The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cyborg Director's Cut aka Slinger (1989)

Photobucket

When word first surfaced that a director's cut of Cyborg had been found, I was pretty excited to see what this was all about. Then, when Albert Pyun offered to send me a copy so I could review it, I was even more excited. This is a very unique experience because, unlike most director's cuts which are a totally finished product, and often meant to replace the original cut in the market, this is a very rough version, not cleaned up, and intended for us as fans of the original to look at and see what we think of it. So without further ado...

Slinger, or the Cyborg Director's Cut, has some very distinct differences in story from the version we're familiar with. First off, there's no plague. Van Damme is chasing Vincent Klyn more out of revenge than to save a cyborg. As far as the cyborg goes, she's carrying data that will help get the electrical grids up and running-- or so she says, because we discover rather quickly that she and the people she works for have secret ulterior motives. And then there's Klyn, who has a different raison d'etre as well: he's like a conqueror or killer in the name of Satan, almost like a take on the medieval crusader. He feels like this world is meant to be, and wants to stop the cyborg from fixing it, so he's recruiting forces from other gangs and planning to invade Atlanta.

Photobucket

We're going to start with what I liked. The new story plugs some of the holes the old one had, like, first and foremost, why the cyborg would be in New York getting key information to cure the plague. It made no sense, but this makes more sense, that there'd be info on an old computer she needed to get at. Also, this version handles the length of time to get from New York to Atlanta much better. On a technical aspect, the DC introduces the musical score that was intended to go with the movie, and which is definitely superior. There were a couple moments when it was a little heavy handed-- best example was when Prophet reveals herself to be a cyborg, and there's a "bom-bom-bom", which was a bit much-- but that was rare, and more often, it fit the mood and the shots better. The music from the theatrical version was really just filler, while here it was a part of the film. (More on the music later.)

I think the what I didn't like was very minimal, but I figured I'd put it in here anyway. The voice effects on the flashback sequences, especially the echo, was kind of cheesy. I did like the flashback sequences here better overall though. I also liked better in the theatrical version (from here "TV") that we didn't learn the full extent of what Klyn and his gang did to Van Damme and the family until he was crucified. In the DC we learn about it earlier, but I think it had more punch by waiting. On the other hand, the crucifixion scene makes much more sense in the DC with Klyn as a twisted religious figure. I also liked the end fight between Klyn and Van Damme in the TV better. In the DC it's cut down a little more.

Photobucket

Overall, I think the DC fits more with what Albert Pyun was going for, with the Spaghetti Western aspect and the samurai films. The TV had elements of that, but it became more low-budget actioner-- which was fun too, don't get me wrong. I'm left trying to imagine if Cyborg would be as much of a cult favorite had the DC version been the one we got originally, which is hard because the actual video is so rough. I actually watched the theatrical one right before the DC so I could compare the two better, and I really think that there wouldn't have been a drop off in the film's following had the DC been released, and when you combine that with the fact that the pluses of the DC outweigh those of the TV, I would have to say the DC wins. Between the superior music and the story that made just a little more sense, I'm left wondering what the Cyborg property could've been beyond the first one had the DC been the one released in 1989.

I went back to my review of the TV, and in it I said that it was maybe Pyun's best film, so to find out that the project had been taken from him was intriguing to say the least. I wasn't sure what I would think going in, because Cyborg is such an iconic film that so many from my generation saw at a young age (perhaps too young) and it was part of what sparked our interest in the action and sci-fi genres. Now that we're 20+ years after the film's initial release, I'm not sure we can do like Lucas did with Star Wars and try to erase the original from existence; but there's definitely a place for this director's cut to coexist with the version that we grew up with, and I'd like to see it as a finished product, with the images cleaned up and maybe even a director's commentary or introduction or interview-- if that's possible, I don't know. If not, this on it's own is still pretty cool.

Photobucket

The soundtrack by Tony Riparetti and Jim Saad will be available in April 2011 on CD from Howlin' Wolf Records (www.howlinwolfrecords.com). When the editing process was taken away from Pyun and this score was axed, I have to imagine they went with some stock music from a previous film or something, because that's really what it sounds like, and before this, I'd never noticed the music in Cyborg. I don't know what the thinking in cutting it was either, if it was too married to the original edit that it didn't fit, or if it was too intrusive and they wanted the music to be merely filler. It's one of those crazy realities of working in movies, that people can put all this effort into making the music for a feature length film, only to have it all axed. At least now all that hard work is finally coming to light.

