Enjoyably ridiculous “Manborg” finds Canadian film collective Astron-6 parodying the Reagan era’s most disposable VHS sci-fi features, just as their concurrent “Father’s Day” mocks its low-end horror product. Throwing dystopian actioners, videogames, anime and a whole lot of other 1980s cultural detritus together in one hourlong package, the pic seems an unlikely candidate for theatrical play given its 60-minute runtime. But fanboy types should have plenty of fun with it via fantasy-fest exposure and home-format release.De rigueur opening text scroll informs that some years from now, mankind has fought and lost the “Hell Wars” against the armies of Hades and their diabolical leader, Count Draculon (Adam Brooks). Seemingly killed in one of the latest skirmishes, our nameless hero wakes up transformed by Dr. Scorpius (Brooks again) into a half-man, half-machine manborg. As such, he is expected to fight in the “Terroropticon,” battling monsters alongside fellow captives, including stoic martial-arts warrior No. 1 Man (Ludwig Lee, given a particularly ludicrous dubbed voice by Kyle Hebert), inevitable tough chick Mina (Meredith Sweeney), and her perpetually pissed-off brother, Justice (Conor Sweeney, sporting an exaggerated Aussie accent in presumed honor of the “Mad Max” series). Several gladiator-type challenges and one training montage later, the protags of course set their sights on destroying the all-powerful count himself, as well as his henchpersons: the Baron (Jeremy Gillespie), a skull-faced baddie who often pauses to pitch bashful woo at Mina, and sexy dragon lady Shadow Mega (Andrea Karr). Naturally, there is a catfight. Every futuristic genre convention from approximately 25 years ago is here, from the cheesy synth score to the use of primitive miniatures, greenscreen and stop-motion-style f/x. Script also contains such inspirational nuggets as, “The power of the human spirit will never be obsolete!” “Manborg” isn’t so much a spoof of “Escape From New York,” “The Terminator,” “Tron” and the aforementioned early ’80s films as it is a salute to the worst of those pics’ myriad direct-to-video ripoffs.
An Astron-6 Video Intl. production. (International sales: Astron-6, Winnipeg.) Produced, directed, edited by Steven Kostanski. Screenplay, Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie.
Camera (color, HD), Kostanski, Adam Brooks; music, Brian Wiacek, Jeremy Gillespie; special effects makeup/animation, Kostanski; fight choreography, Ludwig Lee, Kostanski; sound, Gillespie. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Nov. 4, 2011. (In Fantastic Fest, Toronto After Dark Film Festival.) Running time: 60 MIN.
Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney, Jeremy Gillespie, Meredith Sweeney, Ludwig Lee, Andrea Karr, Mike Kostanski, Kyle Hebert.