Having now watched Manborg twice I can honestly say that my enjoyment of it (and likely yours) will all come down to mood. If you’re in the mood for an over-the-top goofy sci-fi/horror romp that is as campy as one could imagine, then seek it out when it comes available here in the next week or so. If you’re not in the mood for that type of film, don’t force the issue as I did the first time around. Anyway, Manborg does a grand job of pulling in all manner of 80’s sci-fi epicness, shades of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (1977), the stop motion charm of Harryhausen by way of Robocop and the absurdity of dubbed kung fu flicks to produce a wholly unique and strange sixty minutes of film.
The plot of the thing is basically a revenge/redemption story surrounding a soldier (Matthew Kennedy) killed during the war against soldiers from hell. He is brought back by Doctor Scorpius (Adam Brooks, who also plays Draculon) as a half man, half robot to redeem mankind and defeat Draculon’s minions. There is a whole cast of characters who team up with Manborg in the battle, each with their own reasons for the quest. Now, I could go into each of them a bit, but really there isn’t much point to that. You have the strong, plucky girl character, the dubbed martial arts guy, the oddly Australian accented guy and a little helper guy who resembles a cross between an Oompa-Loompa and a Tusken Raider. You start to see why detailing each of these characters might be an exercise in rabbit-hole type silliness.
Anyway, I get the feeling like the folks at Astron-6 (who made the film) wanted to throw as much as they possibly could into the thing and see how it shook out. With what appears to be a limited budget, they really do a lot. The makeup effects are entertaining, the backdrops and effects are fun, the writing is beyond the pale silly (there are way more than a couple catchphrase quotable quotes that I expect we’ll hear thrown around for a while after its release) and the stop motion effects of some of the creatures are really really cool. A later battle/scene with Draculon in particular, made me think they took the veggie-gremlin from Gremlins 2 and Tarman from Return Of The Living Dead and had a fun time combining them.
Now, with a mish-mash of all these things going on, does it really come together as a completed thought? Well, no, not really, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable to go along with it. Some of the one-liners from the Baron (Jeremy Gillespie) made me chuckle and once I made peace with what I’d gotten myself into, I actually had a lot of fun with it. I feel like with a film like this, you are rooting for the filmmakers. You see the care and the fun they are having and for that, you have to give them a lot of credit.