I guess that leaves us with only one more thing: is this worth buying? First off, if you're interested in purchasing it, you need to first send an e-mail to curnanpictures@gmail.com with Cyborg Director's Cut in the subject line, and let them know that you're interested. From there they'll send you an e-mail letting you know what you'll get, and what the cost is. For $25-- US, it's a little more for Canada and Europe-- you get the Cyborg Director's Cut, Pyun's feature film Bulletface, plus his autograph and personal message on the cover. You can see some of my cover shots I included in this post, which will also give you an idea of the new cover art, which is pretty sweet too. In the e-mail you get back before you buy you'll also be given a link to a video clip just so you see what it will look like (http://vimeo.com/20715387). They make no bones about it, this is for die hard fans and collectors, and if you don't count yourself as either, this might not be for you-- you're looking at a very rough cut. On the other hand, to get a sense of what Albert Pyun really wanted to do with the film that he might be most famous for is definitely worth checking out.

Photobucket

Final verdicts: now that we're nearly 20 years on with the theatrical version, I don't know that I can say I'd rather the DC in it's place, but I also don't know that I can say I wouldn't have been as enamored with the DC as I've been with the TV had the DC been the one that was released back then, so I don't know why the project was taken from Pyun. I've always thought that Cyborg was a wasted property, and watching both versions today brought that sense back again. This wasn't just something that more could've been done with linearly-- as in with better sequels-- but horizontally as well, with things like novels and mid-late 90s syndicated TV shows that took place in the same time but in different locations with different characters. It might be too late for all of that now-- although, while the syndicated TV market may be dead, a series of YA sci-fi books might still work-- but the Cyborg saga under this DC storyline may not be over yet, if the end credits are any indication. There's mention of a Cyborg Legacy: The Rise of the Slingers. We'll have to wait and see, but that could be really cool.

Also, one quick mention before I wrap this up: the voice overs sounded like Thom Mathews. I'm not sure if it's him or not, just saying it sounds like him. Imagine him in a Cyborg spin-off as a Slinger...

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097138/ and curnanpictures@gmail.com

19 comments:

  1. One of the things that I found goofy was the whole technology aspect, if they don't have technology in the collapse how do you make a cyborg? This version for sure makes more sense, has a darker angle and even has better character development. The problem though is that the action sequences with the exception of the abandoned factory and the pirates who kill the kid with the ball (Those are still solid) the marsh scene fight scene is disappointingly weak, as is the final one on one, even though the final kill is cool. Indeed if you watch in terms of choreography, the DC version has just Van Damme and Klyn taking turns hitting one another and I mean utterly obvious. I liked the music score.

    Indeed what they should do is keep the fight scenes and rescore the original, cyberize the robot's voice and keep her as a villain and cut out the narration scenes especially when it makes JCVD sound schitzophrenic. I think 25 is steep, but 14 is a good price, I also want to see a commentary as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with you on the fight scenes-- I had forgotten about the swamp fight, which I agree wasn't as good in the DC, and also the fact that we go from Van Damme on the ground to Van Damme fighting Klyn without the transition of "get him on his feet".

    I liked a lot of the narration, especially the twisted version of the Our Father that Klyn does (I forgot to mention that too-- that's why it's always good that you comment Kenner). Usually I say a film needs to be trimmed, but this is one where an extra 10 minutes, especially if it's the fuller fight scenes, would be fine.

    I like $25 as a price, just because this is a special deal to get a look at the director's cut, so it has to come at something of a premium.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi DTVC (Matt),

    Enjoyed the review and I agree with it. Thanks for taking the time. Looking forward with great anxiety to your Bulletface review!

    Its been a long haul to get the Cyborg DC out after so many years. That alone is an achievement!

    Albert Pyun
    Facebook / Albert Pyun Movies

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you again for sending it, and I'm glad you enjoyed the review. After 22 years, just the fact of knowing that a copy of your version exists is great, but to do this so people could watch it and see for themselves was quite a thing to offer. If this is as far as it gets, I think that's already enough, but it is a story and cut that's worthy of a full release, if it ever got that far, and I guess that was the point of this adventure anyway, to find out if yours was up there with the version that Cannon released.

