The Vindicator (1986)
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"The Vindicator" is a low-budget movie with a poor storyline and lame production. The characters and situations are not well-developed and the rushed beginning does not exactly explain the importance of the rage project or why it was necessary to eliminate Carl. The storyline has similarities with "Robocop" that was released more than one year later. Was "Robocop" a rip-off "The Vindicator"? My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Roboman"
A brilliant Scientist is killed by his boss to be recreated as an invulnerable Cyborg who will obey his every command. However, when the control chip for him is detached, he escapes, visiting his mourning wife, while being hunted by a Bounty Hunter(played by Pam Grier) and the company's scientists and hired muscle, before he decides to put an end to their schemes.
It's not brilliant, and all of the aforementioned movies, barring maybe the first Guyver, are better than it, but that doesn't mean it's not a fairly good B-grade Sci-Fi movie that never bored or failed to entertain me. The effects, done by Stan Winston, are actually pretty good, although the Cyborg's design could have been better, it's actual creation is excellent. Acting in the movie is fairly divided, with the main players all doing very well, but the supporting cast are pretty dreadful.
Worth watching to see a sort of Pre-Robocop Robocop.
Not to be confused with The Exterminator (1980), The Terminator (1984), Eliminators (1986), The Revenger (1989), or The Punisher (1989), THE VINDICATOR is a highly comic book-influenced sci-fi actioner that wears its Canadian heritage on its sleeve with pride. Director Jean-Claude Lord proves there's more than one guy named "Jean-Claude" in the movie industry that we should be aware of. He imbues the project with an intelligence that keeps the viewers' interest. He seems pretty influenced by his compatriot David Cronenberg, but Lord's approach to some of the same themes Cronenberg has tackled is much more populist and aimed for the heart of the video store market. While on the one hand, Carl's "body horror" and his examination of his own humanity is reminiscent of Cronenberg, Pam Grier with a super soaker-like weapon shooting people in a sewer as cars blow up really isn't.
The most obvious parallel we can see to The Vindicator is, of course, Robocop (1987), which came out the following year, which is extremely interesting. The Vindicator came first, much like Greedo's shootings. But the sewer scenes recall yet more movies, C.H.U.D. (1984) and Alligator (1980) - Pam Grier's character is reminiscent of Henry Silva's in the latter movie. So it's fair to say The Vindicator is an amalgam of many different sci-fi/fantasy/horror/comic book ideas from years past. Thankfully there are enough of these ideas so that the filmmakers and cast can make it work. This is a movie that is filled with as many strange situations as it has strange-looking people. It was from a golden time when scientists smoked and cops shot monkeys with abandon. Also there's a line of dialogue about "3000 free games of Zaxxon", totally in keeping with our perspective today as the movie as retro-futuristic.
Released by Key video back in the good old days of the video store, The Vindicator has a certain unorthodox appeal and is worth seeing.
The acting's top notch for a production like this. The highlights for me were Richard Cox as Whyte and David McIlwraith as the Vindicator/Frankenstein. The story overall has its twists and turns and keeps you entertained.
Some movies move very slow. The only thing that can be said about this movie maybe is that it moves a little too fast sometimes.
I don't understand why James Rolfe from cinemassacre.com didn't like it. It's got a lot of drama, intrigue and action. Very recommendable.
I don't regret paying those few bucks for the DVD at all.
PS: One bad part - the exploding truck. Too much for my taste.
Vindicator might not feel like an original story, crossing Robocop with the Hulk (film doesn't even try to hide that it has borrowed a concept from the hulk by making), with a scientist who's been rebuilt into a powerful after a freak accident, which was purposely cause by his coworkers to push forward an experiment.
Yes, this is low budget, and yes this is silly, and yes, this is very eighties, however the film runs smoothly, never feeling dull. It's villains are despicable and you'll root for the hero to give them their dues. Some of the directors choices are also good, for instance a church sequence that has a great shot of our hero jumping from a balcony into shattering wood floors.
This is a true 80's low budget gem. Hard to find but worth the hunt.
