Cannon Films — oh Cannon Films, you magnificent maniacs — had big plans in 1989. They wanted to make a sequel to their 1987’s film Masters of the Universe and they had the rights to make a live-action Spider-Man movie.
However, Cannon was out of money, so they had to cancel both of those movies. The trouble was, they had already built the sets for both of them, which were going to have Albert Pyun direct both at the same time.
Yep — those sets cost $2 million dollars. So Pyun wrote the storyline for Cyborg in one weekend with Chuck Norris in mind, but co-producer Menahem Golan wanted Jean-Claude van Damme. The result? 23 days of filming and a budget for under $500,000 — including Van Damme’s salary.
A plague known as the living death has ended the world. Yet in Atlanta, the CDC has been working on a cure. They just need information stored on a computer in New York City, so Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon, who played Spermula and was the original Dale Arden before being recast by Dino De Laurentiis for Flash Gordon) gets transformed into a cyborg. Along with her bodyguard Marshall Strat, she finds it just in time to be attacked by Fender Tremolo (Vincent Klyn, Point Break as well as several other Pyun films) and his pirate gang. If you look hard enough, you’ll realize that Fender’s costume uses parts of Blade’s from Masters of the Universe.
Fender wants the cure so he can have a monopoly on its production. His speech is amazing in this scene: “First there was the collapse of civilization: anarchy, genocide, starvation. Then when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, we got the plague. The Living Death, quickly closing its fist over the entire planet. Then we heard the rumors: that the last scientists were working on a cure that would end the plague and restore the world. Restore it? Why? I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!”
Method Man sampled most of this speech as the opening lyrics to his song “Judgment Day” from his album Tical 2000: Judgement Day. They aren’t in this video, but you can definitely see the influence of the film.
Other bands that have sampled Fender’s words include Mortician’s “World Damnation,” Chimaira’s “Resurrection” and a grindcore band called Vomitorial Corpulence.
Strat is injured in the fight and sends Pearl to find a mercenary known as a slinger to get her to safety. That slinger is Gibson Rickenbacker (Van Damme), who has only saved her for a brief moment when Fender and his gang take her back, kill an entire family and steal a boat to take them to Atlanta.
Our hero is soon joined by Nady Simmons (Deborah Richter, Candy from Midnight Madness), a girl whose family was wiped out by the plague. But Gibson wants to kill Fender more than save the world. He’s been after him for a while, as the villain killed his lover and ruined his only opportunity to have a family. To make matters worse, Haley — his lover’s sister — has now become one of Fender’s pirates.
Nursing a gunshot wound from Fender, Pearl refuses to accept his help, instead planning on killing Fender herself. She’s probably right, as he’s easily beaten by the pirates and crucified on a ship. Yes, another movie where Van Damme is tied up and left for dead!
Of course our hero is able to get back down and bring his family back together, even if his sidekick dies at the end. They get Pearl to her final destination and that’s about as happy as a post-apocalyptic movie can end.
Or does it? Albert Pyun wanted this movie to be a heavy opera without dialogue, shot in granulated black and white. Even in its death throes — this is the last film released by the studio — Cannon said no. Imagine what it takes when Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus have more common sense than you. Menahem directed The Apple!
In the director’s cut of this film — released as Slinger in Germany — there’s a caption saying “9 Months Later.” Then, during an electrical storm, a flashing sphere reveals a nude female cyborg, promising another film by saying “Next: Cyborg Nemesis: The Dark Rift.” Yes, that’s a total ripoff of Terminator.
The test screening was a disaster with only one out of 100 people liking the movie. Golan and Globus tried to convince JCVD to just release the movie, but just like he did in Bloodsport, he spent two months cutting slow parts so that the movie was nearly all fights. After some violence was taken out to make an R rating, this movie makes even less sense than you’d think.
By all rights, I should love a post-apocalyptic movie where everyone is named for electronic guitars and Van Damme kicks people. I can never enjoy this movie for some reason. It just goes on and on, meandering around. Perhaps it’s because my heart lies in the Italian end of the world films. I want to love this and I just can’t bring myself to enjoying it as much as I should.
You know who really didn’t enjoy this movie? Actor Jackson “Rock'” Pinckney, who injured his eye during a knife scene and lost vision for life. He successfully sued Van Damme after the movie was in theaters.