Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about. Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Genre: Gonzo Action
Tagline: Mandroid. Mercenary. Scientist. Ninja. Each one a specialist. Together they are EMIMINATORS!
Released by: Playhouse Video
Director: Peter Manoogian
Plot: The evil scientist Dr. Abbott Reeves has created a time machine with the intention of returning back to ancient Rome where he will rule all with an arsenal of advanced weaponry. But he didn’t count on his plans being thwarted by an experiment called Mandroid going rogue and putting together a team made up of: a beautiful scientist, a rugged mercenary, a friendly ninja, and a small robot that can fly. Together they are the ELIMINATORS!
Thoughts: When it comes to campy Saturday afternoon B-movies you couldn’t find a more perfect specimen then this Empire Pictures popcorn munching cable classic. It’s a low budget comic book of a film that appears to be only slightly aware of its overall cheesiness, which just adds more flavors to the stew.
The plot centers on a group of two-dimensional characters led by a half-man/half machine cyborg called Mandroid (Patrick Reynolds). He was once an ace fighter pilot who crashed and became transformed by a brilliant-but-crazy scientist named Dr. Reeves (Roy Dotrice) into a fighting machine, which he sends back in time to battle Roman soldiers and plunder their riches. But Mandroid has outlived his usefulness and Dr. Reeves wants him scrapped, which does not sit well with his creator Dr. Takada (Tad Horino) who helps him escape, losing his life in the process.
Devastated by the death of his old friend, Mandroid flees from the villain’s compound in Mexico and returns to America to find some help. He hooks up with Nora (Denise Crosby), one of Reeves’ lovely assistants, who’s created a small, somewhat useless, flying robot called S.P.O.T. (Search. Patrol. Operational. Tactician.) The three head back down to Mexico in an attempt to stop the madman and his insane plot to destroy civilization through the use of time travel and a armored suit containing high tech weaponry.
They pick up some additional support in the form of a scummy-but-charming river rat named Fontana (Andrew Prine), who offers to take them to Reeves’ lair in his ship for a cut of the stolen treasure. After a boat chase (and an obvious lift from Dr. No) they add their final member to the team when they encounter a Ninja who has a personal vendetta against Dr. Reeves and wants to join the adventure. We should all be so lucky as to come across a Ninja looking to help out for free. Together they become the ELIMINATORS and Mandroid can now return to the former place of his slavery for revenge.
B-movie acting veteran Andrew Prine (Simon, King of the Witches, Grizzly) shares a nice chemistry with Denise Crosby of Star Trek fame. The acting isn’t the greatest, but at least they’re earnestly trying. The effects are as 80’s low budget as it gets, but I remember always thinking as a kid that Mandroid was really awesome. The cyborg with a heart of gold comes equipped with a lot of cool accessories that include: a laser gun mounted in his arm, a rocket launcher, a torpedo that blows the shit out of a boat, but most importantly a mobile tank body that he can mount like a robotic centaur. I collected the Micronauts toys when I was a kid and Mandroid seemed as if one inspired him that I owned.
This film contains robots, lasers, time travel, cavemen, kung Fu, explosions, and just about everything a twelve-year-old boy could possibly want from a live action Saturday morning cartoon. The tone is light, which is good because if it took itself too seriously it wouldn’t have been as entertaining as it is. Bottom line: this is one fun-bomb of a science fiction/action opus that has never been made available on anything other than VHS. Good reason to start collecting if you ask me. Besides, just look at that box art. Sublime.