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Cyborg – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

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In 1988, Jean-Claude Van Damme lept into the role of action hero to lead a film for the very first time in Bloodsport. His next role would take him to postapocalyptic wasteland fantasy in Albert Pyun’s Cyborg. A grungy, low budget action fantasy, the film has had a cult legacy and a post production that had its share of drama over the final cut of the film. With that in mind, Scream Factory is putting out a collector’s edition of the film featuring new bonus features (Sorry no Van Damme or Director’s Cut) and a new transfer of the film. This little film is one that has had its fans and Van Damme himself comes with his own little subset of a following. Be sure to check out one of his earliest and more interesting works when Cyborg – Collector’s Edition hits Blu-ray April 24th.

Film 

In a future beset by chaos and violence, mercenary Gibson Rickenbacker is charged with a mission that could change everything: protecting beautiful cyborg Pearl Prophet. She holds the cure for a deadly disease that could destroy humanity, and must get it to scientists in Atlanta. But warlord Tremolo Fender, fearing that his power will be undercut by peace, intends to make sure she never reaches her destination.

Cyborg isn’t prestige. Its not a high concept sci fi action fantasy that manages to overcome its low rent obstacles like a Terminator. A Cannon Film is is a Cannon Film. And there’s a complete enjoyment in that. More Spacehunter than it is Star Wars, Cyborg resembles the Italian Mad Max/Escape From New York knock offs of the early 1980s. However its a less zany, more expensive take on those.

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s leap in this movie was to show more than just his fighting skills. That he could fit into a fantastical world, fire off guns and deliver futuristic dialogue. And he pulls it off quite well, while mixing in his trademark kicks and splits that work themselves naturally into the action. Cyborg would be the film that would get us to seeing Van Damme in some of his later classics like Universal Soldier and Timecop. What this movie might have over his others is his sweet haircut.

I previously mentioned low rent, but the costuming, props and practical effects that do their best to leap above their expectations all hold up in terms of B-movie goodness. Cheezy or not, they prove to be quite fun to watch. Apparently, the costuming, props and sets were all supposed to be used for a sequel to Masters of the Universe (And maybe a Spider-Man movie). Once that film was canceled, Golan-Globus asked Albert Pyun if he could figure out how to work these into another movie…and wah-la, Cyborg!

One of the things this movie is known for was the conflict during the editing process. Albert Pyun was excessively making some different cuts to the film. Ultimately the first one he showed to execs didn’t go over well (It was black and white with ear screechingly loud temp heavy metal score). He altered some things and they tested it and the reception wasn’t too positive. What ended up happening was Pyun getting shut out and Van Damme coming in to fix the film and it sort of changed the story too. I’ve seen both cuts (“Slinger” is the director’s cut which you can find on Blu-ray from overseas territories taken from a VHS source), and I have to say I kinda prefer the original theatrical edition. For one, I already liked the film this way and the Slinger cut feels a bit sluggish and doesn’t quite move the way it once did.

Cyborg is a fun little B-movie, postapocalyptic action jaunt. If you’re into trashy cinema or the Cannon Films, I’d say its on the upper tier. Albert Pyun makes best with what little he and his crew had and its another display of how good an action lead Jean-Claude Van Damme was. The film has had its fans and you can see its influence in things like music and video games (How many of the Final Fight goons seemed to be inspired by this movie?). If you’ve never seen Cyborg and you’re into Cannon, early 1980s Italian exploitation or the Star Wars knock offs, then this is right in your wheelhouse.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Cyborg returns to Blu-ray in this new edition with a brand new 2K scan of the interpositive. The original press release and Shout Factory’s site claim a 4K scan, but the box says 2K, so it must have changed somehwere in the process. Nevertheless, Cyborg looks terrific in this new edition. Coloring is more full and the scenes look more well rounded and more three dimensional. Details, textures and the lighting for scenes have improved very nicely.

Depth:  The spacing here is pretty good and well above averae. The characters move freely through their environments with good depth of field between the foreground and background. No distortions like jittering or blurring occured.

Black Levels: Blacks are really deep and dark, mostly hanging on to details and textures. There was one segment at nighttime that flirted with some crushing.

Color Reproduction: Coloring is pretty bold here. Greens look quite strong and pop. There are also many blue and orange filtered scenes that look striking.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the entirety of the film. Facial features like dried blood, dirt, grease, make-up, stubble, scars and more look quite clear from medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a nice layer of grain present that gets a little heavier in the darker moments.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Cyborg features a lossless 2.0 stereo track. I’m not sure whether this is the same one as on the previous release or not. It sounds pretty good, with a nice focus on the score. The action does the trick but doesn’t really give as much of a punch as it could have.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are plenty audible and clear, with a crutch of sounding like its analog source at times.

Extras 

Cyborg – Collector’s Edition comes with a reversible cover featuring the original poster art.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Albert Pyun

A Ravaged Future: The Making Of Cyborg (HD, 29:40) – Albert Pyun, actors Vincent Klyn, Deborah Richter and Terrie Batson, director of photography Philip Alan Waters and editor Rozanne Zingale tell us the tale of making the film. From its origins of coming from the canceled Masters of the Universe 2 through to its conflicts in the editing process, this is a fun and swift look through the production of a super low budget fantasy action film. Pyun, while getting the short stick in the end, doesn’t come off incredibly bitter as he could about it.

Shoestring Fantasy: The Effects Of Cyborg (HD, 11:57) – Visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr., Go-Motion technician Christopher Warren and rotoscope artist Bret Mixon go over the visuals and special effects they worked on that were used in the film.

Expanded Interviews From Mark Hartley’s Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (HD, 1:03:34) – Unfiltered interviews of Albert Pyun (Wearing the same shirt as he does on the Ravaged Future doc) and Sheldon Lettich from the acclaimed documentary on the Cannon Films era of the 80s.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:31)

Still Gallery (HD, 4:39) 

Summary 

Albert Pyun’s Cyborg, with the passage of time, has aged into something that is a bit of comfort food viewing for me, hitting a lot of B-movie strong points as well as being some solid Van Damme action. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray looks and sounds very good. The extras are a lot of fun as well. Currently its preordering pretty inexpensively, so if you’re even a mild fan, grab it at the pre-order price!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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