Friday, 14 June 2013

Grindhouse 8: Mandroids


Newborn UKstudios 88 Films selects Ersgard's 1993 acclaimed debut feature Mandroid as its eigth 80’s horror cult-classic revival for its (now) eight-strong Grindhouse Collection.

An early 1990’s scifi horror set in Eastern Europe sees Russian scientist Dr Karl Zimmer (Robert Symonds) invent a humanoid capable of mass destruction which is controlled by the physical motions of the suited and booted being connected to it. But when Zimmer decides to sell his innovative ‘Mandroid’ program to the CIA for the greater good, his creative partner Drago (Curt Lowens) hatches a plan to steal the robot and sell it to the army to cement his future career in science. Caught red handed, Drago makes a break for it but is near-fatally scarred by his own acidic formula. After a dodgy DIY surgical face configuration, revenge is rife and the battle between man, monster and machine commences.

Writers and long-time Full Moon collaborators Earls Kenton and Jackson Barr have predominantly paved their career with a pastiche of sexy adventure thrillers and erotic thrillers. But lying between Barr’s Subspecies (1991) and Kenton’s Shandra: The Jungle Girl (1999) is the duo’s first collaborative effort, scifi action thriller Mandroid. In fact, its cross-generic concoction could well hit more genres than it misses; what sets itself up as a mad scientist thriller soon enters a fast-paced action territory before dipping its toes into a war zone, a satisfying a potent classic revenge plot, and, at a push, the horror genre. Think of it as a pre-emptive 90s Outpost: Black Sun (2012) which has been teased with Transformers and Robocop conventions. With a script where the phrase “Mr Ameican Scientist. End of the road!” bats no eyelids, it is a full throttle effort to amusing charm and entertaining gimmicks. Pulling its wires in every direction, its premise is understandably a bit messy. It incorporates everything you’d expect from a film veering in so many directions, though its manic prevalence succeeds to avoid a fated convolution, ensuring it never embarks on a dense moment.

For blood thirsty fans it could be a little disappointing, relying mostly on crossfire from outbursts of rifle rampages. It may not commit to the gore, but it satisfyingly festers on badly synthetic wounds and impalements, and invites a few winces during the burning rubber of Drago’s melting face. Its sequel, Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (1993), also directed by Ersgard, appears to pick up the misfortune of Benjamin’s unexplainable invisibility in Mandroid. After this enjoyable experience, Invisible flies right to the top of my ‘to see’ list.

Both the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio picture and sound are crisp, but the zappy laboratory, crunching metal and the squeaky clanky robot which resembles an R2D2 that needs oiling can be ear-splitting. If you pay any consideration to your neighbours at all, you will constantly have the remote in your hands to turn down the volume for the robot action and up again for the dialogue. Something that perhaps could be overcome with subtitles – if only it had the option of them.
VERDICT: It’s an outright Full Moon mould with low production values, trashy dialogue, nerdy contraptions and a monstrous villain, which, combined, override any narrative imperfections and predictabilities.

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