Cyborg Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Albert Pyun
1989, 86 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on April 24th, 2018
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Gibson Rickenbacker
Deborah Richter as Nady Simmons
Vincent Klyn as Fender Tremolo
Alex Daniels as Marshall Strat
Dayle Haddon as Pearl Prophet
Blaise Loong as Furman Vux
Rolf Muller as Brick Bardo
Haley Peterson as Haley
Terrie Batson as Mary
Every once in a while the stars align and magic becomes possible, as was the case with the pairing of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two Israeli movie producers working together to create the infamously awesome studio Cannon Films – home to countless action/ adventure pictures in the 1980s, home to legendary actors Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson, home to any aspiring filmmaker with a big idea and a lot of bang for the buck. Budgets were not always as large as the concept, but goddamnit the enthusiasm was always there from the dynamic producers. By the late ‘80s a series of financial flops had crippled the company. Director Albert Pyun (Nemesis) was originally hired to helm a sequel to the doomed Masters of the Universe, but it fell apart weeks before principal photography was scheduled to begin. A lot had been spent prepping the picture and in an attempt to recover some of the money, Pyun quickly pieced together another story, a futuristic sci-fi thriller called Cyborg. Golan and Globus loved the idea and agreed they could use existing sets, wardrobe, etc., and with minimal investment ($500,000), salvage the project. Rising martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme (Kickboxer) was brought in to star and things were quickly in motion.
In the not too distant future, the earth is decimated by a plague. A woman with the cure needs to be escorted from New York to Atlanta but is captured by a roving gang of pirates. Our reluctant hero must rescue the woman and save the day. That’s it, pure and simple. The plot of Cyborg is incredibly thin, exactly as it needs to be. Minimal plot to get us from one fight scene to the next. 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme isn’t revered for his mastery of the English language. He solves problems with his high-kicking legs and powerful fists. JCVD is perfectly paired with the material, as Albert Pyun is a stranger to subtlety. He wrote the script under the alias Kitty Chalmers (his cat) and jammed it with as much action as he could afford.
That being said, Cyborg doesn’t really move like a bullet; instead it takes its time to develop our stoic hero through a series of sensitive flashbacks. Thrilling? Not really. In the first half of the picture we get more backstory than actual Van Damage, but what can I say, he’s haunted by his past. Don’t get me wrong, there’s action every twenty minutes or so and it is goofy fun each time, but suffers from dopey late ‘80s fight choreography. Rumor has it that Pyun shot so much violent coverage that he had to trim almost fifteen minutes of material to gain an R rating. None of that survives in this theatrical version, but there was a director’s cut released on DVD a few years ago.
For the record Jean-Claude is not a cyborg and neither is the villain. Instead the titular character is merely a MacGuffin, a woman with zero special skills and roughly nine minutes of screen time. This is a goofy slice of ‘80s cheese, where the characters are named after musical instrument manufacturers (Gibson, Fender, Strat, etc.) and the hero proves himself incapable of protecting anybody. Every time he crosses paths with the villain, JCVD gets his ass handed to him – at one point he even ends up crucified. None of these setbacks can slow him down for long as he casually walks from New York to Atlanta, frequently arriving at the next location before his nemesis. When we finally get to the final confrontation, our villain practices an open-mouth screaming style of fighting, which is hysterical and infectious. Check your brain at the door and scream along with the bad guy and prepare to have a lot of dumb fun.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the original film elements have undergone a full 4K restoration and look fantastic. The earlier MGM Blu-ray looks fine, but this new edition is a nice improvement. Colors are rich and there is plenty of small-object detail throughout.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio from the previous Blu-ray release is carried over here and continues to get the job done. Music cues and bone-crunching sound effects are well-balanced and dialogue remains free from distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Michael Felsher (Red Shirt Pictures) hosts this audio commentary with Albert Pyun and prompts the director on occasion with thoughtful questions. The track is laid back and conversational with Pyun answering everything thoroughly.
A Ravaged Future (30 minutes) takes a retrospective look back at the making of the movie, featuring new interviews with Albert Pyun; actors Vincent Klyn, Deborah Richter and Terrie Batson; cinematographer Philip Alan Waters and editor Rozanne Zingale. Everybody has something nice to say about the production, some of the tales are quite amusing.
Visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr., GO-Motion technician Christopher Warren and Rotoscope artist Bret Mixon discuss their efforts to bring the futuristic thriller to life in the new featurette Shoestring Fantasy (12 minutes).
Extended interviews (64 minutes) with Albert Pyun and writer Sheldon Lettich from Mark Hartley’s documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films provide a deeper study in the world of all things Cannon. Both men have a lot to say and their anecdotes are both informative and entertaining.
The Still Gallery (5 minutes) featuring promotional stills (in color and black and white), lobby cards and poster art play s silently as a slideshow.
The original theatrical trailer is also included.
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