Thursday, March 3

The Vindicator (1984) - 1986 Key Video VHS

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The question that haunts Jean-Claude Lord's The Vindicator is what influence, if any, it had on Paul Verhoeven's far more well known RoboCop released a few years later. It shares many similar broad aspects such as a man reborn into machine by conniving creators, this time a NASA-like corporation, with a wife left behind he desperately misses. The whole revenge thing obviously comes in quick after the "rampage" described on the back cover amounts to a few people getting thrown around. Regardless, this chicken-or-egg question doesn't really matter since Lord's film manages to feel like a routine, almost entirely non-phantasmagorical rip-off of the 1987 classic.

In comparison, The Vindicator simply doesn't do much and doesn't build any larger a world than the one its few characters inhabit. An example is when the roboscientist first escapes by garbage truck and ends up in an incinerator. Using his newfound superhuman strength, the towering doors are busted down and fire rages forth from the side of an imposing concrete facade, but there's no one around. He's then wandering around a city street by night, throwing a trashcan through a window display after seeing his reflection, and is approached by three punks on roaring dirt bikes. Again, it's a ghost town. That sounds like a little detail yet it's another indicator this one's in, albeit watchable, B-grade territory. Pam Grier also shows up and is wasted as a bounty hunter assigned to find the "violently" malfunctioning creation. Paul Zaza's score is dated and often doesn't match the tone of the sequences it's married with. Stan Winston's mechanical suit design looks less impressive than the back's stills; at least on this old tape. Honestly, take it or leave it...or watch the ED-209's toe pad rattle once more. It wasn't long before I felt like I could safely hit the Stop button without missing anything interesting.

Key Video's VHS is cropped to full screen. The IMDB notes a 1.85:1 original aspect ratio and if accurate Key decided to zoom in and pan-and-scan the picture instead of taking the matte bars off. Nearly every other shot looks cramped with half faces or bodies and off screen voices. So obvious I wouldn't be surprised if the true widescreen ratio is 2.35:1 scope. Otherwise, the picture and sound quality is fine. I'm guessing 20th Century Fox doesn't have much interest in releasing this on disc.
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3 comments:

Max Dropout said...

The boom mic should have gotten a credit here. Fun stuff, though. Great review.

Sutekh said...

This is a great piece of shit movie. I have this on Aussie PAL tape, can't recall who released it at the moment.

Maynard Morrissey said...

great premise, badly executed. A remake would be great.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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