    And I can't wait to check out Bulletface, which I will do later on this evening. It's one I've been wanting to see for a little while now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I also bought this DC edition from Albert though I have not found the time to watch it yet. It will certainly be interesting to see how different it is, to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kenner sent this to me and although I'm still not a fan of this one, there are considerable improvements. First off, I think the pacing was much tighter. Plus, the constant time codes, aspect ratio switching, and hilarious voiceovers gave the whole thing a surreal quality which I found entertaining. I think the DC also shows that producers and movie stars need to stay out of the editing room and let a brother cut a movie!

    The flick will probably work better if you play a drinking game while watching it and take a shot every time Klyn takes off his sunglasses and proclaims, "YOU'RE SCREWED!"

    ReplyDelete
  7. When you do watch it, I'd do like I did (if you have the time) and watch the the theatrical version first, then the DC right after.

    And I agree with you Video Vacuum on both accounts, the improvements and the interesting elements added through the timers and whatnot. And that drinking game idea would be awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven't seen the original in a REALLY long time but this has whetted my appetite to revisit it. I always regarded it as one of JCVD's lesser films but keep in mind that most of his DTV stuff totally passed me by so I'm sure this ends up coming up roses in the order.

    I've seen some, but not many of Pyun's films and I know he has something of a reputation for being one of the kings of low budget DTV mishmashes, but regardless of how you feel about some of the individual films he's an absolute workhorse of a director. A lot of filmmakers working in the same genres go one-and-done, so his longevity alone is admirable. I actually picked up Knights not too long ago based on your review. It gets a little rough in spots but I had a lot of fun with it between the fight scenes and the epic Henriksen performance.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Awesome review man! I had no idea that Cyborg had been taken from Pyun, this is something that happens to a lot of directors, the producers simply want to make something thats more marketable, the end result isnt always the best (Lynch's Dune is a good example of this) but I'm one of the fans of the original Theatrical Cut of Cyborg.

    Of course, I've never been exposed to the directors cut. According to your review, it will be a totally different experience. I'll make an effort to get it, sounds like a worthwhile experience!

    Also, is it just me or did Vin Diesels Babylon A.D. rip off Pyun's Cyborg?

    Great review dude, thanks for the heads up on this one!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good review man. I had never even heard of this!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love these kinds of rough cuts....
    The grainy footage; the time codes at the bottom of the screen. Awesome.

    Makes me feel like I'm in the editing bay with the director.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Karl-- If you haven't seen the theatrical version of Cyborg in a while, you might want to give it a second look, especially from the Van Damme angle. I'd consider getting this version only after that.

    Francisco-- Thanks man, and I didn't know that either about Cyborg until I see a post in my facebook feed from him talking about a Director's Cut surfacing. I think this kind of thing would be right n your wheel house. And now that you mention it, Babylon AD is like a remake of Cyborg, the same way Fast and the Furious is a remake of Point Break. Interesting connection, I can't believe I hadn't seen it before.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hoaks and Andrew-- I think you guys will dig this, especially you Andrew if you like the counters and the grainy footage. The actual language in the order form is "it's like your looking over their shoulder", so it's like you took the words out of their mouth.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I guess Vin Diesels just trying to duplicate the success of his favorite action stars and films from the 80s and 90's, its understandable, since he is the modern day equivalent of an 80s action star same way Van Damme, Arnold or Stallone were in their day.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That, or it might be that action screenwriters find it's easier to fall back on previous story ideas that they know worked-- though I'm sure Diesel enjoys the opportunity to jump into those shoes and carry the baton.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Just got a note in my inbox: "Sheldon Lettich has just confirmed that JC advised him that he will play a villian in the sequel to one of the biggest action films of the decade! Expendables 2"

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'd heard that that was in the works, so that's good that he changed his mind after missing out on the first one. The Eagle Path is still in limbo too, so we haven't really heard from him in a while. Hopefully that'll change soon.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Eagle Path might be stuck in production hell but he has Weapon with Scott Adkins landing soon, and Dragon Eyes - a prison action flick - landing after that. Saw a few clips of both on the Jean-Claude Van Damme Behind the Scenes TV series which were pretty promising. He kickboxed a stunt guy to the face and made contact, breaking his nose. Oops.

    ReplyDelete
  19. We're hoping they're landing soon. but Eagle Path was supposed to be landing soon last year, and we lost it. I have a feeling, if it does make it out on time, that the Brits will get first crack at it, which means you'll have the option again of getting an import copy before a Region 1 version makes it over here.

    ReplyDelete