Sunday, April 1, 2018

CYBORG (1989) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

CYBORG (1989) 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Albert Pyun
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn, Dayle Haddon, Alex Daniels

80's sci-fi actioner Cyborg (1989) is set in an apocalyptic future where a plague has decimated the population of the world - society has seemingly broken down and devolved into a barbaric Mad Max/Escape from New York styled nightmare of violent gangs who inhabit burned-out cities, it's a pretty standard post-apocalyptic 80s scenario. The film opens with lady-cyborg Pearl (Dayle Haddon, Spermula) and her protector Marshal (Alex Daniels) in New York City where they have been sent on a mission to acquire  important information that could leads to a potential cure for the plague. After they've acquired that info they're pursued by a violent gang lead by the hulking villain Fender (Vincent Klyn, Point Break) who wants to have sole control over the cure, which will allow him to maintain his corrupt power in this new dark world. 

Marshall dies defending Pearl who continues on her own, on the run through the city she encounters a mercenary, also knows as a "slinger", named Gibson (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Black Eagle) who attempts to intervene and save her but is knocked unconscious during the fight. After regaining consciousness he gives chase and tracks Fender and his thugs to a port town where they've slaughtered the local inhabitants to gain access to boat, enabling them to travel to Atlanta with Pearl as a captive via water route. Gibson follows along on land with a tag-along, the sole survivor of the port massacre, a young woman named Nady (Deborah Richter, Midnight Madness) who is fueled by her desire to save the world, while Gibson sole motivation is to kill Fender, with whom he shares a past. This connection is told through flashback to an earlier time when Gibson temporarily gave up the mercenary lifestyle to be a family man, an idyllic life cut short by the arrival of Fender and his crew, the flashbacks are pretty decent but the highlight is that awful wig Van Damme is wearing in the flashbacks, whoa, I couldn't look away.

As I was never one to indulge in 80's marital arts/action films aside from the occasional Schwarzenegger blockbuster this is one that passed me by for a good long while till I watched it today, and I was a bit surprised how entertaining it was, it's a Cannon Films production so it's loaded with big 80's action and all the cheesy accouterments you'd expect, plus the big screen martial arts of Van Damme who crams in a few patented high kicks and acrobatic splits in addition to wielding knives, swords and a funny looking multi-barreled rifle. The opening apocalyptic scenes are well done, we open with a nice matte painting of the Brooklyn bridge in ruins, but this was obviously done on a shoestring budget so after the initial shock and awe the post-apocalyptic production values away to a degree, the sets are mostly sparse dilapidated buildings but Pyun fills the screen fun action, stilted anti-hero dialogue, villainous one-liners, and the cheap sets are made more palatable by cinematographer Philip Alan Waters (Albert Pyun's Captain America) attractive lending a atmospheric lighting, these guys really stretched the dollar on this one.

Star Van Damme is quite a presence, a man of action with few words, laying down the pain with all due badassery, but it's the villain who steals the show, played by the hulking 80's pro-surfer Vincent Klyn the bad guy Fender is decked out in in some leftover Masters of the Universe sequel costuming, including armored wrist gauntlets, a chain-mail shirt over his buff physique, and ridiculous sunglasses, that would give any Pro-Bass shop aficionado shade envy. On top of that he has apocalypse-dreads and a deep demonic voice that delivers the best sort of stilted 80's action/apocalypse dialogue. During the opening voice-over narration he growls "I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!", well that's just fun stuff. 

The story has it's share of problem, but the action is great and the pace is relentless, we have several encounters between Gibson and Fender in various locations, with Van Damme's character capably taking out most of the lesser-tier gang but getting bested by Fender quite handily at one point, resulting in him being crucified onto the mast of a derelict boat, which is easily one of the best scenes in the movie. Other highlights include a memorable sequence down in the sewers where Van Damme does one of his iconic leg-splits and the final Gibson versus Fender battle at the end is pretty damn great.

Audio/Video: The theatrical cut of Cyborg (1989) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new 2K scan of the interpositive, framed in 1.85:1 widescreen it looks mighty impresive. The grain is well-managed, colors are vibrant and the image has a nice clarity. The black levels are deep and there's a fair around of fine detail in the close-ups, very impressive. The lone audio options is an English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that exports the tough-guy dialogue well, including a wonderfully cheesy 80's synth-score from Kevin Bassinson (Chains), optional English subtitles are included. 

