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I might never live down missing Astron-6’s
FATHER’S DAY at Toronto After Dark 2011. By all accounts from sources I trust,
it was the highlight of a festival filled with highlights. With so many great
movies to see and personal commitments that not even FATHER’S DAY could get me
out of, I really had to prioritize and see what I thought would be most
relevant to readers of Long Live the New Flesh.
I take a lot of comfort in the fact that I
didn’t miss Astron-6’s MANBORG.
In a nearby retro-future, in the aftermath
of the Hell Wars against the vile forces of Count Draculon, only one man can
save humanity. One man…borg.
Assembled from the shattered remains of a
brave human soldier who stared in the face of Draculon himself and swore an
oath to his fallen brother that he would have revenge, Manborg is reluctantly
joined by fellow prisoners and gladiator-arena cannon-fodder Number One Man
(the kung fu master), gunslinger Justice and his sister Mina. Will this group
of unlikely heroes overcome their differences and lead humanity to victory
against Draculon and his henchmen?
Well, if you’ve seen movies like this
before, then you know that yeah, they probably will. The magic of MANBORG is in
watching how they do it.
Steve Kostanski delivers another incredible
piece of pop madness: Part homage, part satire and all dorky love letter to
cheap direct-to-VHS epics of the ’80s.
See what I did there? That’s what Kostanski
and the Astron-6 crew do with MANBORG. They take familiar pop clichés and
imagery and shoot them back at us in a way that is fresh, exciting, wickedly
funny and pure fun. The genius of what they do isn’t remixing these retro-pop
ideas, but doing it in a way that doesn’t feel dull and contrived, and the
secret sauce is that they really love the movies they’re riffing on, just like
I do. They aren’t making fun so much as they are making fun, if you follow my
meaning, and the joy is infectious.
Lo-fi and low-budget (Kostanski says the
movie cost about $1,000 to make), MANBORG captures the look and feel perfectly.
Performances are great throughout, with Conor Sweeney chewing up scenery as the
hilariously überserious antihero Justice and Kyle Hebert providing ridiculous
voice dubbing over Ludwig Lee’s Number One Man. Jeremy Gillespie steals scene
after scene, though, as the neurotic and melancholy Baron, a terrifying and
brutish minion of Draculon who runs the gladiator arena with an iron fist—and,
underneath the leather and the jackboots, has a heart of gold and is looking
for love in the shattered Earth beyond the Hell Wars.
I loved playing spot-the-influences, not
because they were so obvious but because of how well they captured the
appropriate feel. I was vividly reminded of films from my wayward youth like
FORTRESS, CIRCUITRY MAN, AMERICAN NINJA, THE EXTERMINATOR and perhaps on the
only really obvious influence, ELIMINATORS.
Look, I’ll be honest: This is a movie you
will either get or you won’t. If you get it, you will love it and recognize it
for the amazing piece of crypto-retropop that it is. If you don’t, well, then
you can’t dance and can’t be part of our revolution.
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