… Not with a bang, but a whimper. Matty takes a look.
It’s fitting that CYBORG 3: THE RECYCLER — a film about androids being junked and consigned to the scrap heap — should be so, well, junky and scrappy. There’s modest fun to be had: the cast is a smorgasbord of eclectic talent, with Zach Galligan; Malcolm McDowell; Andrew Bryniarski; Margaret Avery; William Katt; Michael Bailey Smith; Rebecca Ferratti; Evan Lurie (who also choreographed the fights); Melissa Brasselle (in a blink and you’ll miss her appearance as a pleasure bot); and O.J. Simpson associate Kato Kaelin — approximately ten minutes into his fifteen minutes of fame — mugging gamely, to the point where even Richard Lynch’s fluctuating “cockney” accent can’t quell the merriment. The western licks are delicious, too. The whole thing is basically bits of Shane (1953), Rio Bravo (1959), The Comancheros (1961), and Unforgiven (1992) played out against a charmingly cheap sci-fi backdrop. You know the sort: Cyborg 3 is one of those movies where a couple of shabbified tech props, a few pleasingly rubbery robot FX (supplied with typical cartoon-y elan by John Carl Buechler), and an area of desert a ruinous post-apocalyptic setting doth make. Again, very charming. But there’s a real sense of fatigue to this tepid final chapter. It’s sloppily staged and lethargic in its movement; clumsy, unfocused, and dawdling. It’s an acceptable end to the trilogy launched by Albert Pyun’s original classic, but it should have been better — especially as helmer Michael Schroeder really delivered the goods with the first sequel.
Funnily, the brilliant Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993) is the root of Cyborg 3’s problems. As 2 had been successful on video, 3 was pre-sold and financed on the strength of it and Schroeder’s name — “from the director of Cyborg 2!” screamed the sales sheet. Thing is, Schroeder, who’d already reluctantly taken the reins of 2, didn’t want to do it. After much to and fro, he acquiesced when he was told he could bring Angelina Jolie back as sentient tin-woman Cash. Alas, upon his agreeing to shepherd Cyborg 3, producers Anglo-American/Films International reneged on their promise — just like distributor Trimark had done on Cyborg 2, which Schroder was assured wasn’t a sequel (until it was). Instead of Jolie, Anglo-American booked Head of the Class’ Khrystyne Haje. Incensed that he couldn’t have his leading lady and detesting the script he was ordered to shoot, Schroeder tried to quit the project — only for Anglo-American to threaten to sue him for breach of contract due to their pre-sale spiel. Adding insult to injury, Anglo-American then outsourced Cyborg 3 to another production company: FM Entertainment International, a shingle that’d go on to churn out sequels to another Van Damme-based property, Bloodsport (1988). And by Schroeder’s reckoning, FM were hell to deal with, wanting to produce Cyborg 3 as cheaply as possible, micromanaging the set, and ultimately taking control of the film’s post-production. So depending on which way you look at it, the ramshackle Cyborg 3 is either the result of someone stuck on a job they hate and going through the motions, or the work of a browbeaten professional trying to do the best they can in impossible circumstances.
Hitting U.K. VHS via Columbia-TriStar in summer 1995 with a couple of BBFC-sanctioned snips, and released unexpurgated in the U.S. by WarnerVision Home Video the following December, Cyborg 3 picks up from where its predecessor left off. The plot finds the now widowed and, most amazingly of all, pregnant Cash (sitcom star Haje) trekking across an arid future-shock wasteland and helping the mechanical, half-knackered denizens of CyTown defend their safe haven from a throng of invaders led by Lynch’s eponymous recycler, Lewellyn: a greedy, psychotic tinker intent on harvesting their parts and Cash’s human-robot progeny for scrap.
Also known as ‘Cyborg 3: The Creation’.
USA ● 1994 ● Sci-Fi, Action ● 84mins
Khrystyne Haje, Zach Galligan, William Katt, Malcolm McDowell and Richard Lynch ● Dir. Michael Schroeder ● Wri. Barry Victor, Troy Bolotnick, Straw Weisman (uncredited)