The sci-fi/horror/action mash-up pays tender homage to the cheesy '80s movies director Steven Kostanski couldn't get enough of as a kid. It stars Matthew Kennedy as the titular Manborg, a fallen super-soldier who's brought back to life to battle an army of Nazi vampires and demons. Along the way, Manborg teams up with a quintessentially '80s group of misfits consisting of a badly dubbed Kung Fu master, a tough Aussie punk and a feisty anime chick.
The concept was born while Kostanski and his friend Jeremy Gillespie (both members of the Winnipeg-based filmmaking collective Astron-6) were watching Eliminators, a long-forgotten gem from 1986 about a 'Mandroid' cooked up by an evil scientist. "Jeremy said, 'You should make a movie called Manborg,' and that's all it took. I said 'Yeah, I think I'll do that,'" Kostanski recalls. "Cut to three years later and I'm finally premiering the movie." (Gillespie co-wrote the script, and appears in the film as The Baron.)
Those three years were filled with an insane amount of work. Kostanski estimates he spent a paltry $1,000 making the film, which meant he had to get really creative about bringing it to fruition. Even though he's not a professional stop-motion artist, he tackled the animation himself. Manborg has some pretty elaborate sets and costumes for a movie with essentially no budget. To pull that off, Kostanski resorted to dumpster diving. "There's a dumpster at the University of Manitoba where the architecture students would dump all their wood and metal bits from the little models they made. I would go and steal the stuff from that to make all my miniature sets and costumes," he recalls. "Everything is just a mish-mash of garbage and margarine containers all hot glued together."
(Even though his ambitions already significantly outweighed his budget, Kostanksi didn't stop at Manborg. He also shot a hilarious short called Bio-Cop, which you can catch after the Manborg credits roll.)
In honour of Manborg's theatrical release, we've compiled a list of amazing fictional cyborgs -- with a little help from Kostanski.
1. Terminator in The Terminator movies. Really, how could Arnie's iconic 'borg not top a list of the most amazing cyborgs? He was totally badass and he spouted pithy one-liners like 'I need a vacation.' "I guess Terminator should be #1 because it's one of my favourite movies," Kostanski rationalizes.
2. Mandroid in Eliminators. Mandroid has a classic back story, as far as '80s movie cyborgs go: a pilot who died in a plane crash who's brought back to life by an evil scientist. "He's pretty great," says Kostanski. "He pretty much inspired Manborg."
3. Inspector Gadget from Inspector Gadget (the animated TV series, not the movie). With tools like bionic limbs and a built-in helicopter, Inspector Gadget probably could have taken over the world if he wasn't such a clumsy dimwit! The lovable cyborg detective still holds a special place in many hearts, thanks to nostalgia for Saturday morning cartoons. "When I was a kid I did watch a lot of Inspector Gadget," says Kostanski.
4. Farnsworth in Nemesis. Even though the main character, Alex (World Kickboxing champ Olivier Gruner), is also a cyborg, it's Farnsworth who's the truly memorable cyborg in this flick by Cyborg director Albert Pyun. Towards the end of the movie, Alex must fight Farnsworth, the stop-motion mechanical endoskeleton. "It's a pretty epic scene," says Kostanski. "It's not one of those movies you watch a million times, but I have fond memories of it."
5. The cyborgs in Moontrap. These ain't no friendly Go-Go Gadget cyborgs! The flick revolves around a group of astronauts who have to face off against some evil-yet-awesome robots that may or may not be cyborgs. "There's a lot of stuff that I don't even know if they're considered cyborgs," Kostanski muses. "There are robots in this movie that I really like that are part human, part robot." Sounds like cyborgs to us!
Manborg opens in select theatres across Canada on November 2. For screening details, visit Manborg.com.