Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1 - Digital Man

The cover of my VHS copy of Digital Man

Digital Man (1995)
Director: Phillip J. Roth
Format: VHS (20th Century Fox)

After being on a bit of a war movie kick lately, I decided I needed something completely different and cheesy 90s scifi seemed like just the thing. With a line on the back of the VHS that says "He's Terminator, Cyborg and Robocop welded into one", along with a photo of Adam Baldwin, my hopes were high.

I've never heard of director Phillip J. Roth, but it seems he has a thing for cyborgs. His credits include such legendary titles (yes, that's sarcasm) as APEX, Prototype and Interceptor Force 2.

After some cheesy Playstation-esque CGI in the opening sequence, we're thrust into a situation somewhere in space in the future, where terrorists have stolen the launch codes for dozens of nuclear missiles. In response, the authorities send Digital Man (Matthias Hues, KICKBOXER 2 - minus his trademark long blonde hair) to take care of business.

On the flight back from taking out the terrorists, a botched sabotage attempt sees D1 (as Digital Man is officially known) crash land back on earth, in the desolate desert landscape of the Badwater nuclear testing range. The authorities, fearing that D1 has gone rogue, send a crack team of space commandos to decommission him and take back the launch codes.

There are civilians - made up of various cartoonish rednecks - living in Badwater, who soon find that D1 doesn't come in peace. The commandos (led by Kristen Dalton of the DEAD ZONE TV series and Ken Olandt of SUMMER SCHOOL, offering a romantic subplot) come to the defence of the locals, engaging in a series of explosion-laden throwdowns with Digital Man. Can they stop him before he transmits the launch codes and brings armageddon?

Digital Man is a sci-fi western (the soundtrack even features harmonica music). It takes the basic plot of countless westerns (including a number of Clint Eastwood vessels) of a lone stranger coming to town to protect its inhabitants from a ruthless gang of baddies and flips it on its head. So instead we have a gang of good guys protecting the locals from one ruthless stranger (although D1 never comes across as overtly evil, no matter how many innocent people he knocks off).

The line I mentioned from the back of the VHS correctly suggests that Roth unashamedly rips off bigger-budget scifi fare. The fact that Hues speaks with an Eastern European accent (he's German) makes the comparisons with The Terminator unavoidable, but the D1 POV shots with computer options are right out of Robocop.

The costumes are fantastically hokey - Digital Man and the commandos shoot guns that look like giant leafblowers, and the commandos' costumes consist of silver American Football pads over black clothing. The special effects are just as cheesy, particularly anything involving a spaceship or lasers, but there are plenty of big, pretty explosions to make up for it.

The cast of Digital Man includes lots of recognisable faces. On top of the always-enjoyable non-Baldwin-brother Adam Baldwin (PREDATOR 2) there's Paul Gleason (MANIAC COP 3), Ed Lauter (DEATH WISH 3), Don Swayze (DRIVING FORCE), Amanda Wyss (NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST) and even a brief appearance by Clint Howard (EVILSPEAK). The most fun character is a gun-toting granny played by the always-lively Susan Tyrrell, who is on screen too briefly to be able to to ham it up like she did in John Water's CRY-BABY, but still stands out.

Digital Man is good corny fun. Fans of scifi western should enjoy it, as should anyone looking for scifi that's not too heavy on plot and full of flashy explosions. I'm pretty sure it's never had a DVD release, but if you happen to come across the VHS, check it out.

Previews on my VHS: Buffalo Girls, Warriors, Never Say Die, Nine Months, The Brothers McMullen.

No comments: