Release Date(s)1989 (April 24, 2018)
Studio(s)Golan-Globus Productions/The Cannon Group/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Infamously built upon the bones of an abandoned sequel to Masters of the Universe and an attempt at a Spider-Man movie, Cyborg rolled out from the Cannon Group and joined the ranks of various Jean-Claude Van Damme starring action vehicles from the late 80s and early 90s. Followed by two sequels, its story of a mercenary taking on a gang murderers in a post-apocalyptic world had no real critical or box office appeal, but saw plenty of cult popularity on home video after being edited and re-edited many, many times to reach its final form.
To be perfectly honest, I find most of the behind-the-scenes stories about the making of Cyborg to be far more interesting than the film itself. Stories about Van Damme accidentally injuring a cast member and later being sued for it, or the film’s torturous editing process (not to mention its franchise origins), are much more fascinating. That’s not to say that the film lacks merit altogether. Pyun and company offer up some cheesy action goodness, as well as some decent low budget production value, including sets, costumes, and the overall look of the film. Some of the film’s effects, dated as they are, are also impressive for their time. It has its moments, including the final slugfest between Van Damme and Vincent Klyn, but Cyborg feels more like something that could have been, and understanding what it went through in the editing room makes that all the more clear.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Cyborg comes with a new 2K transfer taken from the film’s interpositive element. Grain is handled well, revealing a surprising amount of depth and detail, the kind that the film has struggled with in previous home video incarnations. A colorful film, this transfer also takes advantage with a wide variety of bold hues, as well as naturally-appearing skin tones. Blacks are deep with excellent shadow detail and both brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. It’s also quite a clean and stable presentation with little to no damage of any kind leftover, other than some extremely mild speckling. It’s likely the film’s best presentation to date. For the audio, an English 2.0 DTS-HD track has been included with optional subtitles in English SDH. Although it has some definite separation, the placing of score and dialogue often feels lopsided at times, which is something likely inherent in its original mix. Everything comes through clearly, but it’s never fully balanced. There’s plenty of fidelity to sound effects and score otherwise.
This release also contains a lot of great extras, most of which are newly-produced by Red Shirt Pictures. There’s a great audio commentary with writer/director Albert Pyun, moderated by Michael Felsher, in which Pyun does most of the talking about his experiences making the film; A Ravaged Future: The Making of Cyborg, a 30-minute documentary featuring Albert Pyun, editor Rozanna Zingale, director of photography Philip Alan Waters, and actors Deborah Richter, Terrie Batson, and Vincent Klyn; Shoestring Fantasy: The Visual Effects of Cyborg, a 12-minute featurette which includes interviews with go-motion technician Christopher Warren, rotoscope artist Bret Mixon, and visual effects supervisor Gene Warren, Jr.; a set of extended interviews from the Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films documentary with Albert Pyun and screenwriter/director Sheldon Lettich; the film’s original theatrical trailer in HD; and an animated still gallery featuring lots of on-set stills and promotional materials. Missing from the German Blu-ray release is the VHS workprint of the film titled Slinger, the Making of Synchro featurette, a different audio commentary with Albert Pyun, and several press material galleries. Rights reasons likely kept the workprint footage from being included.
Naysayers dismissed Cyborg initially, and to this day, it’s still not one of the most fondly-remembered films of all time, but its fans are there. Most new viewers will find its schlock appeal impossible to ignore, while longtime watchers will appreciate Scream Factory’s efforts at delivering a nice transfer with a bounty of intriguing and enjoyable bonus materials. All in all, another solid release from them.
- Tim Salmons