One of those ongoing film arguments is who is the real author of a film. Thanks to the Auteur theory, we tend to ignore everyone but the Director, although there has been a tendency lately to pay more attention to the writers.
But what about the producers, who often have more to do with shaping a film than we realize?
Which brings us to Brian Yuzna.
We tend to credit Stuart Gordon with Reanimator, although it was a project that Yuzna started with another director, and to which he had considerable creative input. Considering the way in which Gordon’s career slowly slid into nothingness after those early successes with Brian, you have to wonder how much they’d depended on Yuzna’s help.
So here we have another film Brian produced around the same time he and Stuart were working together, this time with two of his long-time special effects creators, Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang, directing.
This is an adaptation of a popular Japanese Manga, with a hero in an alien bio-armor suit fighting alien created mutant monsters called Zoanoids. It is more or less a superhero sort of movie, but it feels a lot more like an extended episode of the Power Rangers — or at least, it would, if it weren’t for all the gore and the often disgusting transformation scenes.
And I have to admit that I find myself comparing it more to Reanimator that to anything Saban made. It comes as a bit of as shock, after seeing some of the sillier monster-in-a-suit fights before seeing the whole film, just how disgusting the first transformation into the Guyver proves to be.
And a lot of the other transformations (which are plentiful, as the Zoanoids normally go around in human disguise) are equally gruesome.
But that doesn’t change the fact the the Zoanoid suits are all Power Ranger silly.
Now, Mark Hamill gets top billing, as he did in a lot of these Nineties films in which he plays a secondary role. He actually gets a a fair amount of screen time, as that familiar trope the rebellious cop (okay, an FBI agent, but close enough) who is at odds with his bosses. While he looks appropriately battered, in rather casual clothes, it is rather hard to buy him as a Fed as we tend to think of them as better dressed.
Good Times‘ Jimmy Walker plays a goofy Hip Hop monster, who doesn’t actually ever say “Din-O-Mite,” but would only be marginally sillier if he did. Unfortunately, he just isn’t as funny as they think he is.
Two of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna’s frequent collaborators show up, Jeffrey Combs playing an eccentric scientist named Dr. East (Not West, get it? West, like in Herbert West, you know, like in Reanimator… Oh, never mind, it really isn’t that funny), although he doesn’t get much screen time, and David Gale who gets to go gleefully over the top as the Zoanoid leader, leaving very little scenery unchewed.
Although he doesn’t end up as a severed head this time.
I have to note one really weird thing about this one, this rather extravagant lighting bolt screen wipe that gets used several times. It reminds me of the sort of thing they used in a Thirties movie where they would wipe the screen with a star or other geometric shape, although this gimmick really calls attention to itself — more than the old ones did, that is — as it is always accompanied by dramatic knife chords.
Strange. But they did edit it out of the VHS version.
One scene seems particularly noteworthy, when Jimmy Walker’s Zoanoid vaults a wall in his hideous real form, and finds himself in the middle of an unexpected situation, with a quick cameo by Scream Queen Linnea Quigley.
I’ll admit that I enjoyed this one, although it definitely leans towards a guilty pleasure. However, it never really achieves that elevated height of inspired silliness. But it has its moments, if you accept that you just can’t take it seriously.
Fans of the manga won’t be happy, but then, you probably already figured that out. We don’t get the existential dread of the hero worrying about losing his humanity to the suit — not even after a particularly gruesome moment following his first defeat.
But, hey, this is bad movie night gold.
And it has Mark Hamill.
Even if the poster lies and he isn’t the guy in the suit.
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