In the Laserblast episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, much is made of the fact that Leonard Maltin gave the movie 2 ½ stars in his movie guide. Mike and the bots go on to list some of the films they are appalled to learn received the same rating from the critic: A Fish Called Wanda, Amadeus, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Marathon Man, Unforgiven, Sophie’s Choice and Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.
That does seem to be a pretty stinging indictment, but I admire how Maltin sticks to his guns instead of falling in line with the critical majority. Giving 2 ½ stars to any of those movies isn’t as bold as when Pauline Kael gave a less-than-spectacular review to Shoah, but it still shows his commitment to his evaluations.
More importantly, Maltin has an unmistakable passion for film, and this comes through loud and clear in Starstruck: My Unlikely Road to Hollywood, a 2021 collection of essays, each one addressing a different moment or aspect of his life.
Maltin’s personality shines through on every page, and I found it impossible to read the book without hearing the words as spoken in his voice. In also helps that he comes across as humble (though not to the point of false modesty) and perpetually engaged with the topics that interest him. I was just as intrigued in the passages about meeting such legends as Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn as I was by him finding the right synagogue for his family when they relocated to Los Angeles.
In the end, Maltin comes across not just as somebody who would be great to converse with about movies, but pretty much about topic. But I’m not sure I would broach the subject of his feelings about Laserblast.