Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)


aka When the Rains Begin to Fall

USA. 1984.


Director – James Fargo, When the Rains Begin to Fall Sequence Directed by Bob Giraldi, Screenplay – Edward Gold, S. James Guidotti & Charles Hairston, Producers – Micheline H. Keller & Brian Russell, Photography – Gil Taylor, Visual Effects – Image Engineering, Miniatures – Tony Tremblay, Special Effects Supervisor – Peter Chesney, Production Design – Ninkey Dalton. Production Company – KGA/Inter Planetary Curb


Pia Zadora (Dee Dee), Tom Bolan (ABCD), Craig Sheffer (Frankie), Alison La Placa (Diane), Ruth Gordon (Sheriff), Michael Berryman (Chainsaw), Gregory Bond (JKLOM), Craig Quiter (NOPQR), Patrick Byrnes (STUVWXYZ), Marc Jackson (Arrow), Jeffrey Casey (EFGHI), Wallace Merk (Breather), Jermaine Jackson (Rain)


Five aliens search the universe for the source of rock music. Their quest leads them to Earth and they materialise at the Heidi High School in the town of Speelburgh. There the expedition commander ABCD discovers an attraction to Dee Dee. She wants to be a singer but her boyfriend Frankie, the leader of the gang known as The Pack and lead singer in a rock’n’roll band, refuses to allow her to sing with them. However, ABCD happily allows her to join the aliens’ band. Seeing Dee Dee with ABCD earns Frankie’s wrath. When the aliens’ own form of music becomes so popular they are invited to play the school cotillion, Frankie and his gang come determined to stop them.

Voyage of the Rock Aliens is an obscurity from 1980s science-fiction cinema. It died a death in its time where nobody saw it and today turns up on tv reruns and places like YouTube where it must make viewers sit and wonder if they had ingested hallucinogens without realising it. It sort of suggests a 1960s Beach Party movie that had stumbled into the leftover costume department for a 80s New Wave wannabe band. There are a number of similarities to the far better made and far more enjoyable rock’n’roll/science-fiction blend Earth Girls Are Easy (1989) that came out a few years later. Where Earth Girls was gently nostalgic parody of the hoarier days of sf movie-making, Voyage of the Rock Aliens feels like someone had tried to conduct a version of Grease (1978) to appeal to the post-Star Wars (1977) science-fiction boom. It is a rather awful effort that feels like it is trying to tailgate on two competing fads and failing abysmally at both.

Voyage of the Rock Aliens is a film that sees science-fiction as no more than the sum of its imagery – robots, spaceships, New Wave costumery and hairstyles. All of this is only there for a dumb and entirely predictable level of comedy – for instance, the ship’s robot disguises itself as a fire hydrant, whereupon there are predictable gags about it getting peed on by dogs. The film revels in a dumb slapstickery – the antics of the aliens, clearly modelled on 70s nerd rockers Devo, are so bizarrely awful as to be fascinating. Not to mention there is a random melange of competing elements – a mutant tentacle monster in the lake, chainsaw-wielding maniacs escaped from an asylum, musical numbers at regular intervals – that seem mainly there to keep the plot moving whenever the audience’s attention is in danger of flagging. There are a number of bland pop songs from bands that nobody had heard from then and ever did again.

The film was one of the starring efforts of Pia Zadora, a 5′ actress who had first appeared as a child performer in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). As an adult actress, Zadora had a breakout with the erotic film Butterfly (1982), which had her winning both a Golden Globe as Best New Star and a Golden Raspberry in the same year. She appeared in a mere handful of films, all of which had her performances critically trashed, and for a time during the 1980s developed a minor career as a pop singer. Seven months after Voyage of the Rock Aliens was released in the US, Zadora had a Top 40 hit in a duet with Jermaine Jackson, brother of Michael, with the song When the Rains Begin to Fall (1984), which reached No 1 in some countries (the only chart-topping hit she ever had). Thus the video-clip for the song has been edited in at the beginning of the film. The film was retitled When the Rains Begin to Fall in some parts of the world to capitalise on the song’s fleeting popularity, even though such a title and the sequence has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film.

Amid the rest of the cast, there is a young Craig Sheffer in his feature film debut and looking his pouty meanest. The film also criminally wastes a wonderful actress like Ruth Gordon, the work of art from films such as Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Harold and Maude (1971). Gordon took the role on at age 88 – she died the following year, although did go on to make two other films – and has about five minutes total screen time in a wholly irrelevant role as the sheriff.

Voyage of the Rock Aliens was the sixth directorial outing for James Fargo, previously an assistant director for Clint Eastwood and on several early Steven Spielberg films. Fargo made his directorial debut with the Dirty Harry film The Enforcer (1976), followed by the Eastwood comedy hit of Every Which Way But Loose (1979).

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