When I was first approached about reviewing Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K restoration of James Fargo’s Voyage of the Rock Aliens, my initial reaction was, “No chance.” I watched the trailer and just could not imagine a world where this ends in anything other than me saying mean things about it. So I watched the trailer again, again, and one last time. Finally, I decided I would review it. Who knows? Maybe it would end up being a fun time?
Let’s start with the basics. Voyage of the Rock Aliens is directed by James Fargo (Every Which Way But Loose 1978) and stars Pia Zadora (Hairspray, Butterfly), Craig Sheffer (Nightbreed 1990), Tom Nolan (Fast Times At Ridgemont High 1982), and The Hills Have Eyes’ Michael Berryman. The case art describes the film as a “nearly unclassifiable smorgasbord made up of one part rock musical, one part sci-fi insanity, and one part 50s kitsch through an 80s glam lens.” The whole film revolves around a group of aliens in a guitar shaped spaceship who are on the hunt to find the true source of Rock ‘n Roll. Eventually, the aliens find the town of Speelburgh after seeing DeeDee (Pia Zadora) and her rocker boyfriend, Frankie (Sheffer), vying to become the top rocker in town. If that doesn’t make you tilt your head and say, “What?” nothing will.
Voyage of the Rock Aliens is truly a tale of two movies. First, you have the musical part, and then you have the goofy horror side that tries to tell a story.
Focusing on the good, the music is great. As goofy as the musical sections are, they’re so enjoyable. There’s even a musical number with Frankie and a mountain lion. Something about the nature of the beast and Frankie’s a lion or something. It’s wild. I kept thinking to myself that if I saw this when I was in my early teens or younger, I would have been obsessed with this film. The musical sections make it feel like an ’80s new wave fever dream. I truly looked forward to whatever the next musical number was, which leads me into my next point: the story.
I don’t think anyone is going into this expecting a groundbreaking story. The story bits that take place between the musical numbers are just boring. None of the characters are all that likable, and none of them really have much depth beyond “I want to be a rock star.” Michael Berryman shows up and brings the horror as the deranged mass murderer, Chainsaw, who has recently escaped from the Speelburgh Asylum for the Criminally Insane along with another psycho, The Breather (Wallace Merck). I’ll be honest, the inclusion of the mass murderers felt out of left field and unnecessary. Voyage of the Rock Aliens just has too much going on to make any sort of sense on a story level and is at its best when it’s just a fun musical.
Focusing on the Blu-ray release, Vinegar Syndrome did a great job. Voyage of the Rock Aliens looks great throughout and doesn’t have that cheap look that a lot of ’80s low budget films have. The extra features are a really nice touch, as well. I found the making-of documentary to be well done and would highly recommend spending some time with that. There is also an extended featurette with members of the band, Rhema. This is really cool because the members of Rhema actually played the rock aliens! Little things like this take this release to the next level. I would have been content with a good looking Blu, but giving me more to chew on makes this even better and worth checking out. I also appreciate the reversible cover art provided. I switched my copy to the original 1984 cover art, but the new art provided is a really nice touch and would look great on any shelf.
I went into Voyage of the Rock Aliens fully expecting to be miserable. It’s not my type of movie, and it just looked bad in all the worst places. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While the actual story is nothing to write home about, the musical numbers make this so much fun. This could have been song after song, and I would have been thrilled. It does feel like there’s a bit too much going on at times and is really only great when it’s just a goofy musical. Vinegar Syndrome did a phenomenal job with the release. The bonus features are worth checking out and make this worth picking up!
Check out the trailer below and let us know what you think!
This special limited edition embossed slipcover (designed by Earl Kessler Jr.) is limited to 6,000 units and is only available here at VinegarSyndrome.com!
A group of aliens in a guitar shaped spaceship are on the hunt to find the true source of Rock n’ Roll. After spotting teenage DeeDee and her boyfriend Frankie, each of whom are vying to become the top rocker in the small town of Speelburgh, the aliens land, only to set off of an increasingly strange series of events and musical mayhem that threatens the very existence of the town itself!
Starring the legendary actress and singer Pia Zadora (Butterfly, Hairspray) in what might be the wildest and wackiest role of her career, James Fargo’s (Every Which Way But Loose) VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS is a nearly unclassifiable smorgasbord made up of one part rock musical, one part sci-fi insanity, and one part 50s kitsch through an 80s glam lens. Never given an authorized disc release in the US, Vinegar Syndrome presents this seminal slice of premium cable nostalgia in its ultimate home video edition, featuring a gorgeous and brand new 2K restoration and jam packed with comprehensive and newly produced extras.
directed by: James Fargo
starring: Pia Zadora, Craig Sheffer, Michael Berryman, Tom Nolan, Ruth Gordon, Alison La Placa
1984 / 96 min / 1.85:1 / English Stereo
• Region Free Blu-ray
• Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive
• “Embarking on a Voyage: The Making of an Alien Dance Rock Opera” – an extended making-of documentary featuring interviews with: actor Michael Berryman, executive producer Max Keller, producer Micheline Keller, wardrobe assistant Donzaleigh Abernathy, co-screenwriter & co-producer Charles Hairston, special effects artist Dwight Roberts and miniatures artist Anton Tremblay
• “Where They Are Now: Reuniting the Band Rhema in the 21st Century” – an extended featurette with members of the band Rhema
• Reversible sleeve artwork
• English SDH subtitles