David McIlwraith stars as Carl, a scientist, who is nearly killed in an "accidental" explosion because the bad-guy scientists don't like him. It doesn't matter why. Once he's mutilated they stick his brain (and his eyes and a bit of nose) into an indestructible space-suit and plug him in, oh and he has a nifty little device that means he goes ballistic and kills people if they touch him. Why you'd need that on Mars (apparently its a Mars-explorer prototype or something) I have no idea. It'd be like, "hey, we found some life on mars! Sh*t dude, Roboman just squished it!" Anyway, in true dodgy 80's movie-style, no sooner has he escaped from the labs when he runs into a couple of no-good-street-punks, and dispatches them swiftly, and it's here that the film really settles into the horror movie thing...it has all the pacing, limited characterisation, atrocious acting and simplistic music score of a "bad" horror movie.
He seeks to track down and destroy the scientists who imprisoned him the robo suit, and is hunted by...wait for it...Pam Grier, in a woefully cheesy role as the bounty hunter (or something) named...uh...Hunter, seems so oddly out of place in this film, and has the best line in the film (paraphrasing here, it's not THAT memorable): "Your buddy's dead with a manhole cover up his *ss coz YOU weren't straight with me!" Yep folks, THAT really is the best line in the film.
Terri Austin - she is not much of an actress, but she is quite nice to look at and has a nice voice. Unfortunately she's assaulted by the character of Maury Chaykin in a disturbing and unnecessary attempted-rape scene.
Vindicator suit - this actually isn't a ripoff of terminator (it couldn't be anyway, since both "creatures" were designed by the same guy!), the exo-skeleton thing is on the outside here. It is quite cool, in a horror-movie kind of way, like when he removes the face plate: "You can't love THIS!" And it looks good (it was made by Stan Winston studios) and you can see a lot of thought went into the design.
Setting - foggy Canadian mornings are a highlight in this film. Reminds me of cold days spent indoors by the fire. Likewise the houses in the film are cool, I particularly like the bad guy's living room, and RoboMan's house.
I'm glad i went out of my way to find this movie again, it's nice to have it on the shelf for a winter day when I feel like watching it again, but as far as recommending it? I don't know. I'd say it's more for people like me who saw it ages ago on VHS and have a soft spot for it, or if you are a fan of cheesy 80's Canadian cinema. Otherwise, stick with Terminator and RoboCop. They are easily available everywhere for good reason - they are fantastic movies. This one is pretty average.
A resurrection science fiction film that despite being a B-low budget affair has a grander 80's film quality feel thanks to some gritty, raw and rough round the edges special effects.
Richard Cox and Pam Grier are watchable and some performances are above average. However, they are counter balanced by what should have been better supporting actors. Edith Rey and David Preston's dialogue is sometimes flawed, yet their story fairs better exploring some moral dilemmas.
Although it predates Robocop (1987) I remember the main draw to watch it was because of The Terminator (1984). That said, the Vindicator shares more with Frankenstein and the Wraith (1986).
Jean-Claude Lord's Vindicator was of its day. It has some nice visual moments. The certain charm it held in my mind since 1986 was mostly warm nostalgia - as on revisiting The Vindicator it's not as fast paced as I remembered it.
While fun at the time, in retrospect it's for comparable curiosity only.
The Vindicator is about a scientist (David McIlwraith) who is nearly killed an explosion in his lab whose tattered remains are put inside an experimental body suit/armour. For some unfathomable reason he is fitted with a Rage Response Activator, a device wired into his brain that will turn him homicidal if he comes into physical contact with any other person. They give some daft explanation about how it is a necessary defensive mechanism but I cannot see the logic in installing such a device unless you wanted a rampaging cyborg killing machine. It is especially ridiculous when it is indicated the suit Carl is wearing is actually an experimental space suit. What possible need would there be for an astronaut to turn into the incredible hulk whilst on a mission? He predictably breaks out of the lab and proceeds to battle the dodgy scientists who put him in the suit, along with the ninja assassin Hunter played by Pam Grier (No, really).
The Vindicator itself looks pretty damn goofy. It is basically a dude in a mangled golden foil suit. He also has a perpetually bewildered look in his eyes, that doesn't inspire fear or even compassion. I guess you can't blame him for that, most people watching the movie will have that same look on their faces.
The acting is of the really bad, stilted, 'I'm not sure what the character's emotions or thoughts are that this point so I'll take a punt and spurt out my dialogue in a random tone of voice whilst trying not look at the camera' school of acting. The actor playing the funky black scientist even struggles with this last part.
