When a film comes our way and one of the first pieces of information we hear regarding said film is that its budget was a measly $1000, yet it still made London Sci-Fi Festival and
is getting some pretty rave reviews…we’re pretty much there, popcorn ready. Manborg, the latest cult extravaganza from retro-style production company Astron-6, is the outcome of three long years of scraping through dumpsters, crafting totally low-end effects, and the amalgamation of numerous 70’s and 80’s Sci-Fi B-movie exploitation films with ridiculous names and cool covers.
Nazi demons, led by the evil count Draculon, spill out of Hell to conquer the Earth and, after losing his brother to the forces of darkness, an unnamed warrior is decimated by the Count and left amidst the bodies of the crushed rebellion. A mysterious figure puts the unnamed warrior back together, merging his crushed form with powerful cybernetic equipment to create Manborg- Cyborg of Destruction. The one man army then rages a war against Draculon and his nefarious minions with the future of Earth in the balance.
What we have here is a fantasy Robocop throwback with a microscopic budget, yet it actually benefits from being stripped back to basics. The Harryhausen cybernetic monsters, an 80’s synth-led soundtrack reminiscent of Terminator and Carpenter films, the bizarre costumes, cheesy dialogue and OTT gore, are all welcome components of a nostalgia trip to weird 80’s sci-fi action films. There are moments where you’ll wonder just how the hell the film got entertained for release or even production, but charm alone carves a hefty path through cynicism, never-mind great entertainment value. Everyone involved is in-on exactly what type of film is being made, nobody takes themselves too seriously, and the obviously cheesy/ludicrous characterization is a hoot.
It would probably be pedantic to complain about the childish sense of humour when the context of the film is considered; any film willing to rerecord a character’s voice to give him a badly dubbed macho tone, or have a zombie-demon-Nazi-doctor fall for the punky girl held captive in his fortress, deserves some slack. However there are some overly out-there moments that sometimes drag the film into being plain bad, when overall it seems pretty mindful of its retro arcade game/ 80’s cheese-fest inspirations.
Fight scenes actually work really well and the film can boast a fairly non-stop pacing that allows its running time of an hour to remain favourable from apocalyptic start to bloody finish. There’s a topless karate expert, a gun slinging nutter and his gorgeous sister, an adventure to save the planet, some great old-fashioned effects, and gory fight sequences all wrapped up in a keen video game aesthetic that only adds to the nerdy allure of the film. On that note, Manborg would make a pretty interesting video game.
Imagine an action-packed, particularly gory, trashy episode of Red Dwarf with cheesier scripting, all filmed by 80s fight-game fans. If you’re game for silly retro fun and old school outlandish characters then Manborg is a must-see, otherwise, steer clear of this wholly silly affair.
Director: Steven Kostanski
Stars: Mathew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Meredith Sweeney, Conor Sweeney,