his own planet," a foggy wasteland populated only by unicorns and Amazon women (both of which might have been brought by Wendon himself).
  • Rebellious Princess: Karina has no problem behaving like a princess, but she will not side with her government when it mistreats its people, or her father.
  • Red Shirts: The pirates' robots. Also the Templars' expendable crews.
  • Robot Buddy
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Karina's father, who goes looking for the Seventh World to help the galaxy, and Karina herself, who winds up doing the same thing while trying to find her father.
  • Rule of Cool: The only explanation for why pirates who have laser guns and travel in star ships still need metal swords, chain mail, and extravagant rock star outfits.
  • Rule of Funny: The only explanation for plot points like the Space Herpes, the Castration Belt, the Time Warp, Zeno's reaction to losing his hand, Wendon being a disembodied head...come to think of it, the entire movie.
  • Scary Black Man: An angry convict who Roscoe and Jason meet in prison.
    • Also the bounty hunter leader.
  • Shout-Out: The movie, which spoofs science fiction, makes several clear nods to some famous movies.
    • The chase scene in the desert, with the skull-adorned monster truck, is a Shout Out to Mad Max.
    • The Pirate's Den, a bar filled with space thugs and aliens, is a huge nod to the Mos Eisley Cantina scene in Star Wars. With that in mind, Maida's duel with the bounty hunter who she cooly decapitates is probably a nod to Han Solo killing Greedo or Obi Wan dispatching Ponda Baba.
    • The Space Herpe is a spoof of Alien, especially when it first hatches from its egg.
      • Even moreso when it bursts out of the turkey at the dinner table.
    • Karina's stasis bed, in her first scene, is a comically spaced-up version of Snow White's glass coffin.
    • This movie has footage from Logan's Run and Rollerball.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Jason and Princess Karina. Not only do they spend much of the movie insulting one another, but they're also locked in a battle of wits, trying to threaten, capture, enslave, or embarrass one another.
  • Space Opera: The movie is often considered a parody of Star Wars, but since its storyline is so different, it's more likely meant to be a spoof of the entire genre.
  • Space Pirates: A bit more literal in this movie than in most (these pirates have swords, bandanas, and chain-mail, in outer space!)
  • Space "X": Space... herpes. Space... herpes.
  • Stereo Fibbing: Jason and Roscoe in regards to the Space Herpes.
  • Sword Fight: All of the fight scenes involve sword play, in addition to the laser guns.
  • Token Black Friend: Roscoe, Jason's best friend and voice of reason, who loves to joke about his own race.
  • Used Future: This applies especially to the robots.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess! Jason and Karina.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: When they made it through the time warp, everything reverted back to the point when they entered it, which includes the space herpe being caught. This means that it's still loose on the ship as the movie ends.


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