Triskaidekafiles

Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Mandroid (1993)

MANDROID

WRITER: Earl Kenton and Jackson Barr

DIRECTOR: Jack Ersgard

STARRING: Brian Cousins as Wade
    Jane Caldwell as Zanna
    Michael Dellafemina as Benjamin
    Curt Lowens as Drago
    Patrick Ersgard as Joe
    Robert Symonds as Karl Zimmer

QUICK CUT: A group of scientists try to better the world with their inventions, while another scientist tries to steal them for his own purposes.

THE MORGUE

    Wade - A scientist from the states looking to verify the doctor's claims and discoveries before the US government buys them up.  He's a bit of a goof, but he doesn't really do much.  Especially for someone who is supposed to be our hero.

    Zanna - The daughter of the chief scientist on the supercon project.  She's smart, she's the love interest of Benjamin, and possibly the most active character in the story, at least for the good guys.

    Benjamin - Zanna's fiance, works with her father, and probably should be the hero of the movie, until Wade walks into the plot.  Don't worry, he'll get his chance some day!

    Drago - Zimmer's fellow scientist and creator of Mandroid, but he goes rogue because he still holds onto Cold War prejudices, and doesn't want the west to take his ideas.

    Joe - A strangely European CIA agent.  He's really just there to be muscle, and to protect the US interests in the area, and with the supercon project.

    Karl Zimmer - The head scientist on the project, Zanna's father, and really just there to be the brains and be the wise man.

 Your logo is glowing blue!  There must be orcs nearby!

Your logo is glowing blue!  There must be orcs nearby!

THE GUTS: Hello again, Triskelions!  Welcome back to Octoberween, and this time out, I am dipping into the Full Moon well for a movie I remember fondly from the 90s, although spoilers, it really does not hold up.  It's not even campy throwback silliness that I can still find some enjoyment with, like Arcade was.  But more on that later!  This week, I am running Mandroid in the Trisk theatre.

Mandroid is ostensibly about a man who uses the powers of his mind to control a nearly-invincible supersuit to fight evil.  The reality is so radically different from that, as almost nothing in that sentence is true for most of the movie.  But still, this plot sounds weirdly familiar...

The movie, and a car, get rolling in Eastern Europe, in the Present Time of 1992.  But who's driving?  Oh my god, Mandroid is driving!  But how can that be??

And thus is our introduction to the Mandroid unit, a robot driving a car, and being controlled by someone via a helmet that connects him to the device.  But it's not being controlled by the guy who's supposed to be the hero, oh no!  That's too simple!  He's not even IN the movie yet.  It's a decent way to introduce the concept, by just throwing us in the deep end right out the gate.  You're either on board or not.

 Hello!  I'm Johnny Cab!  Where can I take you tonight?

Hello!  I'm Johnny Cab!  Where can I take you tonight?

But, since this is a test, something goes wrong, namely the visual feedback from the Mandroid fails along the way, and the doctor can't drive anymore, causing the car to crash.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, and once the eyeholes come back on, they can continue to show off the Mandroid as its own jaws of life, getting itself and the only mildly injured Benjamin Knight out of the car.

Doctor Zimmer's daughter, and Ivan Drago quickly catch...wait, wait, go back.  Ivan Drago?  SERIOUSLY??  Are you even trying anymore?!  Gee, you think he's gonna be a good guy?

Oh, and this being the 90s, there's still a bit of lingering Cold War animosity, and Drago isn't happy that Zimmer has agreed to license the Mandroid tech to the Westerners.  Whatcha gonna do, challenge the CIA to a boxing match?  This is the main driving conflict of the movie, such as it is.

 Version one of the Samsung Gear was a real beast.

Version one of the Samsung Gear was a real beast.

And as a brief aside, those circuit board stained glass windows in the back?  ARE AWESOME.  I want them.

But wait, there's still one more cast member we gotta introduce, but we're almost eight minutes in before we meet the arguable hero of the movie.  In an awkward scene of how backwards Eastern Europe and their uncivilised peoples are!  Oh, racism.

I seriously can't decide if Wade is a poor man's Marc Singer, a poor man's Kevin Bacon, or a poor man's William Fichtner.

 It's like they murdered all three in a blender to create this guy.

It's like they murdered all three in a blender to create this guy.

So Joe Smith (IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME) takes Wade up to Proheba, which is one of my favourite Cold War conceits, the science city.  It was completely dedicated to doing science, secluded, and almost an urban legend it was that secretive.  Such a fun concept.  It conveniently also allows the movie to be completely secluded with no background people, but I digress...

We also learn that Mandroid isn't the only bit of superscience being done in Proheba, there's also "supercon" which is sadly not the latest Transformer.  It's a new kind of fuel created from...mushrooms.  They handwave the science of it, that by mixing the shrooms with chemicals that make it give off extremely deadly fumes, then having Mandroid take it into an airtight vault and letting the doctors work on it remotely, they can create the magic mushroom juice.

They introduce Wade to his future life partner, the Mandroid, which will take the sealed container of the mushrooms and chemicals, and do the work, "To make hard work in the lab easier!"  Yes, what could be simply done with just putting on a biohazard or radiation suit, now requires you to grab your Playstation VR helmet, walk in place on a treadmill, and control a robot with the power of your brain!  EASIER!

I swear, I can think of a half dozen other ways to do this easier than that.  But hey, it's the groundwork for the movie's gimmick, so I'll allow it.  But oh, oh just barely.

 Mandroid, do dishes.  Mandroid, take out trash.  Mandroid sick of chores, that what Mandroid is...

Mandroid, do dishes.  Mandroid, take out trash.  Mandroid sick of chores, that what Mandroid is...

After a successful demonstration, everyone goes out to celebrate, and we are tormented with far too long of a scene of having dinner, and people dancing.  GET ON WITH IT.  You're only 80 minutes long, get to the Mandroiding!

There's a bit of subplot with Drago trying to get his hands on the Mandroid unit for his own purposes, which ultimately doesn't make a lick of sense at this point.  The only saving grace is that Agent Smith points this out.

...But then it's back to more dancing than you can shake a mushroom at!  This is the movie that dares to have a plot it has no interest in actually getting to.  And trust me, I am not even joking with that.

Drago sends a goon in to try and steal the Mandroid for himself, and he tries to kill Zimmer.  But he makes a commotion, Zanna comes running in, and saves her father with the first death of the movie as she shoots him so hard he defenestrates.

Meanwhile, Benjamin is down in the lab, when Drago shows up to take his things.  Hey, remember how Wade's supposed to be the hero, yet he's barely been in this and done nothing?  Yeah...  Now we have Ben getting attacked, dumped into chemicals...he's done more and had more of an origin than Wade.

Ivan takes a canister of chemically infused mushrooms, and Zanna shows up.  She tries to shoot him and stop the theft, but she misses and hits the can instead, causing him to get blasted in the face with those deadly chemicals, melting his face.

Seriously, is this EVERYONE'S origin story *except* Mandroid's?!

 Worst jar of snakes gag EVER.

Worst jar of snakes gag EVER.

We get to sit and watch every single second of Drago running away, falling in the river, running away some more, and eventually finding some monks to make him a metal mask that he foolishly sticks on his face before it's cool...wait, wait, wrong guy.  No joke, the movie spends a solid seven plus minutes JUST with Drago as he makes his escape and recovery.

Drago is gonna tell you exactly how he got these scars...in incredibly excruciating detail.  If this movie knew when to cut away, or trim down scenes, it might actually have used some of this time *to establish the title character more*.

Finally, back with Team Mandroid, they're making sure their expensive toy is okay, while Benjy slowly dies upstairs.  Smith asks, "But I thought you said it was indestructible??"  "I did, but this is only a prototype!"

So...not so indestructible then, yes?  I mean, the intent is there, but if he's not, he's not.  I intend to be famous, but I'm NOT right now, so...

 Pull our finger.

Pull our finger.

Oh, this is also one of the few times our hero who is supposed to be Mandroid actually uses the damned suit.

Team Mandroid heads to the mine where the mushrooms grow, because we need to see a thrilling scene of Mandroid awkwardly punching walls to make them appear.  This film...there's a lot of solid ideas, but it either needed to scrap the fluff, or be longer, so it did more interesting stuff.

Mandroid!  The movie not afraid to have your hero punch at air!!

After the mining adventure, Wade chills out, when a grenade lands next to him and fills the place with smoke.  Drago appears so he can make another attempt at stealing what's his, and gets away with the Mandroid unit this time.

 Yes, that is a gigantic VR helmet over a gas mask, in a smoke filled room.  Fuck visibility.

Yes, that is a gigantic VR helmet over a gas mask, in a smoke filled room.  Fuck visibility.

Drago takes control of the unit, and crashes the van driving back from the mine, managing to not kill anyone.  But he gets the Iron Man wannabe, and walks him away to his lairhouse.  Which is just hilarious to imagine Ivan walking in place the entire time it takes to get Mandroid home.

Team Mandroid gets back to the lab after some helpful local security troops, and Wade is okay, so Zanna heads upstairs to check on Benjamin, because it's all about him, isn't it?

She's shocked to find the guy is slowly fading away.  I can't wait to see how this works into the plot of this movie!  Will he recover at the last minute, and use his invisibility so Mandroid can do whatever Mandroid is going to do??  Can't wait!!

 Davros testing early Dalek targeting systems.

Davros testing early Dalek targeting systems.

Oh, and there's a subplot that Zimmer was holding out and kept the improved supercon formula hidden, so there's still a MacGuffin to deal with and keep the plot moving, that everyone wants.

Anyways, Drago uses his Iron Mandroid to head BACK TO THE LAB again because he just can't seem to close the deal.  Back and forth, back and forth, spinning in circles.

Oh yeah, and for the record, the villain has now been Mandroid for longer than our hero.

 Momdroid, Dadtron, this is my girlfriend...

Momdroid, Dadtron, this is my girlfriend...

He kidnaps Agent Smith, and while he calls back to bargain for Smith's life, we see that he's actually made a vague deal with the agent, to further drag this out.

I previously joked about Drago making a mask, but oh no, I was serious.  He now has an iron mask to hide his disfigured face, because it's cheaper than constantly doing makeup.  But also, it makes him look like a poor man's Doctor Doom.  Which is funny, considering what's happening with Doom becoming Iron Man currently in the comics...

So we eventually slog to the exchange of the formula for Smith, and Zimmer decides to make the exchange himself, because that can't possibly go wrong.

 Doctor Don't.

Doctor Don't.

Until it goes wrong, and Mandrago pulls Smith's gun and shoots the doctor.  Smith tries to do the right thing suddenly, and he too gets shot.  In the confusion, the Mandroid runs away, which would cause more hilarity of Drago in place jogging, but the new helmet fixes that.

We run around the lairhouse for awhile, trying to catch Drago, his silent minion, or the Mandroid.  I swear, the only reason Zimmer had the cops come with him to this was so the movie had a dozen people to kill off that don't have any billing.

But fortunately, one of the police gets off a lucky shot as he's dying, damanging one of the Mandroid's optical sensors.  So much for indestructible.

 Agent Smith is the poor man's Nic Cage.

Agent Smith is the poor man's Nic Cage.

After lurking around a bit, Wade finally finds Mandroid and stabs a pipe into his other eye, causing more damage.  He has now FOUGHT Mandroid more than he's BEEN Mandroid.

But the real threat is the man behind the droid, so Drago shows up to shoot Wade a few times and paralyzes him.  Fortunately, our loaf of a hero landed next to a pile of hand grenades, and lobs one at Drago, blowing him up.

So, things wrap up with Benjamin Knight doing nothing but turning invisible, so he DOES nothing, and literally disappears from the plot.  Wade is now paralysed, but can run Mandroid so he can still be a superhero.  Finally.  AT THE VERY END OF THE MOVIE.

It is literally 92% of this movie before the hero actually comes anywhere near using the suit.  I did that math for y'all to point out this absurdity.  Not until the final moments does he become Mandroid.  And half of the rest of the movie, it's being used by the bad guys.  MANDROID!!  Also, he NEVER EVER uses the suit to fight villains.  The movie IS BLOODY OVER and he finally says, "Well, I can't walk, but I got a supersuit!"

The movie crashes to a conclusion and then reveals that Drago is of course Not Really Dead, and slams up a title card with, "The adventure continues in INVISIBLE: THE CHRONICLES OF BENJAMIN KNIGHT"  So, literally this movie served zero purpose save to set up ANOTHER CHARACTER ENTIRELY.  A character who did NOTHING in this movie.  NOTHING!!

This outrage continues with Invisible, I guess.

 FINALLY, Mandroid is born...THE END!

FINALLY, Mandroid is born...THE END!

AUTOPSY REPORT

Video: Ehh, it's okay, but clearly a copy of a direct to video VHS.  It was pale before I tweaked the look to sharpen things up.  But, it's clear at least, and could be worse.

Audio: Similar adequate quality.

Sound Bite: "Do me a favour, call me Wade-droid."  No.  No I am not doing that.

Body Count: I was surprised at how many bodies this movie delivered on.  Granted, over half of them are in the final few minutes while thanks to the Disposable Police running around the abandoned lairhouse to be redshirted.

1 - 26 minutes in, and Thugsy McGoonigal gets shot out a window.
2 - Drago kills the doctor that tries to fix his face.
3 - Drago shoots Doctor Zimmer.
4 - And then Joe Smith, IF THAT IS YOUR REAL DEATH.
5 - A random soldier gets axed in the chest by Drago's minion.
6 - And he shoots another
7 - Mandroid takes out a third.
8 - And a fourth
9 - Silent McGoon takes out a fifth.
10 - And a sixth goes down by Mandroid
11 - And a seventh...
12 - An eighth gets flung across the lairhouse
13 - The Mute shoots Agent Smith a lot
14 - And he shoots back at the mute even more

Best Corpse: Pretty uninspiring deaths, but I do appreciate with all the gunplay, some poor schmuck got killed with a random axe.

Blood Type - F+: Not a total failure, but there's a few splotches here and there.  Ultimately lacklustre.  I'd give points for the Mandroid suit, but it needs work, and is more a costume than makeup fx.

Sex Appeal: Zzzzz.

Drink Up! Every time Wade actually shows up in the movie.

Video Nasties: Try and enjoy watching how the Mandroid works, as he does some mining.

Also, you can also go watch this at Full Moon Streaming, and help me pay for Trisk!

Movie Review:  Siiigh.  I said I had fond memories of this, but revisiting it now, it does not live up to them.  This is bad.  It's slow, it's a mishmash of ideas, it goes nowhere in the slowest way possible.  It's shot well enough for no budget, the effects are genuinely decent, and the acting isn't half bad, and is even pretty good at times.  But it's just a bunch of half baked ideas that needed a lot more work.  Two out of five jars of mushrooms.

Entertainment Value: There's the barest amount of fun to be had here.  I do genuinely like the idea of Mandroid, and even Benjamin Knight.  The Mandroid itself is cool, and they clearly spent most of their budget on it.  It is a fun, simple plot, and it's full of camp, but it's just to slow to be engaging.  Once again, like with Puppet Master, this was a single plot they stretched over two movies.  They did the smart thing by making it be two different protragonists to build things up, they just dropped the ball with Mandroid.  If you want to watch something that is just poor man's William Fichtner teaming up with a poor man's Nic Cage, to become a poor man's Iron Man to fight a poor man's Doctor Doom, building up to a completely other movie starring the poor man's Invisible Man, this isn't entirely worthless.  Three out of five redshirt police.