From a casual glance through films available to watch on my service, I decided to pick this. The second full-length film from Troma-associates and short film experts Astron-6, this is still pretty short (a shade over 60 minutes) but has the benefit of not being boring. And being good!
There’s a war against hell. Is it a planet called Hell (we’ve seen them before)? A race called the H’El (again, something that’s been done before)? No, it’s the actual Hell, and they’re on Earth and after our blood. We see a small group of soldiers fighting against the demons from Hell (for such a no-budget production, they look surprisingly good, with their cracked skin and exposed teeth), and they get picked off by the near-invincible baddies. Our curly-haired hero goes to protect his fallen brother, only to get picked up by the main baddie, Count Draculon. He tries to hold his own, but he’s finished off…
…only to come back, some time later, after a marvellous part-Ray Harryhausen opening credits sequence, as the mighty Manborg! Because this film doesn’t mess around, we’re introduced to his friends almost immediately – the martial artist #1 Man, and the brother/sister fighting duo Mina and Justice. They’re all captured very quickly and become fighters in an arena for the edification of the people of Hell who’ve now taken over Earth.
I was a little worried when I started watching this. The title worried me – a cyborg is part man, part robot, so a “manborg” just sounds pointless. Fortunately, within a few minutes the tone of the film calmed me down – this is a no-budget homage to those 80s sci-fi action films we all know and love (well, if you’re a regular reader of this site, you ought to love them). There’s a ton of comedy in here too – the Baron, one of the main villains, takes a shine to Mina and spends a portion of the film trying to romance her, and Justice is so over the top at all times that you can’t help but laugh.
So, Manborg and his friends take on the amassed hordes of hell. It’s a riot of handmade sets, claymation, surprisingly coherent action sequences (you always know who’s fighting who, and where they are) and a ton of gore. You want to see limbs get broken and heads get punched clean off? Then you’re going to love this.
I know it’s mostly a different thing, but I want to compare this to a previous film I reviewed on this site, “Iron Sky”. This film has some of that sci-fi parody element to it, but it’s got genuinely decent comedy, and shows what you can do with next-to-no resources (the listed budget for this film is an amazing $1,000). “Iron Sky” wanted to be more and failed, whereas this film wanted to be less, but because the people making it have talent, flair and senses of humour, it ended up being more.
Astron-6 is five friends who met due to a shared love of short films, and this is their second feature, after a film for Troma. I’m pleased there are people like this out there, doing stuff like this and showing that you don’t need a million-dollar Kickstarter to put out a decent entertaining film. More please, Astron-6!