Karate-Robo Zaborgar

A frenetic, faux-hysterical parody of '50s space movies, Troma films, Ed Wood pics, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "Doctor Who," "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" and the Three Stooges.

Everything but the cyborg kitchen sink finds its way into “Karate-Robo Zaborgar,” a frenetic, faux-hysterical parody of ’50s space movies, Troma films, Ed Wood pics, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” “Doctor Who,” “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” and the Three Stooges. In its exuberance, it even sends up sendups. Japanese genre helmer Noburo Iguchi progresses here from his previous outings (“Machine Girl,” “Robogeisha”) but maintains their overly exhilarated tempo, which, along with a hot pot of B-movie references and an esteem for cultural effluvia, should hit a comic sweet spot among genre auds.

Judging by the off-white raincoats and quasi-military haircuts, “Karate-Robo Zaborgar” opens in the “Godzilla”-era 1950s, albeit with a DNA-based plotline: The Japanese Diet is under siege, the population is in a panic, and the attack is being led by the flying head of Miss Borg (Mami Yamasaki), a wicked temptress under the control of the evil organization Sigma. Intent on stealing the DNA of Japanese politicians to build a doomsday machine (“Jumbo Mecha!”), the nefarious Sigma is imposing a reign of terror over Japan, incurring the wrath of secret police officer Yutaka Daimon (Yasuhisa Furuhara) and his partner in crime-fighting, Zaborgar, a warrior robot equipped with an array of super weapons, expertise in karate and the power to transform into a motorcycle.

Zaborgar, likely the best transformer of the year, positions himself to help Daimon avenge the Sigma-ordered murder of his scientist father.

The convoluted plotline serves mainly as a pretext for puns, slapstick, outrages of various varieties (an “acid-spewing diarrhea” robot being just one example) and an overcaffeinated rhythm. But Iguchi also throws a few structural curveballs: Damon and Miss Borg eventually fall in love, and the end-of-the-world story rides off the rails. Flashing forward 25 years, we find a down-and-out Daimon working as a chauffeur for the bad guys, whose Jumbo Mecha is nearing completion. As Sigma prepares to leash its ultimate weapon, Daimon has to come out of retirement, at which point “Karate-Robo Zaborgar” goes completely bonkers, its central device being a giant woman gazing vacantly over Tokyo while rockets shoot out of her bra.

In its reverence and fealty to Bruce Lee movies, “Batman” and Troma’s “Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD,” “Karate-Robo Zaborgar” strives for an aesthetic both cheesy and sublime, or sublimely cheesy. This it mostly accomplishes, via the f/x work of Yoshihiro Nishimura and Tsuyoshi Kazuno, and some terrific editing by Takeshi Wada.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar


  • Production: A Sushi Typhoon presentation in association with Star Child and Nikkatsu. (International sales: Nikkatsu, Tokyo.) Produced by Shinichi Ikeda, Yoshinori Chiba. Executive producer, Toshimichi Ootsuki. Directed, written by Noboru Iguchi.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Yasutaka Nagano; editor, Takeshi Wada; music, Shunsuke Kikuchi; music supervisor, Yasuhiko Fukuda; production designer, Nori Fukuda; sound, Yasushi Eguchi; re-recording mixer, Noriyoshi Yoshida; character designer, special molding and makeup, Yoshihiro Nishimura; visual effects supervisor, Tsuyoshi Kazuno; line producer, Ryo Uchiyama; associate producers, Nobuyo Nomura, Hiroyuki Yamada. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (The Beyond), June 21, 2011. (Also in Rotterdam, Seattle, Fantasia film festivals.) Running time: 101 MIN.
  • With: With: Yasuhisa Furuhara, Mami Yamasaki, Itsuji Itao, Yuya Miyashita, Houka Kinoshita.