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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, who co-wrote the screenplay with 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:

  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Anti-Hero: Our protagonists are pirates. In his early scenes, Jason destroys a robot because he's unhappy with its performance and laments that he cannot rape the princess.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The way the time distortion works is pure fantasy.
    • The practice of storing and transporting frozen water. Water is unusual in being less dense in its solid phase than as a liquid, so it would be far more efficient to build storage tanks and move it around in pipes than to use the system shown.
  • Artistic License – Space: 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.
  • Aside Glance: The shitting alien in the beginning glances at the camera twice as it reacts to the protagonists' actions.
  • 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.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: When Jason first sees Princess Karina, she is sleeping. He leaves her asleep after being rudely interrupted just as he was about to grope her breasts, then comes back for her before the pirates leave her ship.
  • 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
  • The Big Guy: In spite of being introduced as a cunning and clever rogue, Killjoy becomes more or less the Big Guy when he joins the crew. And he's quite big, making Ron Perlman look shrimpy by comparison.
  • Black and Nerdy: Roscoe, the only black pirate, is the one responsible for maintaining the robots.
  • B-Movie: Is considered this by many critics, despite the fact that it's a comedy and was corny on purpose.
  • Boarding Party: Happens at the beginning when the pirates raid an ice freighter.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Weird Wendon (in the Tri-System) has a brigade of "horse"-mounted lady guards, there to attend to his "every wish". It turns out that he is just a decapitated head, and can't do anything for himself.
  • 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).
  • Bowel-Breaking Bricks: When the robots are being sent into battle, one of them drops oil and some included nuts and bolts before being shoved into the fray.
  • Bullet Time: Inverted in the climax.
  • Camp Gay:
    • Wendon, by virtue of being played by Bruce Vilanch. When Killjoy asks if he's got anything else secreted in his mouth, Wendon asks, "Why, you wanna make a deposit?"
    • When Zeno cooks, he starts affecting a lisp and makes a comment about adoring his mother, which was another gay stereotype at the time of filming.
    • The man on the assembly line responsible for shaving the men's privates manages to be camp gay without having any lines.
  • The Captain: Jason.
  • Clean Cut: Maida decapitates a mook quite cleanly.
  • 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.
  • Crippling Castration: When Jason and Roscoe are captured, it is decided that they are to be made into eunuch slaves. They are bound to a conveyor belt and metal jaws above proceed to emasculate the hapless victims before them, filling the factory-like setting with screams. Luckily, Karina intervenes and covertly lets them keep their crown jewels.
  • 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.
  • Delayed Causality: Happens during the swordfight between Maida and Dogbite. Maida swings her sword, Dogbite stops fighting, and simply stands and grins. "Feeling better?" she asks. Dogbite raises his head to nod, we see a red mark across his throat... and then his head just topples off his neck.
  • Diagonal Cut: While not a full diagonal cut, there is the momentary delay. A brief sword fight in a Bad Guy Bar has a man beheaded, but he doesn't realize it until he tilts his head back to laugh at this weak attack, whereupon his whole head falls off.
  • The Dreaded: A Mass "Oh, Crap!" when they find out the ship has Space Herpes.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Jason first meets Princess Karina when she's in stasis and becomes infatuated with her, even trying to sneak a peak down her dress.
  • Earth All Along: The Seventh World turns out to be Earth (though only the audience recognizes it as such).
  • Earth That Was: The destination of the quest and the big reveal.
  • 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.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's about pirates who steal ice.
  • Express Delivery: Karina is revealed to be pregnant just as the spaceship enters the time-warping zone. She gives birth to and raises her son in just a few minutes of screen time.
  • Faceship: A group of evil Space Pirates come after Jason and Princess Karina in a huge land vehicle with a giant spiked skull built onto the front.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Averted wonderfully by the bounty hunter leader and one of his thugs.
      Swordsman: It's the cute one and the [N-bomb].
      Bounty Hunter Leader: [gives swordsman a dirty look]
Swordsman: [looking sheepish] I meant the black gentleman.
  • 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.
  • Funny Afro: During the final Time Warp scenes, one way the years are shown passing is Roscoe growing a huge afro that eventually outmasses his entire body.
  • 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.
  • Generation Xerox: Jason and Karina's son is played by Robert Urich.
