Dead or alive, you're listening to this PodCast! JAL and Ryan stay out of trouble and talk a 1980's sci-fi action drama satire that's way the hell better than it should be. We look at the movie that may have had way more about to say about our present day back in 1987 than near any other sci-fi of the last 50 years. Join us as talk what we love about a movie about a guy we call "Robo".
Director: Richard Franklin
So, I was scanning the sale items on the Kino Lorber page and was like "Kim Cattrall in a spy movie?" so I read the description and was like "Kim Cattrall as a CYBORG in a spy movie?" And promptly hit "buy".*
I think this was intended to be a pilot for a very 1990's TV show, probably in syndication. What's weird about it is that all the pieces are there for what could have been a serviceable stand-alone movie. In 1993, stars Kim Cattrall and Billy Zane weren't huge stars, but I knew who they were. The director, Richard Franklin, had handled a couple of mid to low-cost films I'd similarly seen - FX/2 and Cloak and Dagger. This came out in the wake of La Femme Nikita and multiple RoboCop films. Instead, it's a reminder of what telefilm and a lot of television looked at during a certain window, and that sci-fi was not always well-served by this sort of production.
Cattrall plays Delilah, an undercover agent for a US law-enforcement agency (I never caught who), , collecting evidence against a Greek arms dealer (who seems to really want to see her eat Greek food for some reason). Her handler, who is "running" her, is played by Billy Zane. And the two spend about 7x more time talking about the fact they aren't going to bonetown than they do the case at hand.
Delilah is found out and the baddies take a flying attempt at killing her with lots of bullets. Zane retrieves the almost-dead agent, and because he loves her (but phrases it as wanting to go to bonetown, because 90's), does as you do and brings her to a French cybernetics guy who happens to work in his building. There's a bit where she, of course, believes she's a monster. Remarkably, she gets over it really fast when she finds out she's now the Bionic Woman and can do all kinds of things within budget. This is one chipper cyborg!
Viewing: God. Too many.
For longtime readers of the League of Melbotis and Signal Watch blogs, you will know that the 1987 sci-fi opus, R.O.T.O.R., holds a special place in my heart. I first stumbled across the movie on late-night basic cable, and every few years I revisit the film, and, like any fine piece of art, find new things to appreciate and enjoy.
This Christmas Eve, Doug and I chose to punish ourselves by re-watching this movie, but this viewing was enhanced with the power of RiffTrax, some of the same fine fellows who you may know from their work on Mystery Science Theater 3000. And, I am, of course delighted to have the help as I'm watching the movie.
Look, I love a movie that leads to more questions than answers as the thing plugs along, and that's ROTOR in a nutshell. The movie is a phenomenal collection of odd-ball movie cliches, dialog tics, generic Texas racism, inevitable dashes of pretension, unexplored but tedious romance, and 1980's non-union talent. The plotting/ pacing is wild, and an amazingly inept filmmaking on a budget. That the movie was finished seems like an act of sheer will and a sort of bright-eyed Hollywood dream backed by nothing but wantin'-to-put-on-a-show that can make for some of the brightest spots in movie-dom.
RoboCop managed to spawn a *lot* of bad knock-offs. It's not actually clear this was one of them as both films came out in 1987. But who knows? There was just something magical in the air of Dallas, where both were shot!, that produced futuristic policing cyborg movies, I guess.
Monday 7/17 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of RoboCop. It's no secret that we here at The Signal Watch are fans of the 1987 sci-fi cyborg opus, and, so, over the weekend, we watched the movie for 476th time.
The first time we caught RoboCop, it was at a one-screen, old-fashioned movie house in Ishpeming, Michigan, when we were on our annual visit to see the grandparents in the summer of 1987, and - for whatever reason - my mom decided we needed to not spend another evening pounding soda in my grandparent's living room, and, instead, pound soda out of the house.
We alerted my mom to the idea that the movie was Rated-R, but the KareBear and Admiral were fairly liberal about this sort of thing, and in the era of Arnie, if my dad wanted to watch the latest Rated-R action releases, he was watching them with us, so we were getting pretty well desensitized to violence in movies, is what I guess I'm accidentally saying.*
We all have actors we may not seek out, necessarily, but it's a huge bonus when they show up in anything. Indeed, they make whatever they appear in at least five times better.
Since my mom dropped me off (way too young) to go see RoboCop, I've been a fan of actor Miguel Ferrer. I didn't know his actual name until college, he was "that guy from RoboCop, yeah, Bob Morton", but in the years since, and since Jamie has been around since college, she's heard the phrase "oh, hell, yeah. Miguel Ferrer" on innumerable occasions whenever I realize he is in a movie we're considering watching or his name pops up in the credits.
Fortunately for me, far as I know, Jamie shares my appreciation for Miguel Ferrer.
His mother and father (Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer) were extraordinarily famous in their era, and not too many children of power couples manage to reach the levels of success Miguel Ferrer achieved. Or, you know, the place in the hearts of cinephiles and genre-geeks.
I straight up think he's a terrific actor, and while he wasn't often the leading man, he was a force on screen. I can only imagine what he was like in life.
Sometimes between viewings of RoboCop (1987) I think to myself, "Self, maybe you talk too much about RoboCop. Maybe you should stop pestering people with RoboCop and maybe take a step back and realize that maybe all RoboCop really is is a mid-80's studio sci-fi action flick that may be pretty good, but it's not really as good as you tend to think."
And then I watch RoboCop again, and I say to myself, "Self, that was stupid and you should stop questioning RoboCop. That movie is the absolute best."
Also, it completely and totally accurately predicted the future. So if you ever need to know what I think the world looks like through my beady little eyes... RoboCop.