It is after this initial accidental death that the Vindicator goes after the scientists. Strangely enough the whole Rage Response Activator 'touch me and I'll kill you' thing doesn't play as big a role as you might expect with Carl going after his former colleges in a reasonably detached manner. There was one scene where he rather brutally kills some street punks who push him around. I know that it is de rigueur for street gangs to randomly assault the lead characters in eighties movies but surely one of them must have realised it might be a bad idea to attack the hulking cyborg guy even if he does look like C3PO's retarded cousin. As it is they don't even seem that surprised to see a mangled golden cyborg walking down the street as though it was an every day occurrence for them. The only other time this rage response activator comes up in the movie is when old Carl can't give his wife a hug. When Hunter tries to turn this against him by throwing her into him so he'll be forced to kill her he casually remarks he has reprogrammed himself (Off-screen naturally) so this doesn't happen. They could have left out the whole Rage Response Activator thing and just gone with a straight revenge story and it wouldn't have made a huge difference to the movie.
There is an amusing sequence in the sewers as Grier and her cronies track down the Vindicator. Due to his armoured hide they are all armed with weapons which fire 'vapourised acid.' For some bizarre reason when these weapons fire it is represented on screen by cartoonish red lines that streak toward their targets ala Ghostbusters. The Vindicator fights back by ripping a gas pipe out of the wall and incinerating all of Grier's goons in an enormous streak of flame that comes out. The resulting fireball is so huge and powerful that it comes out of the sewers out of a man hole and blows up the van a couple of the scientists are. Strangely enough Grier escapes by throwing herself down into the inch deep water despite the fact she was closest to the Vindicator. This is one of several fake fiery explosions throughout the movie, including the death of funky black scientist when the vindicator sends his van of a cliff. (This is after they capture The Vindicator by trapping him in a giant lump of gello- no, seriously).
There is also one unsettling and long and out of place sequence in which Carl's treacherous overweight friend, who looks like a poor man's Ned Beatty, reveals his infatuation with Carl's wife and tries to rape her. It goes on for about 5-10 minutes and is full of disturbing shots of the guy slobbering over the wife's face, gyrating on top of her and trying to pull her dress off. It is icky to say the least and seems really out of whack with most of the rest of the movie which is kind of cartoonish and larger than life in its violence.
The movies finale involves the Vindicator battling a whole bunch of other dudes in battle suits. For whatever reason all these other dudes are less kick-arse than Carl, some of them being dispatched by the wife simply by having a protruding tube in their side ripped out. Luckily for Carl the suit he is wearing lacks this crucial design flaw. The only really memorable part toward the end is the death of Grier. Doing something I've never seen a baddie do in a movie before, in the middle of her confrontation with the Vindicator she decides she really doesn't stand a chance against him and in a rather of matter of fact manner blows her own brains out with his pistol.
"The Vindicator" gives presenter Michael Levy and viewers an excellent bang for the buck.
As it turns out, the "accident" was staged, and McIlwraith isn't really, totally dead. Cox and company put his brain (and eyes) in an indestructible containment suit. But, the suit is equipped with a protective device making McIlwraith wantonly kill anything it perceives as a threat. Think of it as "The Terminator" meeting "The Hulk" (the script wisely offers the comparison). As you might imagine, punks and Cox had better beware, but Austin and innocents are in danger too. No dummy, Cox hires Pam Grier (as Hunter) to track down McIlwraith before he completes his revenge.
"The Vindicator" is a good example of what to do with a formulaic project and limited budget.
Director Jean-Claude Lord and the crew pace it very well. And the lead performers are terrific. In two of three sexy "R-rated" scenes, Austin shows more than she did on "Knits Landing" (and it's a welcome sight). Cox is one of those actors who never gets the caliber of parts he deserved (and it shows). Grier seems a little lost at first, but is fine on later auto-pilot (there couldn't have been many re-takes). Unrequited lover Maury Chaykin (as Burt Arthurs) plays his role just right. And, McIlwraith (whom you may have seen in "Hollow Man II") follows suit. Make some popcorn.
