Cyborg 2087 Blu-ray review
Release Date: September 26, 2017
“A cyborg: half-human, half-machine. Programmed to kill.”
From 1966 to 1968 the United Pictures Corporation (with the help of Canadian oil money) produced a series of nine genre films of questionable quality, including Castle of Evil, Dimension 5 and Panic in the City. All of them were shot quickly with fading stars with an eye to be sold as a package for television, though they did get limited theatrical distribution. So not unlike modern-day genre films?
Probably the standout entry in the United Pictures canon is 1966’s Cyborg 2087, a proto-cyberpunk sci-fi thriller directed by Franklin Adreon (Zombies of the Stratosphere, The Invisible Monster) and headlined by The Day the Earth Stood Still‘s Michael Rennie. It follows a cyborg from the future named Garth A7 (Rennie) who is sent back in time to “present day” 1960s to stop a scientist (Eduard Franz) from developing a technology that will one day enslave humanity.
Sound familiar? If you’ve ever seen The Terminator it should, and if you’ve seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day then you know that Garth gets followed back by a pair of evil cyborgs bent on terminating his mission. However, these “Tracers” look ridiculous, running down the streets of Los Angeles in matching green helmets and jumpsuits looking at their watches. There’s also an inexplicable climax set in an old west town.
If Cyborg 2087 has one overarching failing, it is that the script by low-budget sci-fi stalwart Arthur C. Pierce (Women of the Prehistoric Planet, The Cosmic Man, The Astral Factor) actually does contain the seeds of really compelling ideas that would obviously be brought to fruition later in the works of James Cameron and William Gibson. The execution is the problem, as this is part of the last wave of 1950’s-style static, talky, low-budget sci-fi that jammed drive-ins in the years before Easy Rider changed the film industry. It also includes a fun but utterly superfluous subplot involving a group of hepcat dragracing teenagers boogying to rock-and-roll for a while.
One aspect of the film that movie fans will definitely enjoy is the terrific cast of classic faces, which includes Karen Steele (Marty), Wendell Corey (Rear Window), Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet), Harry Carey Jr. (The Searchers) and, in early roles in their careers, John Beck (Audrey Rose, Sleeper, Rollerball) and Jo Ann Pflug (MASH, The Night Strangler, Scream of the Wolf). Overall, it’s the type of old-school slapdash moviemaking that will bore almost all except those that have a fetish for this sort of thing. For that rare bird, it will deliver the goods, especially given the usual crisp HD transfer work by Kino Lorber.
Our own ShockTillYouDrop editor Chris Alexander provides another robust commentary for a Kino classic. He spends a great deal of time obsessing over whether or not James Cameron must have seen this film and stolen it wholecloth for his Terminator franchise, while also mentioning the works of Harlan Ellison that Cameron and possibly the filmmakers behind Cyborg 2087 must have cribbed.
Alexander also waxes nostalgic about setting his alarm clock as a youngster in Canada to wake up and watch (and sometimes tape) movies like this one specifically. He acknowledges that the movie is trash, but appreciates it all the more for daring to hide intriguing ideas within the garbage pal.
The Blu-ray disc also includes trailers for other Kino releases like The Satan Bug, The Earth Dies Screaming, Chosen Survivors, Panic in the Year Zero and The Quatermass Xperiment.
We should also note that this month Kino is also releasing the 1954 Republic Pictures gem Tobor The Great onto Blu-ray. This piece of sci-fi schlock is utterly charming and features a great kid performance by the late Billy Chapin (Night of the Hunter) and an iconic giant robot from the same designer of Robbie the Robot. If you’re going to buy one of these movies, we heartily recommend buying the other as well!