Hands of Steel [Vendetta dal futuro] (1986)

(aka, Atomic Cyborg)

Italian SF films have a certain reputation that most of them seem to have gone out of their way to earn.

For every great Spaghetti SF film (assuming there are any others than Planet of Vampires) and every totally bonkers what-the-hell-were-they-thinking treasure, and every modestly accomplished film, there must be several dozen truly awful films.  Or maybe it just seems that way.

Hands of Steel falls somewhere in that third category.  It is yet another entry in what was one of the most popular subgenres of super cheap SF – the killer android who isn’t actually called a terminator.  Well, not in most of them, at least.

And the plot is moderately familiar as well.  An android killer is sent to assassinate a major political figure, but pulls his punch (literally) at the last minute and tries to escape both the police and his creators.

This one has received a fair amount of praise from some reviewers, and at first glance it’s hard to see why.  The dialogue has obviously been relooped for many of the actors (a lot of these films were made with the actors speaking terrible English, with new voices dubbed over them in post) and its future is one of the more threadbare:  for some reason, in the future, they’ll put foil dryer vents all over the place, even on the cars.

But, despite these flaws, it’s like eating potato chips:  it’s hard to stop once you get started.

Perhaps the most curious element here is that it abruptly turns into a redneck arm wrestling movie – with one match throwing in rattlesnakes just to make it interesting.  One might suspect they were “borrowing” from Stallone’s arm wrestling movie, Over the Top, if it weren’t for the awkward fact that this one came out a year earlier.

But before long it returns to the expected shoot ’em up ending, complete with little rockets and a laser.

It’s worth noting that George Eastman brings a decidedly welcome manic edge to (yet another) psychotic local who sides with the (other) bad guys, a character almost identical to that he plays in Mario Bava’s criminally underrated Rabid Dogs – or, come to think of it, almost every cheap Italian film I’ve seen him in.  The usually reliable John Saxon, however, phones in his performance (which was actually shot in another country!).

All in all, it is entertaining, but not a classic.  Nor is it a great SF film.

It’s just better than it’s supposed to be.


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