******* The Vindicator (2/14/86) Jean-Claude Lord ~ David McIlwraith, Teri Austin, Richard Cox, Pam Grier
I'm a big fan of "human cyborg" films, contributed to my formidable teenage years watching popular sci-fi actioners, ROBOCOP & THE TERMINATOR, and I do believe THE VINDICATOR will appeal specifically to this crowd. The film also is a mad scientist movie as well with Cox well cast as the determined ARC industries boss yearning for the kind of universal control his project might eventually produce(..by controlling the cybernetic human, whose strength is a phenomenal asset, Whyte sees the unlimited potential for power). The true casting choice that will provide an allure for THE VINDICATOR is Pam Grier as a vicious killer who will snap the neck(..or put a long, thin needle all the way through young female witness' throat)of a woman who provides a threat to her employer's company without a second thought. McIlwraith is only seen for a minimum of five or so minutes before Whyte has him terminated, his eyes providing us with the only method to judge his feelings when his cyborg body goes into attack alert(..when he's touched by anything, an alert sounds off, beating faster and faster before trouble starts for those that antagonize him)..or when he takes his face guard/helmet off to reveal his scarred visage, reflected to his horror from a pool of water or store shop window. Those familiar with Maury Chaykin know that his characters are often never to be trusted, even when his Burt consoles Lauren(..actually Burt is lustfully obsessed with her, and his attempted rape/strangling of her is really disturbing).
No doubt, Whyte's team of scientists(..and his bounty hunter)are an assortment of ruthless, vile dreamers, willing to go to any lengths for their own success. That's what makes Carl's revenge so sweet. The 80's, interesting enough, featured films like these where revenge was so satisfying because the hero's opposition were such foul cretins worthy of the most violent death possible. The death toll here isn't extravagant, and the violence isn't as graphic as in ROBOCOP or TOTAL RECALL, but I think THE VINDICATOR has enough elements to please sci-fi buffs. A good point was made elsewhere regarding this movie coming before ROBOCOP so it shouldn't be labeled as a rip-off. Carl's robotic suit of armor(..after the golden NASA suit is burned away), in a bit of cool trivia, was made by Stan Winston's studio.
Stan Winston did the SPFX !
In this film, a scientist working in a sinister robotics company with a really creepy boss(they always are) gets is killed by them in a horrible lab explosion and has his brain placed inside an indestructible robot body .
The rest of this movie goes on with a romance angle as this Cyborg/Man regains consciousness and wreaks havoc while trying to communicate with his wife, played by the gorgeous(back then in 1986) Terri Austin . (He tries to reconnect with his old life, like in that scene in RoboCop)
The rest of this movie is about breaking things, while trying to defeat the evil his evil boss from recapturing him for some ill-defined 'turn humans into cyborgs' project .
This film pays homage to previous movies like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - - as the cyborg breaks free like the giant robot Gort does .
Except for the 'Frankenstein Suite' designed by Stan Winston, this movie's production values are typically Canadian: SLEAZY ! !
Pam Grier stars in this film as an hired killer-commando, a cheap role of the likes she was doing so much of during the 80's .
As for a Sci-Fi Horror B movie, out of 4 Stars, this film ranks about a <3
So Robo-Carl wanders aimlessly through the movie for a while, killing a couple of random muggers and other assorted background characters, till he returns to his home and contacts his wife (this scene is supposed to be heartbreakingly touching, I guess, but turns out comical because Carl's robot voice is so heavily synthesized that you can barely understand a word he says). He of course tells her to leave the city and never come back because she's in danger, but she wants to stay and help him, yadda yadda yadda. Eventually Whyte hires a gang of commando thugs led by "Hunter," an apparent ninja assassin played by Pam Grier (!)to hunt down and destroy his runaway creation, using Carl's wife as bait, and predictable (but laughably cheap looking) mayhem ensues.
I'm a B-Movie kind of guy but "The Vindicator" was so half-assed that it turned into high comedy pretty quickly. I'm assuming that a good hunk of the budget went into Stan Winston's robo-Carl suit design, because that actually looks pretty cool, but the rest of the movie suffers from a cheap, made-for-TV kind of look. The script could've used a LOT more work, but then maybe the filmmakers had gotten wind of "RoboCop" going into production and rushed to get "Vindicator" out so they couldn't be accused of ripping them off. Either way, judging by the other comments here on IMDb, I'm not the only one who's noticed the parallels between "Vindicator" and "RoboCop," and obviously "Robo" is the superior film, so there's no need to waste your time sitting through this piece of nonsense unless you want to see a film that can best be described, at best, as a rough draft of "RoboCop" if it were made by an 8th grader.
