(US - 1966)
Directed by Franklin Adreon. Written by Arthur C. Pierce. Cast: Michael Rennie, Karen Steele, Wendell Corey, Warren Stevens, Eduard Franz, Harry Carey Jr., Adam Roarke, Dale Van Sickel, Troy Melton, Jimmy Hibbard, Sherry Alberoni, Betty Jane Royale, John Beck, Jo Ann Pflug, Richard Travis, Byron Morrow. (Unrated, 86 mins)
Made on the cheap and originally intended for TV syndication, CYBORG 2087 has surprisingly bigger aspirations than its paltry budget can accommodate. Shot in a flat fashion on backlots, a western ghost town set, and in a Los Angeles neighborhood, the film was directed by Franklin Adreon (1902-1979), a career journeyman who began writing Republic Pictures serials back in the 1930s like THE FIGHTING DEVIL DOGS and DICK TRACY'S G-MEN before moving into directing television in the 1950s and 1960s like LASSIE and SEA HUNT. Released by the short-lived United Pictures Corporation, CYBORG 2087 was shot back-to-back with DIMENSION 5, using the same crew and many of the same sets and locations, and both were written by Arthur C. Pierce (1923-1987), whose screenplay credits include such gems as 1960's BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER, 1965's THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS, and 1966's WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET. Nothing Pierce ever penned was as imaginative as CYBORG 2087, but the film is repeatedly thwarted by its cheapness and the old-fashioned, get-it-in-the-can attitude of Adreon. He's obviously constrained by a budget that looks like less than an average episode of LOST IN SPACE, but only an anonymous clock-puncher like Adreon could take this ambitious science-fiction story and end it with a old-timey brawl in a barn that looks like an outtake from yet another version of THE SPOILERS. Watching CYBORG 2087 today, it's impossible to ignore the similarities with James Cameron's THE TERMINATOR--a universally-regarded classic--and Charles Band's TRANCERS--a smaller film with a devoted cult following--two films by young, visionary directors that would come a couple of decades later while CYBORG 2087 was consigned to late-night TV well into the 1980s and eventual obscurity once battered prints of old movies on The Late Late Show followed by a sign-off became a thing of the past.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) is beamed aboard a small spacecraft to 1966. His mission: abduct military scientist Prof. Marx (Eduard Franz) and bring him to 2087, preventing him from introducing his latest findings in his study of "radiotelepathy" that will result in government abuse and subjugation of future generations over the next century, turning the America of 2087 into a totalitarian hellhole of controlled thought and rule by evil cyborgs. Garth A7 is programmed to feel no emotion, his focus only on his mission, which makes it easy to exercise control over Marx's colleagues Dr. Zellar (Warren Stevens) and Dr. Mason (Karen Steele). But as they become convinced that what he's saying is true, Garth A7 learns emotion and bonding and feels a need to protect Mason and Zellar when two "tracers" (old-school stuntmen Dale Van Sickel and Troy Melton) are sent from 2087 to kill Garth and prevent him from changing the future.
|Michael Rennie (1909-1971)
(US - 1966)
Directed by Franklin Adreon. Written by Arthur C. Pierce. Cast: Jeffrey Hunter, France Nuyen, Harold Sakata, Donald Woods, Linda Ho, Robert Ito, David Chow, Jon Lormer, Bill Walker, Kam Tong, Marianna Case, Deanna Lund. (Unrated, 91 mins)
Shot immediately after and released at the same time as CYBORG 2087, DIMENSION 5 is just as cheap but completely lacking in any entertainment value. The less said about it, the better, and filled with endless clumsy exposition drops of the walk & talk variety (early on, one of these has the actors going through doors but walking down the same barely redressed corridor three times, and the same condo from CYBORG 2087 is somehow used as the entrance to a spy agency previously established as existing in the California Federal skyscraper), DIMENSION 5 runs 90 minutes but feels like a week and a half. American superspy Justin Power (Jeffrey Hunter) teams with sexy Chinese agent Kitty (France Nuyen) to use a nonsensical time travel belt (don't ask) to stop a plot by nefarious crime lord Big Buddha (Harold Sakata, best known as GOLDFINGER's Oddjob) to blow up Los Angeles (of course, it's later revealed that Kitty's reasons for going after Big Buddha are personal). Absolutely nothing happens in DIMENSION 5--one argument between Power and Kitty plays like a dry run for the "Whose reality? Yours or mine?" argument from THAT'S ARMAGEDDON! in KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE--and the whole clunky, unpolished fiasco plays like the kind of painfully bad Z-movie you'd expect from an Al Adamson or a Jerry Warren. It's hard to believe the same director and writer made CYBORG 2087, which isn't necessarily "good" but at least has some inventive ideas and tries to look as presentable as it can while being financed with pocket change. DIMENSION 5, on the other hand, is an endurance test that only has a charming Nuyen to make it remotely bearable, and not even the imposing Sakata--badly dubbed by Paul Frees, who also revoiced Toshiro Mifune in John Frankenheimer's GRAND PRIX the same year--can liven it up, other than some amusing overacting in his death scene. Fans of QUINCY, M.E. will enjoy seeing Robert Ito as a Chinese agent (never mind that Ito is of Japanese descent) a decade before his career-defining role as Sam, medical examiner Quincy's hapless assistant, constantly forced to cancel his plans and stay late at work while an easily-distracted Quincy abandoned his job duties to play amateur sleuth, ordering him to "Cover for me, Sam."
|Jeffrey Hunter (1926-1969)