Alien from L.A. (1988)

Back in the 1960’s, those of us who were bad movie aficionados thought that “Plan Nine From Outer Space” was the worst movie ever made, and would remain so for all time. To put things in perspective, though, we also thought that $3,000 was a lot to pay for a new car.

As we grew older, our innocence was gradually stripped away as we were exposed to movies like “Hercules in New York” and “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank,” which completely redefined the “bad movie” genre. In this context, last night, my son and I saw “Alien From L.A.,” which pushed the envelope to an extreme unimaginable just a generation ago. To call this movie “bad” (or wretched or execrable) completely fails to do it justice, as does any other label existent in the English language. Even if there were words with which to accurately describe this movie, it would be of no consequence, since they would be banned in civilized society.

The Alien referred to in the title is played by Kathy Ireland, who apparently took some time off from modeling swimsuits for Sports Illustrated, to kick off her cinematic career. Her casting might seem some sort of recommendation, until you actually see the movie. The makeup artists earned their money by making Kathy look so drab and unappetizing you would not want to touch her with the far end of a broomstick — no mean feat. To put it bluntly, in this movie she has a face that would freeze Medusa. Even worse than her look, though, was her voice, which was so raucous that I initially failed to credit it as originating with a human being. Throughout the movie, I found myself longing for a chalkboard to drag my nails across to cover the screechy twang of her dialog. At the end of the movie, Kathy finally gets a makeover and finds herself in her beloved swimsuit. I suggested to my son that the movie would have been better if they had put her in the swimsuit at the beginning of the movie, so at least we would have had something to watch. My son perceptively pointed out that if they had then removed the swimsuit and stuffed it into her mouth, it would have considerably improved the movie on two counts. I defer to the plain brilliance of his observation. If you have any doubts, compare this dreck to “Barbarella,” in which a competent filmmaker shows how to exploit the assets of an ethereally beautiful leading lady in the fantasy genre.

Of the plot, itself, there is little on which to comment, since there was so little in evidence. It is said that if a million monkeys typed unceasingly for millions of years, eventually one would come up with “Hamlet.” By the process of elimination, the rest of the time they would come up with something approximating this screenplay. Imagine, if you will, a modern-day Alice falling into a hole and dropping 500 feet onto a rock slab, following which she gets up, dusts herself off, and starts looking for her long-lost father in the city-kingdom of Atlantis. Once in Atlantis, she spends most of her time running, fighting, or climbing stairs and ladders, and basically trying to keep out of the hands of a general who seems to have no soldiers to do his bidding, and who would make Tiny Tim look macho. This summation, as abbreviated as it appears, is probably longer than the shooting script.

On the plus side, as you revel in the production values and take in whatever you can of the sets and costumes through the smoke and haze, you realize that this is one movie in which you can actually see on the screen where all $20 of the budget went.

The thought that kept going through my mind was that filmmakers ought not be given access to drugs and alcohol while they are shooting a movie, or perhaps prior, if it leads to results like “Alien from L.A.,” though in fairness I have to acknowledge that I don’t know whether they were actually involved in substance abuse, or were simply brain dead at the outset of the project.