This American Canadian co-production was directed by Jean-Claude Lord who had previously made the Canadian slasher Visiting Hours (1982) & is still directing even now, anyway this being the first of January 2010 The Vindicator is in fact not only the first film of 2010 that I have seen but the first film of the new decade & while it's not a bad way to kick start my exploitation viewing for the next ten years I wouldn't exactly call it a classic. The Vindicator is a pretty obscure film & one I would actually like to know more about in terms of it's production since the IMDb lists a release date of 1986 but the copyright date on the credits says 1984 (I think & the IMDb itself lists the production date as from October 1984 to November 1985) & it was originally called Frankenstein '88 until the huge success of The Terminator (1984) which probably made Twentieth Century Fox pick it for distribution & release it theatrically in the US & certainly influenced the change of title to The Vindicator which sounds a lot like The Terminator doesn't it? As far as the film itself goes you can clearly see that The Vindicator was a modern take on the Frankenstein story, several character's refer to Frankenstein by name & the idea of saving someone's brain & transplanting it is taken directly from Frankenstein. At 90 odd minutes in length it has a good pace, it moves along quickly enough, there are one or two memorable scenes especially the fiery first appearance of the Vindicator & it has a certain sleazy seriousness to it, there are a couple of minor plot twists & overall it's an entertaining piece of sci-fi action horror that is strangely obscure & not that well known. Of course the film isn't perfect, using the guy's brain who you have just murdered seems like a foolish idea, there's no real logical reason as to why Carl is programmed to kill or destroy anything that even touches him or why he makes a silly bleep bleep noise when he's in rage mode & there's no explanation given at the end as to how Whyte manages to become a cyborg in the space of ten minutes with no help from anyone.
There's a real early 80's vibe going on here with the fashions, laboratory equipment & decor but it has a level of seriousness that sort of works & it hasn't dated too badly everything considered. I quite liked the casio keyboard synthesiser music too with loads of chimes going on in the background. The effects are pretty good, the robot suit looks a bit clunky at times & a bit too much like plastic but it looks alright & the unmasking scene in the Church is cool as he reveals his face beneath the mask which has no lips or upper skull & his brain is visible. There's some gore like a needle through someones throat & some action scenes including several exploding cars, it's just a shame the action scenes aren't staged that well. There's also an unpleasant sexual assault which almost certainly was the footage that the BBFC cut from the UK tape back when it was released over here. The film feels a lot like Robocop (1987) & the same sorts of themes & ideas are present in both although The Vindicator was shot at least a few years before. Maybe I am just thinking out loud here or guessing but around 1980 an adaptation of Frankenstein was announced to be directed by legendary Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (even as far as advance ads appearing in magazines) but it ultimately never got made & I am wondering if The Vindicator is what that project eventually turned into, I mean the Frankenstein themes are there & Pierre David was involved in both as a producer.
A lot of reviews comment on this being low budget but with a budget of almost $4,500,000 back in the early eighties this was probably quite well funded for the time. The end credits list Montréal as it's filming location. The acting is OK with Pam Grier the only real recognisable name in the cast.
The Vindicator is a film I liked, I liked the modern (80's anyway) updating of the classic Frankenstein themes & thought it was a good little sci-fi horror film with some good action. Sure, it isn't any sort of masterpiece but I think most exploitation fans will be happy with this largely ignored & forgotten effort.
Comparisons aside (which on the other hand James Cameron's 'Terminator (1984)' could've been an influencer to it), it's standard b-grade ho-huh that I didn't find it all that exciting or gripping in it's bland story-telling (which had too many daft moments in a wonky script) and uniformed visuals. Director Jean-Claude Lord's (who was also behind the 1982 slasher 'Visiting Hours') handling is crudely makeshift and the pacing can get blotchy, but the grimy atmosphere and cold-blooded violence (at least the deaths are creative) seems to fit. However the premise had something original to work with, but the way Lord went about it wasn't. At times it seemed to get too mushy with some unwanted details, where I wished it kept to a more straight-forward, but harrowing revenge exploitation path.
Iconic cult actress Pam Grier appears as a hired gun to destroy the cyborg, but even her firebrand presence isn't all that flammable. David McIlwraith cruises through his part as the scientist turned machine. Richard Cox is perfectly snake-like in his performance, but the pick of the bunch is Teri Austin's gallant turn. The always dependable Stan Winston vividly crafts out the space-suit wearing cyborg and make-up FX with great care, and is one of the film's major highlights. Paul Zaza's music score starts off effective, to only go on to be mainly forgettable.