(US - 1989)
Directed by Albert Pyun. Written by Kitty Chalmers. Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn, Dayle Haddon, Alex Daniels, Ralf Muller, Haley Peterson, Terrie Batson, Jackson "Rock" Pinckney. (R, 86 mins)
The making of CYBORG was apparently an arduous process. The budget was low, the project thrown together, and the director was fired during post-production. One of the cast members--Jackson "Rock" Pinckney--lost an eye in a mishap with a prop knife. According to legend, Cannon honchos Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had deals in place to with Marvel to produce SPIDER-MAN and with Mattel on a sequel to 1987's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, and both were to be shot simultaneously by journeyman director Albert Pyun (THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) in North Carolina at the deserted DEG Studios. DEG Studios was constructed by Dino De Laurentiis for his short-lived DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, which released a bunch of movies in 1986 and 1987 before going bankrupt by the end of 1987 (many DEG titles were held in limbo for years, such as BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, acquired by Orion and released in 1989, and William Friedkin's RAMPAGE, completed in 1987 but unreleased until Miramax picked it up in 1992). By 1989, Cannon was on life support from a string of costly, high-profile box office duds borne of Golan & Globus' quest to be respectable, high-rolling, Oscar-baiting A-listers; a bunch of standard-issue B-movies that were no longer making money (including many cheaply produced at their Apartheid-era South African branch that they denied existed); the ill-advised purchase of Thorn-EMI's movie division; and far too many dubious and impulsive business deals drawn up on cocktail napkins. Golan would leave the partnership and form 21st Century Film Corporation later in 1989, though Cannon would wheeze on until 1993 with Globus and, briefly, Italian schlock king Ovidio G. Assonitis (BEYOND THE DOOR, TENTACLES) running things, with occasional desperation Hail Mary's like 1990's LAMBADA that inevitably tanked and became industry punchlines. In short, Cannon's best days were clearly in the past, and they simply didn't have the cash flow to be dealing with big-budget superhero movies, as clearly evidenced by 1987's pitiful SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE.
In order to recoup some of the money already spent on their never-to-be SPIDER-MAN and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE 2, and to spotlight rising star and "Muscles from Brussels" Jean-Claude Van Damme, whose 1988 breakthrough BLOODSPORT provided Cannon with one of their very few recent successes, Golan & Globus had Pyun use some costumes and some sets that were constructed for the abandoned projects and, with screenwriter Kitty Chalmers (apparently a real person), hastily assemble the post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller SLINGER, which ended up being retitled CYBORG by the time it was released in April 1989.
|Jean-Claude Van Damme as|
|Dayle Haddon in the title role as the cyborg Pearl Prophet|
|Vincent Klyn as Fender Tremolo|
Cheap, disjointed, derivative (the most creative element is that all the characters are named after some kind of musical equipment brand or music term) but strangely entertaining, CYBORG also feels oddly retro for 1989, with a look and feel that seems more fitting for the string of post-ROAD WARRIOR ripoffs that petered out around 1985. And, despite being an American film shot in English, it almost feels like an Italian post-nuke since everyone but Van Damme appears to be dubbed. Pyun had CYBORG taken away from him during post-production, but he began selling his "director's cut" DVD, culled from a VHS workprint copy, on his web site in 2011, with more violence (CYBORG was apparently cut to secure an R rating), a completely different score, and without some of the reshoots he did back in 1989 (Fender's demise is different in each version). In Pyun's director's cut, Klyn (or the guy dubbing him) dubs every male character except for Van Damme, which was probably intended as a "placeholder" dubbing track until a final mix could be arranged. I haven't seen Pyun's cut, but by all accounts, the theatrical version supervised and edited by Cannon is the much more polished and professional film (and if Pyun's post-1980s output is any indication, I believe it). Pyun had worked with Cannon before on 1986's DANGEROUSLY CLOSE, 1987's DOWN TWISTED, 1988's ALIEN FROM L.A., and he directed most of 1989's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (shot mostly in 1986) even though Rusty Lemorande gets sole credit. And there must've been no hard feelings over CYBORG with Golan, since Pyun's next project would be CAPTAIN AMERICA for Golan's 21st Century. MGM just released CYBORG--in its 86-minute theatrical version--on Blu-ray in a surprisingly solid HD transfer at a low price, so fans of this cult classic--yes, it has a devoted fan base--will definitely find that worthwhile.
CYBORG was a moderate box-office success and arguably Cannon's last hit (though Chuck Norris' THE HITMAN grossed a few million in 1991), and proved popular enough in video stores and on cable to spawn two non-Cannon sequels. 1993's CYBORG 2 had little relation to Pyun's film other than cyborgs and a brief stock footage shot of Van Damme in a dream sequence. Directed by former Cannon production assistant Michael Schroeder, CYBORG 2 was notable at the time for the appearance of a slumming Jack Palance--a year after his CITY SLICKERS Oscar--bellowing dialogue like "If you want to dine with the devil, you'll need a loooooong spoon!" as a cyborg named "Mercy," but back in 1993, no one knew much about second-billed, 18-year-old newcomer Angelina Jolie as "almost human" cyborg Cash Reese. Schroeder also helmed 1995's CYBORG 3: THE RECYCLER, which brought back the Cash Reese character but replaced Jolie with Khrystyne Haje from the ABC sitcom HEAD OF THE CLASS (1986-91). CYBORG 3 featured a cast that screams "1995 straight to video," including Malcolm McDowell as "Lord Talon," Richard Lynch, Zach Galligan (GREMLINS), William Katt as "Decaf," Margaret Avery (THE COLOR PURPLE), and Kato Kaelin, credited as "Beggar" in what must've been a real stretch.