Oy! This movie. Once I became sentient, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Courtesy of Sam the Bossman devising another “Apoc Week,” I came to review Games of Survival, and its psuedo-sequel-cum-remake, Badlanders (look for those reviews, this week) which lead to my first learning — and for my first watch — of this post-apoc’er slopper, courtesy of the acting common denominator of martial artist Michael M. Foley (also of Karate Cop and Desert Kickboxer fame).
Now, in all my years — and all of my video store memberships and cut-out and close-out VHS dumpster dives — I’ve never encountered Cybenator*. Or maybe I have and, because the covers are so awful, I passed on it? And the cover on the left is the BEST of the covers, trust me. And . . what the hell? Is that a Windows 3.1 “Wing Dings” font on the alternate cover? At least the he-ain’t-Plughead-from-Circuitry Man Blue Man Group guy with the head hoses and light saber-gun is giving me something to strive for . . . but friggin’ DOS-based “Dingbat” fonts?
Oh, by the Kobol Lords, this is going to rock!
Okay, so . . . Cybernator is the type of film where it strives to be a cross between James Cameron’s The Terminator and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner on a Grandma’s and Auntie’s birthday money budget — where Los Angeles in the far-flung year of our SOV 2010 looks a lot like our Los Angeles in the year of our present-day, late 1980s (when this epic was shot; and probably not on video and actually on film, but it sure do looks like an ’80s SOV’er, Jethro).
And soak up that “effects” shot of the big city, because once we get down into those mean streets of L.A., we get a whole lot of red brick buildings and ’80-era Japanese motor vehicle imports. Which begs the question: If you can’t effectively set design your film to look like it’s nineteen years in the future, why not just set your film in the present day? At least the absolutely WORST of the The Terminator-cum-Robocop knockoffs — yes, it is WORSE than Cybernator — 1987’s R.O.T.O.R, had the good common sense to keep it in real time.
As with my argument concerning David A. Prior’s exploits of John Tucker in Future Force and Future Zone: Cybernator is a whole lot of “futuristic” Jeep Cherokees on the apoc-prowl. For if you’re going to set up a 2010-futureverse, rent out the repurposed Death Race 2000 Calamity Jane from Claudio Fragasso used in Interzone or Scorpion’s bubble-topped Camaro from Enzo G. Castellari’s Warriors of the Wasteland. Hit up Charles Band and rent out some of the props from Trancers, and his not-Mad Max-or-Star Wars romps Spacehunter and Metalstorm, from the Full Moon backlot.
Heck, even Band’s future cop romp repurposed the Spinner from Bladerunner, which was also repurposed in Solar Crisis (1990) and Soldier (1998). Call Universal and borrow a DeLorean. Call Cinema Vehicles or Paramount Picture Cars, for there’s bound to be “futuristic” rides on their lots. Even Don Coscarelli knew to call up 20th Century Fox to rent out their lot of tombstones to create Morningside Cemetery in a park. What’s with all of these four-door sedans and Hondas and Toyotas and panel vans? What’s the deal with my Aunt Martha’s 1950’s era apartment furnishings? If there was a cemetery in Cybernator, would it be of the grey-painted plywood grave markers variety? Ed called and he wants his wood back.
But alas, I am asking too much from a movie with gouache-on-hot press board matte paintings and Windows DOS 3.1 poster fonts. But at least the he-ain’t-Plughead-from-Circuitry Man Blue Man Group guy with the head hoses and light saber-gun is giving me something to strive for. . . .
Okay, so between the voiceovers, expositional babble, and newscasts — and video box copywriters — we’re in a world where the economy collapsed, the government has fallen, and riots and violence run rampant across the good ol’ U.S.A. But don’t worry, the bastardly Colonel Peck (ubiquitous screen heavy William Smith doin’ the Eric Roberts put-a-name-on-the-box role) has dispatched his military-trained cyborg assassination squads to kill off all the terrorists and scumbag politicians and corrupt military officials that have ruined America. QAnon! Trump! March 2021! Viva America! Ack! Kamala Harris is a cyborg plant! Governor Coumo’s master plan is to turn Manhattan Island into a prison to dump the enemies of Nancy Pelosi! (And, in that short sentence, I just plotted a better movie than Cybernator.)
Anyway, one of the borg’s targets is Senator Overstreet — and his (overweight) collateral damage stripper girlfriend (warning: there’s a lot of gratuitous strippers and long-lingering stripping in this movie, so there’s that). Another borgie target is the tech guru who dreamed up the “Blackhawk” project that unleashed the cyborg assassination squads on the citizenry.
Oh, there’s more. . . .
So, Detective Brent McCord and his partner Jim Weaver are the kind of cops who like to kick back at the local flesh repository for some all-you-can-eat wings and lap dances — oh, right: Blue the Stripper is McCord’s girlfriend . . . and McCord is a “racist” that hates cyborgs (#cyborglivesmatter) — then find themselves in the middle of a Spirit Halloween-dressed cyborg shoot-em up that leads to them — and not the cyborgs — blamed for the murders of our corrupt Senator and the Project: Blackhawk guy.
So, who’s the “Cybernator,” already? The Blue Man Group hosey-head guy? (Played pretty well by Michael M. Foley in pretty decent, budget-effective make up by Steve Patino — yes, the same guy who did the Silver Sphere’s in Phantasm II, as well as Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond, Re-Animator and the first Predator.) Oh, is it William Smith’s Colonel Peck! Is the big plot twist that he’s a cyborg? (And back to the cars? You had Steve Patino on set; he could have come up with something better than a Vespa and a Toyota two-door.)
Well, yeah, Peck is a cyborg. But it also turns out, during the course of his rogue investigation — yeah, our “bad ass” McCord quit the force — McCord discovers, like Rick Dekkard before him (I know . . . I know), that he, himself, is a cyborg . . . cop who’s now forced into destroying the cyborgs — and confronting his ol’ pop, Colonel Peck. Or are they brothers? And does McCord come to grips with his technocratic racism? Is Blue, his stripper squeeze, a cyborg, too? Does Earth become part of the Solar Federation?
Hey, we don’t “plot spoil” here at B&S About Movies. You’ll have to watch.
Wait . . . does Voivod perform “Technocratic Manipulators” as the stripper bar’s band? Does the jukebox play “Cygnus X-1” by Rush? Is “Where’s Harrison Ford?” by alt-metallers Altered State on the soundtrack? Nope, because McCord ain’t no Harrison Ford and this ain’t Blade Runner.
See? And you thought this movie was going to suck apoc ass steaks in between all the strippers, cheezy after-effects lasers, long-winding staircase chases, and squishy-scowling face emoting. Oh, and don’t forget the cyborg Samurai . . . or Samuraborg . . . Cyberai . . . or whatever it is. You will watch. For as the black hole of Cygnus X-1, the Cybernator will suck you in.
As it turns out, this was writer-director Robert Rundle’s debut feature film, so ye streamer, cut him a generous amount of slack, okay? For his next movie, The Divine Enforcer (1992), he secured the dual services of Jan-Michael Vincent, Erik Estrada, and blaxploitation vet Jim Brown — and it was written by Randall Frakes of Hell Comes to Frogtown and Roller Blade Warriors fame — so there’s that B-Movie enticement. Then there’s Vampire Hunter (1994) with B-Movie screamer, Linnea Quigley, Run Like Hell (1995) with Robert “Maniac Cop” Z’Dar, and the return of William Smith in Raw Energy (1995). He hasn’t made a film since 2005 and, according to the IMDb, Rundle had a website, but it’s lost in the 404 error-verse.
Lonnie Schuyler, who stars as Brent McCord, actually did alright for himself from such humble, first-movie beginnings by booking a three-year recurring role on FOX-TV’s Models, Inc. and Melrose Place. He later produced, wrote, and directed his own acting showcase with the comedy Bottom Feeders (1997), and is still in the low-budget indie business. Some of the retro-reviews of Schuyler’s work — his debut, mind you — aren’t kind, but hey, the dude is trying and certainly better at the thespin’ game than Richard Gesswein in R.O.T.O.R.
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed Dr. Coldyron drink a big ol’ cup o’ joe and yank out a tree stump, so guess what I am doin’ later today: watchin’ R.O.T.O.R. And I’ll watch Lonnie Schulyer’s McCord-inator before I watch crazy ol’ Trump-obsessed Mark Hamill in The Guvyer and Time Runner or Slipstream again, because, well, those movies aren’t as fun as Cybernator and Hammy the Ham ain’t no Harrison Ford, either.
You can watch Cybernator in all of its VHS-ripped glory on You Tube. Maybe, one day, Mill Creek Entertainment will come up with an “Apocalypse” or “Android Invasion” box set and put this out on a DVD. Tinkers to Evers to Chance, Mill Creek, for Cybernator must be preserved for all hard-digital eternity. What the hell . . . this is out as a standalone DVD and a DVD two-fer with the Phillppines-shot Aliens ripoff Hyperspace?
Oh, by the Kobol Lords, my home movie library is complete . . . even if this ain’t Blade Runner.
* Cybernator: The Movie is not be be confused with the 1992 Super Nintendo mecha-game Cybernator. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Those offended by off-color political parodies required to “chicken salad” the review of a chicken shit movie, need not apply. Cyber Samurai Warrior action figures sold separately. Copyright, 2021, B&S About Movies, Inc., P.O Box 0 Boston, Mass., 02134. Sent it to ZOOM!
Look for my reviews of Circuitry Man, and my Future Zone/Future Force two-fer, this week, as we continue our latest “Apoc Week” tribute.