In lieu of the director's cut we get a nice array of bonus features, beginning with a brand new audio commentary from director Albert Pyun moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, Pyun discusses how the film came about after a failed Masters of the Universe sequel and a Spider-Man movie that Cannon films ended up cancelling due to money/licensing issues, but they ended up using the prep work, art direction and some sets created for those two films as the foundation for Cyborg. Also discussed is the initial  screening for Cannon Films where he presented a black and white dupe of the film with a heavy blazing metal soundtrack that did not go well, and lead to Yorma Globus throwing a stapler at him! A subsequent color screening for a test audience also performed poorly which lead to Van Damme demanding that he get to re-edit the film, which did happen. It's a very interesting commentary with good moderation from Felsher who keeps the conversation on track and interesting all the way through as usual.  

More new stuff comes by way of a new making of doc with interviews with writer/director Albert Pyun, actors Vincent Klyn (who played villain Fender) , Deborah Richter (who played Nady) and Terrie Batson (who played Mary), director of photography Philip Alan Waters and editor Rozanne Zingale. The cast and crew recall making the film and working with Pyun, what it was like working with Van Damme, with Pyun covering a lot of the same ground he covered in the commentary track, Terrie Batson also mentions how disappointed she was that they dubbed over her dialogue without telling her, only discovering t when she attended a screening

Visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr., Go-Motion technician Christopher Warren and rotoscope artist Bret Mixon show up for a 12-minute discussion of achieving the various special effects including the still cool-looking cyborg stop-motion special effects, going into detail how those scenes were achieved using make-up and stop-motion, in addition to the various matte paintings and blending live-action into those, also recycling certain elements from their work on Terminator for this film. 

A nice bonus is that Scream Factory also incorporate over and hour's worth of extended interviews with writer/director Albert Pyun and Sheldon Lettich from Mark Hartley’s doc Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films which covers a lot of ground, not just about this film but of Cannon Films, painting an image of the film lovers Golan and Globus, guys who just wanted to make films - a lot of films - and how it all fell apart in very candid and finger-pointing ways, it's great stuff, and again there's a lot of the same info covered on the commentary and the making-of featurette. Writer Sheldon Lettich describes how a then unknown Van Damme boldly introduced himself to Menahem_Golan at a film market event, eventually travelling to L.A. and glimpsing Menahem_outside a Mexican eatery, stopping him on the street and performing a karate-kick over his head which apparently impressing him to the point that he signed him up for Bloodsport almost on the spot! It's a great interview, going into detail about how Van Damme re-edited the film which was deemed a failure after a disastrous screening, the film was marked for a direct-to-video release until the re-edit, you have to remember that at the time DTV was a death-kiss for a film, it wasn't the successful  distribution model the way it is today with VOD and Netflix, back in the day movies lived and died on the theatrical-vine. The disc is finished-up with a trailer and gallery. 

Scream Factory have done good work not just giving us a great looking A/V presentation, but offering up nearly two hours worth of interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff that add some depth to the viewing experience, all of which I found fascinating, which surprised me as I'm just not a big Vaction junkie. The history of the making of this film from a failed Masters of the Universe sequel/Cannon produced Spider-Man film to a troubled post-production history is just interesting. If I had my druthers we would have got Pyun's cut of the film, some deleted scenes, and more info the on-set injury that took the eye of actor Jackson 'Rock' Pinckney which resulted in a successful claim against Van Damme in court, plus an interview with Van Damme himself, but the big guy doesn't seem overly concerned with hyping his early filmography unless you back up a truck full of cash to his doorstep, which is too bad.  

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring a new illustration from The CRP Group on the a-side, the b-side is the original move poster. There's also a limited edition slipcover (0-card) featuring the new illustration, the disc itself featuring an excerpt of the same artwork.   

Special Features:
- NEW 2K scan from the original film elements
- NEW  Audio Commentary with writer/director Albert Pyun
- NEW A Ravaged Future – The Making of CYBORG  - featuring interviews with writer/director Albert Pyun, actors Vincent Klyn, Deborah Richter and Terrie Batson, director of photography Philip Alan Waters and editor Rozanne Zingale (30 min) HD
- NEW Shoestring Fantasy - The Effects of CYBORG – featuring interviews with visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr., Go-Motion technician Christopher Warren and rotoscope artist Bret Mixon (12 min) HD
- Extended interviews from Mark Hartley’s documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS with writer/director Albert Pyun and Sheldon Lettich (64 min) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD
- Still Gallery (5 min) HD 

Cyborg (1989) is way more of an apocalypse film than a martial arts movie, which was just fine by me, I love me some apocalypse cheese and this sucker is oozing it like an overstuffed quesadilla, super-tasty 80's apocalypse cheese, that's the best kind! The Blu-ray from Scream Factory looks and sounds great, they've packed-in some informative extras, and the whole shebang was fun from start to finish, fun stuff, if you love 80's action cheese/apocalypse films this is a high recommend.


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