Just Look Away

Posted on January 28, 2011



“What is this? Some kinda comic book? We got robots, we got cave men, we got kung fu! I quit!” Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine)

This 1986 scifi movie really does have it all – time travel, cyborgs, “funny” robot sidekicks, ninjas, girl geniuses, and mad scientists. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t generally rate movies that old, and with only 36% of respondents liking it, it may be the “worst” movie I’ve reviewed so far. I just can’t help liking it.

Why bother?

“This is all some kind of weird-ass science-fiction thing, right?” – Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine)

In 1986, Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson were fairly early in their writing careers. After this they wrote several TV series, including The Sentinel and The Flash. They wrote one of my favorite movies, The Rocketeer. They went on to write for several James Bond video games, including Nightfire, Everything or Nothing, and Goldeneye.

Andrew Prine is in it, and he’d been acting for almost 30 years when he did this. Heck, he worked with John Wayne at least once. Plus it has Denise Crosby in a wet t-shirt.

If you’re a gamer, there are more reasons to watch it that I’ll get to below.

I watched it.

“REEVES!” – The Mandroid

During the opening credits, there’s a cyborg and some Roman centurions and something about a plane crash. Turns out that there’s a time travel experiment going on, and the cyborg was sent back in time to get a 1st Century BC centurion’s shield. Now that the mad scientist (Abbot Reeves, played by veteran character actor Roy Dotrice) no longer needs the “mandroid,” he orders his associate, Takada, to disassemble it. Takada decides that the cyborg is “half alive” and shouldn’t be killed on a whim. He tries to help “John,” the mandroid, escape from the compound, and gets killed for his trouble.

The mandroid escapes from, apparently, Mexico, and makes his way to an unnamed big city in the US, where he breaks into a laboratory run by Colonel Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby). She realizes that his cyborg parts are stolen designs, and offers to help him. He wants to find out more about his past, and to get revenge on Abbot Reeves. They go down to Mexico with her robot sidekick, Spot, and find a river guide named Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine). Along their trip downriver, they encounter rival river guides and Neanderthals. Harry and Nora get a rescue from the Neanderthals by Kuji, the ninja son of Takada. There’s some bonding and some fighting with Abbot Reeves’ guards.

Apparently, Abbot Reeves wants to go back to ancient Rome where he, as a cyborg, will take over, and by changing the past, he will change the future. Only our brave band of adventurers can stop him…I think. The feeble, old, mad scientist has transformed himself into a cyborg with an appearance that melds mandroid with Roman centurion, and there’s a showdown that requires a cheap gimmick for good to triumph.

The Verdict

“Now! Prepare to meet your…Maker!” – Abbot Reeves (Roy Dotrice)

I remember 1980s video stores being full of movies like this: Low-budget sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films with ambitions much bigger than their budgets. Many of them were, like this one, obviously influenced by role-playing games. In fact, if you are a gamer, you should watch this. You will immediately recognize the party coming together, the overland travel to the site of the adventure, overcoming traps and obstacles while infiltrating the fortress/tomb/lair/mad scientist’s lab, and other gaming tropes. I particularly appreciated (I can’t say “liked”) that the arch-villain was a more powerful version of the mandroid, with abilities that precisely negated the abilities of our heroes.

It’s the campiest modern gaming adventure ever, but as a movie it’s poorly acted (sorry, Denise and Andrew, but the rest of the cast does let you down), poorly edited, and poorly directed. Its portrayal of Southerners and Mexicans is frankly un-PC, in a naive and vaguely innocent way.

Henry Fontana: I knew I should have learned computer programming. (hits computer, creating a rain of sparks)

Nora Hunter: I think you did.

If your high school gaming buddies wrote a movie, they might have written Eliminators. If you’re a scifi fan, you’re probably ashamed to admit seeing this movie. If you’re a gamer, this is a guilty pleasure worth having.

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