Manborg: Cyborg of Destruction is a science fiction film by Astron-6, presented by Rockstone Films. New to DVD this February, Manborg is the brainchild of 70s and 80s film fanatic Steve Kostanski and took three years of work to create. The film tells the story of a man hideously mutilated by Count Draculon and his Nazi demons who returns years later as a high-powered cyborg to end their brutal regime. The budget for the film was a modest $1,000, a sum Kostanski describes as ‘almost non-existent’, but despite this – or perhaps because of this – the film has received enthusiastic receptions at a number of cult film festivals.
It’s been a few hours since I watched Manborg, and I’m still not really sure how to process the experience. I quite enjoyed it – there was a lot in it that made me laugh, sometimes so hard that I was compelled to rewind and watch again – but I still don’t know how much that was due to the intelligence of the people behind the film, and how much it owed to the failings of those same people.
Manborg is not a high-quality film. With hammy acting, papier mache sets and stop-motion monsters, it smacks of the B-movies which rose to cult popularity in America during the 80s. For me, 80s B-movies are hilarious because they mess up unintentionally. When mistakes are visibly occurring on-set, that’s funny. But I couldn’t escape the feeling, with Manborg, that the film was trying deliberately to recreate these mistakes – and a deliberate mistake isn’t a mistake. For this reason, I’m not sure how I feel about Manborg.
But maybe I’m over-analysing (who could blame me? It’s my job); I laughed loads watching Manborg, and with a relatively small runtime of just over an hour, it didn’t have the chance to outstay its welcome. Intentional or not, the hilarity of the tasteless characters – Count Draculon, Doctor Scorpius, and especially Justice – never runs dry, and the actors playing these roles all live up to the hammy B-movie tradition.
The costumes, sets and props were mostly sourced from dumpsters, thanks to the movie’s low budget, and this certainly shows. Some of the masks worn by the actors portraying demons are particularly suspect, and move very strangely when they speak. In fairness though, along with the special effects, the scenes aren’t a complete shambles, and some of the stop-motion monsters would even be quite scary, if stop-motion wasn’t a few years past its sell-by date.
The storyline is, frankly, pretty stupid, and as with many B-movies seems to forget itself during the course of the film. Nazi demons from hell, led by Count Draculon, take over the world, and then a rag-tag group of heroes take it back, or something like that. It involves a lot of fights, anyway, and people’s heads getting exploded messily by laser fire.
To sum up
What can I tell you? If you’re into this kind of thing, then Manborg will definitely be worth a watch. It’s very funny, and retro in an amusing kind of way, and would make a good addition to any cult B-movie collection. For me, the fear of intentional humour is a definite factor, but this could well find a place among my large collection of Godfrey Ho ninja films and 80s horror fiascos. If you’re not into cult cinema, then this is certainly the first and last time you’ll ever hear about Manborg, so just… don’t worry about it.