Another Full Moon review! They were the kings of the 1980s video shop, with major distribution for their low-budget shockers meaning they were absolutely everywhere. Check out our Full Moon tag to read our other reviews, and go to www.fullmoonstreaming.com for surprisingly good, cheap and comprehensive access to pretty much their entire back catalogue. Hey, if I had to struggle through “Puppet Master 8”, you lot can as well!
The more Full Moon movies one sees, the more their “house style” becomes apparent. It’s a mix of:
- That slight straight-to-video softness of the image
- Eastern European location / actors
- A vague, mild “gothic” undertone
- Awful music, from Richard Band or someone trying (for some reason) to sound like him
- Slightly unreal colour scheme and lighting
Once you’ve watched a couple of Full Moon’s movies…this leads you, on occasion, to have major movie déjà vu – you see some people who look a bit like normal actors, but not quite as good or attractive, milling about some old knackered Transylvanian castle and you’re all “I’ve seen this before, right?” But it turns out not, that seen-it-before feeling doesn’t let up the longer you go into this one. And before we get going – “Mandroid”? Doesn’t “Android” cover the whole human / robot thing? I wouldn’t bake a bannoffee pie and call it “banoffeefee”. Also, Marvel Comics had “Mandroid” way back in the early 70s, but clearly weren’t as bothered about copyrighting everything to death back then.
So the gist of everything is, deep in post-communist Russia, in a science station built way back and mostly just staffed by two old man scientists (Zimmer and Drago) and their assistants (Zanna – beautiful; Benjamin – sort of dull), a big discovery has been made. Superconn is the world’s most amazing element, harvested from weird veiny mushrooms, and it can cure all diseases and is the world’s cleanest fuel. Not bad! As an aside, they’ve also invented Mandroid, a big ol’ robot controlled by someone wearing a proto-VR headset (the controller has to move their arms and legs to move Mandroid’s, too, which causes problems obviously). Zimmer wants to give everything to the Americans, to help the world, and Drago wants to control it all and…you know, I’m not sure. Generic world-ruling nonsense? Making billions? Ah, who cares. Can’t help but feel this personality clash should’ve been dealt with before this crucial juncture, but whatever.
Into this ticking time bomb comes Wade, a US Government scientist, and Joe, the local CIA agent. Drago tries to steal Mandroid and a batch of Superconn, escapes with the robot but spills a batch of toxic mushroom-goo all over himself, giving him a standard Full Moon deformed face – and from then on it’s Drago and his creepy local helper vs Zimmer and his little gang. Wade and Zanna fall in love, obviously, and Benjamin…well, Benjamin gets knocked into the radioactive test-chamber during Drago’s escape and…slowly turns invisible!
ASIDE: This movie has a sequel, “Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight”, with mostly the same cast and released the same year (presumably made back to back, another Full Moon tradition). Benjamin’s involvement in this movie is basically nil, and the longer it went on the more even the stupidest viewer could notice they were prepping him for his own movie. I guess if I can find a cheap copy, I’ll review that too? I’m not exactly full of anticipatory excitement.
There are tons of dead ends and red herrings in “Mandroid”. The biggest one is when Zimmer announces he sneakily made a better version of Superconn, and you’re all “okay, he’s going to build an even more powerful Mandroid and there’s going to be fighting!” Nope, sorry. It’s merely the MacGuffin that gets Drago to try and kill them all so he can possess it. There’s a shocking twist of one of them being a double agent…but it doesn’t go anywhere.
The problem is, fighting and cool stuff like that involves special effects, and they cost money. If you’re just going to have Mandroid walk about a bit, then all you need is that bloody servo sound effect that has plagued many a movie – from filmmakers who don’t trust that their audience will remember the thing they’re looking at is a robot from one scene to the next. So what you’re left with is little more than a haunted house story, featuring a bloke in a robot suit. There comes a point where, if you want to make genre films like Full Moon clearly do, cutting back more and more just becomes self-defeating.
With a few exceptions, Full Moon are the background noise to the Video Shop era. They’re session musicians who kept trying to write their own material. They’re a cheap Ford Focus. I’m sure you can dream up a few analogies of your own. This is so painfully average with such little care put into its creation that I’m more annoyed than I would if it had just sucked.
Rating: thumbs down