movie review

ROBO VAMPIRE (1988)

ROBO VAMPIRE

1988, Hong Kong
Starring: Ernst Mausser as Bill Young and a bunch of other people
Directors: Godfrey Ho & (probably) Tomas Tang
Viewed: Streaming
Transfer: Decent
Robo Vampire
Boss Young: Listen, I must find a way to handle Tom, that goddamn anti-drug agent.
Lackey: Boss, what are your plans then?
Boss Young: I’ve employed a Daoist. He’ll train vampires to deal with him.
Apparently Robo Vampire is actually two movies sewn together, so that means it’s gotta be twice as good, right? Yes, most definitely!

It certainly has everything…kung fu, drug smuggling mercenaries, Hong Kong slapstick, hopping vampires, dummy stunt men, sexy ghosts, a silver lamé version of Robocop, and even some nooky from beyond the grave. Every moment in this film is either awesome or just about to get awesome, nicely counteracting the need for a cohesive plot. Don’t worry if you doze off for a bit or forget to pause it when you head for the kitchen to get a snack…just hop right back in. I only wish Nate and Matt were here to experience it with me as this should definitely be watched with friends for maximum entertainment value.

So a quick sketch of the story here…drug kingpin Boss Young—or is it Cole? I’m still confused—has a hard on for DEA agent Tom Wilde and plans to thwart him by enlisting a Daoist monk who can summon an army of vampires that are, of course, (super-) naturally impervious to machine gun fire. The smuggling method that Tom disrupted to initiate this revenge is never made clear, but it seems like the new plan is to transport the drugs in corpses…but then there’s also a gratuitous scene of a ox-like animal being opened up and having drugs sewn up inside its body. None of this is ever explained, but it’s not really important. Anyway, going on a tip from agent in the field, Sophie, Tom & Co. confront Young’s crew all guns blazing and manage to out maneuver the smugglers despite some early casualties. As the momentum shifts toward the “good guys,” however, the monk springs into action calling up his undead henchman to make short work of the agents, Tom included. For some reason, even though all the agents are killed, only Tom is deemed worthy of being reanimated as a cyborg super-cop.

Cyborg super-cop certainly sounds familiar, but by the end of this you’ll be asking yourself “Robocop who?” Much like wrestling’s Honkytonk Man, the Mylar Murphy rip-off in this will leave you more than half-convinced that the copy is WAY better than the original. I also like the parallel of the two different imaginings of the undead: the traditional Chinese vampires born again via the supernatural, and Tom resuscitated via science: both stripped of their self-determination and slaves to the bidding of others. Get it? Robo-Vampire…I mean this shit’s deep.

It’s hard to pin down a favorite scene in this…there’s Sophie’s Chinese water torture absurdity, Cyborg Tom’s existential crisis/romantic flashback as he witnesses vampire and ghost consummate their marriage, any one of the incredible vampire vs. cyborg battle scenes…just so many ludicrous and memorable moments. Cyborg Tom’s assembly montage that segues into his test run is one of my favorites, though. I love how they just take some random dumpster dived e-waste objects with knobs and stuff and jam them unconvincingly into what looks like a hollow metal leg. However, cut to some beeping and flashing equipment, a 4th of July sparkler posing as a welding tool, and some shots of all involved nodding knowingly, and somehow it totally works. Plus we get to see him put together all over again after he’s blown to bits at the end of his first battle.

I would love to see a wide screen version, as this was modified for TV at some point, but don’t touch those overdubs! Also, if someone has a theory on how the opening scene fits into the chronology of the film, I’m all ears. (DC)

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NW: Nate Wilson  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row  MA: Matt Average

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