  • Genius Bruiser: Killjoy, the biggest of the pirates, is also the smartest.
  • 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).
  • Groin Attack: What else to call it when the main heroes are threatened by the scariest-looking castration machine in the history of mankind?
  • Humans Are White: Lampshaded when the lone black character builds a black fighting robot. When asked why he made the robot black, he replies "I wanted him to be perfect."
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Well, not all hyperspace; just the infamous Time Warp.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: The costuming is one of the silliest, while 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.
  • Jive Turkey: The pimp bot.
    Pimp Boy: Hey, Jack, hey blood! Want some titties? Finest titties on Mithra!
  • Kick the Dog: Zorn executes an injured ice pirate moments after promising not to, establishing that he's the villain even if the protagonists are pirates.
  • Killer Robot: In this galaxy, most of the fighting is done by robots. When the heroes fight, a lot of their effort is spent fixing damaged robots rather than fighting themselves.
  • Lobotomy: Political prisoners — and anyone else caught, it seems — get "redesigned" to make them into marketable slaves, except for clergy "just in case (there is a God)". Unfortunately for the monk shown among the prisoners, a larger man stole his clothes and pretended to be him when the guards called for his release.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: The lost planet was originally supposed to be Earth, but the final draft plays it straight with Earth not being mentioned.
  • MacGuffin: The Seventh world.
  • Made a Slave: Political prisoners and others are sold into slavery after being "redesigned" — lobotomized and neutered (however, females remain "fully functional"). They don't "redesign" clergy (shown by a captive monk) "just in case". Unfortunately for the monk shown, a much larger prisoner beats him up, changes clothes with him and escapes.
  • 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!: Maida decapitates her opponent in a swordfight, which takes a few seconds to roll off. Wendon also gets his head cut off, though he remains alive for some inexplicable reason.
  • Parents in Distress: Combined with Plot-Relevant Age-Up and Express Delivery for the movie's bizarre climax. The pirates and their enemies boarding the ship are all caught in some kind of temporal vortex that causes rapid aging. The princess who the protagonist just slept with has a kid, who grows into an adult off-screen and saves the now-aged protagonist from a last bunch of robots. Then the Reset Button kicks in.
  • Planet of Hats: The 7th world, whose particular hat is water. Also, the planet Mithra.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Karina gives birth to and raises a son to adulthood in only a few minutes of screen time while the ship is passing through a time-warping zone, allowing the son to join the fight as a young man and save the rapidly aging heroes.
  • 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; and 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 Shirt: The pirates' robots. Also the Templars' expendable crews.
  • Reset Button: In the end, time goes back to the moment before the climax started, nullifying everything that happened and even bringing people who died back to life. In fact, the heroes would have won no matter what happened because they charted their course correctly, while the villains didn't.
  • 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 and just about all the rest. Don't think about it too hard.
  • Scary Black Man:
    • The angry convict who Roscoe and Jason meet in prison.
    • Also the bounty hunter leader.
  • Schizo Tech: The movie features a galactic empire, FTL spacecraft, and warrior robots (and even something like a holodeck in one scene), but when the heroes and villains do battle, it's generally aboard ship or on a planet's surface with simple melee weapons, like swords and axes. There are virtually no ship-to-ship battles: laser cannons do exist, but they appear to be rare and inefficient, almost like single-shot muskets. It does take place in a post-apocalyptic galaxy, where civilization might have been at a higher level.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: Inverted; the towering Killjoy is the smartest one of the pirates, if not the smartest person in the movie.
  • 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.
  • Spit Shine: Due to water being in short supply, the shoeshiner says no more spit for the shine until more water is released to the public.
  • Stereo Fibbing: Jason and Roscoe in regard to the Space Herpes.
  • Sword Fight: All of the fight scenes involve sword play, in addition to the laser guns.
  • Tagline: "You have to be there to see it."
  • Time Dilation: Used for a cheap gag towards the end.
  • Time-Passage Beard: The whole cast's hair and beards grow cartoonishly long as they rapidly age.
  • Token Black Friend: Roscoe, Jason's best friend and voice of reason, who loves to joke about his own race.
  • Used Future: Everything looks junky and industrial in the future. The robots are always breaking down.
  • 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.