April 27, 2018 | by James Greene, Jr.
1984’s Voyage of The Rock Aliens is a film that seems to exist because someone with money watched two hours of MTV and thought, We could do this on the big screen. And so they did, hiring surrogates of Devo, the Stray Cats, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson for a rollicking musical showcase that — like most music videos of this or any era — retains only the vaguest elements of plot or storytelling. Not that you need any of that garbage when your lead is the unflappable Pia Zadora.
The film is centered around Dee Dee (Zadora), a plucky high school girl whose main goal in life is to sing with her boyfriend Frankie’s rockabilly band. Frankie (Craig Sheffer), a brooding and sinewy greaser who keeps a blonde pompadour perched above his permanent scowl, forbids it, because he must fulfill his role as a typically awful 1980s movie boyfriend. Meanwhile, a cadre of interplanetary beings who have their own keyboard-heavy new wave band arrive on Earth directly in the center of our young lovers’ conflict. These aliens wear stylish pink jackets and have in their employ a robot so cheap it must have been on clearance at Big Lots (the robot spends most of the film disguised as a fire hydrant).
Leading the extra terrestrials is a hunky towhead with a Moe Howard haircut named ABCD, pronounced Absid (played by Tom Nolan of "Buckskin" fame). ABCD falls head over heels for Dee Dee and invites her to sing with the aliens. Naturally, this makes Frankie livid, so Frankie has his band The Pack set up and perform at the same time as Dee Dee and the aliens, in the same venue, on an opposing stage. Incredibly, no one is trampled to death as excited crowd members rush back and forth between subprime Brian Setzer and Devo.
Lest you think these are just actors pretending to be musicians, the Pack is comprised of real life rockers Jimmy & The Mustangs. No less than Robert Plant once asked the Mustangs to provide live entertainment for a private function (or so their Wikipedia says). Similarly, ABCD’s group features players from an assembly called Rhema. Rhema has described their sound as “pop schlock techno cheese”; they’re not off the mark.
The biggest name from the music world in Voyage of The Rock Aliens is Jermaine Jackson. Jackson portrays Rain, a character who sings a duet with Dee Dee at the start of the film in what could be a dream sequence, a glimpse into the past, or a look toward the future (once the duet concludes, Rain is never seen again). The true masterstroke here is that the filmmakers convinced Jackson to wear an approximation of his brother Michael’s signature quasi-military garb from the same time period. One would assume a move like this would irritate Michael; on the other hand, odds are Michael Jackson never knew Voyage of The Rock Aliens existed. Believe it or not, this rockabilly new wave musical starring Pia Zadora and Tom Nolan from "Buckskin" had a very slim theatrical release.
Everyone’s giving 110% in Voyage of The Rock Aliens; the energy is radiant and ultimately charming. It also helps transform the film’s bargain basement original songs and corresponding dance sequences into perfect camp to be cherished. Alas, a nonsensical narrative twist late in the game rips apart the romance between Dee Dee and ABCD for no tangible reason, souring the journey we’ve taken with these lovable ding dongs. In the end, it’s almost as if the aliens never landed in the fictional town of Speelburgh. Yes, this all takes place in Speelburgh, another reference to a person who has probably never seen this property.
Incredibly, Voyage of The Rock Aliens is available on Blu-Ray; even more incredible is the fact no cult has sprung up around it a la Troll 2 or Miami Connection. Perhaps a day will come when people tire of watching Grease 2, wishing it took place in the 1980s and featured a meandering subplot involving character actor Michael Berryman. Then, and only then, will Voyage of The Rock Aliens ascend to its rightful place in cornball cinema history.
Watch The Voyage of the Rock Aliens trailer
Watch the "Real Love" scene
Watch the “Nature of The Beast” scene