R.O.T.O.R. (1987)

(aka, Blue Steel)

You know you are in trouble when a movie starts with almost fifteen minutes of:  narration; the hero’s wordless daily routine; a dancing robot; and a board (i.e., “bored”) meeting; and random people in a car arguing, with just a quick break for the hero getting arrested and starting to explain his story in flashback.

By now, I’m sure you have guessed that I’ve seen my share of movies that were padded out to make a more commercial length (in case you are wondering, it is a terrible idea!), but I have never seen a movie where a good ten minutes or more of padding get dumped in the first quarter hour!

Things do not necessarily get any better from there, either, even if that dull quarter hour is followed by one of the best things in the film:  a sequence showing off the R.O.T.O.R. android’s metal skeleton, which appears to be a stop motion model, although it is probably more likely that it is a puppet.  Certainly, we see too much of it, and probably the same snippets repeated over and over.

However, the effect is spoiled by the horse-riding western-type tough guy scientist explaining just how this thing moves without motors or cables.  One gets the impression it involves some sort of special metal that moves on its own, but if you’re looking for more of an explanation it just sort of bogs down along the way, under the weight of of a lot of meaningless verbiage.

You see, we expect the future to be far more violent than things are now, so we’ll need a new type of cop, the kind who decides who’s guilty and, well, shoots them.  Naturally, this is a job best done by a robot without higher brain functions.  In fact, R.O.T.O.R. comes with his own nifty slogan, which is actually painted on his custom black robotcop motorcycle, “To Judge And Execute.”

Or, in other words, Judge Dredd meets The Terminator, by way of Robocop.

Naturally, someone switches it on and it goes on a killing rampage and the hero has to track it down and destroy it, with the help of a fellow scientist whom, even though she helped create the robot and he admires her mathematical skills, he’s never met.  She proves to be built like a lady truck driver, or maybe a Mixed Martial Arts fighter — and was apparently played by a real-life bodybuilder.  However, despite her awesome intellect, she makes it clear that she knows she’s supposed to be the muscle in this team.

There are a lot of ways to tell you are watching a super cheap movie:  one of the tricks used by Indie films is to have a lot of characters who do not appear in scenes with most of the other characters.  You can see that here, where we keep running into new characters who get a scene or two and then vanish – or some who never seem to appear with any of the main cast (like Shoeboogie the janitor).  However, the real giveaway comes in the cast list, when we learn that the main characters all had their voices dubbed by someone else!  Now, either they messed up the audio, or shot this thing without sound, or the cast was so awful that the director decided their voices were unusable.

Hmmm…I’m betting on all three.

The best part of the film is Willard the robot, a goofy worry-wart who just happens to be a robot — a rather simple and toy-like one at that — and  who is also the number three “man” at the research lab.  Johnny Five never had to worry about becoming the new boss if the new guy in charge (after our cowboy scientist hero quits) louses up on the job.

Not that Willard really fits in with the rest of the film.  But at least he gets a dance number.

The only real surprise here is that MST3K never did a parody of this one.  Their Riff Trax successor did, but that isn’t quite the same thing.

Oh, well, it’s dumb and bad, and even its redeeming moments aren’t that great.  If you’re into bad movies, this might be right up your alley.  Otherwise, proceed at your own risk.

And you definitely do not want to speed…

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