Cybernator (1991)

The operative word here is “cheap.”

You can tell it from the film quality (although I suppose it probably doesn’t help that the available copies all seem to be VHS rips); the cast of unknowns; the prevalence of location shooting; the plain, white rooms in so many indoors scenes; and the very fake looking weapons.

Nor are all those cyborgs all that impressive, either.  Yes, the basic design of many of them is quite effective and for the most part they don’t look too bad.  But when more is asked of the makeup team than just sticking a few extra bits on someone’s face — like a bit of melting skin, or newly exposed metal parts — they just aren’t up to the task.

And I suppose one could go on and mock a lot more of the basics here — the somewhat muddy sound, the rather rough editing, and the overwhelming preference for middle-distance shots — but I think we can all accept that Cybernator was made for far less than most of those Nineties cyborgs movies.

Yes, even the ones Albert Pyun made.

Even the plot is more or less familiar, as a cop and his partner run into deadly cyborgs who are assassinating U.S. Senators.  When the partner gets killed, the cop goes out to stop them on his own, even though he’s been ordered off the case.  But before he’s done, he makes a shocking discovery.

Oh, and his girlfriend is a stripper.

However, the story feels like a swing and a miss.  It hits all the expected points, but there should be more going on.  This is particularly true of the climax where the hero successfully dispatches most of the bad guys very quickly (even that epic final battle with Captain Hair we’ve all been expecting) only to spend a fair amount of time on the main villain’s monologue.

Hey, it’s cheaper than staging a fight.

And I suspect that the question of cost had a lot to do with the fights, which are generally fairly short and seem to get shorter as the film went on.  Maybe their budget was running low by the time they got to that big climactic battle.

But, I don’t know, there’s just something about this one.  The Cyborgs are weird and more assorted than we see in most of these films, and the bad guy’s number one henchman (a bald guy named “Captain Hair.”  You can’t make stuff like this up!) is exceptional, a very visual and striking design, with lots of hoses coming off his skull and apparently plugging in somewhere (I’m not sure they are always firmly anchored, but then he is expected to fight in all this makeup).

Yes, he gets killed off in the silly way you are picturing already.  But you’d guessed that already.

And in the middle of the film, before going back to bland, bare location scenes with even TV lighting, it suddenly lets loose with a lengthy set of sequences with wild splashes of colored light, eerie nighttime scenes and crowds of strange and mildly frightening people, including what must have been the world’s fattest belly dancer (and yes, she can actually get that midriff moving!).

Add in a generally likable hero and a girlfriend who is in it long enough to take her clothes off a few times, and you get a film which is amiably bad and mostly passable, with enough cool cyborgs to liven things up — and enough stupid things to make it entertaining.

So don’t ask to much of it, or it will shoot a few cyborgs just to keep you busy.

Mind you, it’s going to do that anyways.

But it should go down well enough with plenty of popcorn and a healthy dash of hot buttered sarcasm…

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