Friday, December 21, 2018


Directed by Cullen Blaine

Imperial Entertainment Corp. VHS

When you’re awkward, you can be afraid to even open your mouth. Your brain seems wired wrong. You can hear what people are saying but your responses to them seem to materialize from a different world. Just saying “Hello!” to someone you like or who you want to be your friend can be grueling. You work up the courage, step up and after two stumbling words you’re thinking, “Damn, I should have just sat quietly.” People say there are no stupid questions but there are plenty of stupid statements. And, the supply of stupid, incoherent statements an awkward person can make is endless.

You do, truly, need to learn to be yourself. You’re no longer awkward when you do that. And, when you are just being you, it is the most natural thing in the world. People who are going to like you can see you as you are and they will want to be your friends. Life is a breeze. But, it ain’t easy, Jack. Some people are awkward for what seems like a very few moments. Some people are awkward for a couple of years. Some people are awkward their whole lives (Hello, Stargate fans!) You shouldn’t penalize someone for trying and failing. Kids want to be like the “cool kids.” I know I did.

And, I know R.O.T.O.R. does. As awkward as you may have been as a youngster (or now), R.O.T.O.R. is ten times more awkward. Everything about it says “Hello Suzie! Would you go to the Winter Formal with me?” but halfway through its voice cracks and then it has to suppress a belch. Like the fat kid who just wants friends or the acne-covered kid who you can’t stop staring at, R.O.T.O.R. just wants to be loved.

Robocop was big, flashy and popular. It had a lot of friends. After a few years, it would have an extended family. Why wouldn’t a group of filmmakers and folks in Texas want to bring themselves into your video store under the guise of “robot cop-style cool?” I know I would. But, everyone involved with this film seems a little embarrassed.

(Except Dr. Steele. More about her later.)

R.O.T.O.R. is a prototype robotic cop that gets loose and goes renegade one Thursday night. It is up to Dr. Coldyron, Dr. Steele and a woman named Sony (pronounced Sonya) to bring him down before he carries out his mission and (eventually) kills everyone, everywhere in the sweet, sweet world. But, the film just cannot stop fumbling. The acting, the dialog, the action scenes, the effects, the plotting, the music, the songs (“Hideaway,” a hot romantic duet) — their voices keep cracking and they keep raising their arms, showing off the sweat stains. My God, though, they are trying their hardest.

Maybe too hard. There was a period in eighth grade when I wore Hawaiian shirts and jams because all the other guys wore them. I could dress like them but I goofed up all on my own. During scenes where tension is supposed to be high, they layer on the music, which only ends up drawing attention to itself and how un-tense events on screen are. There’s a scene where a government guy (Buglar) is telling Dr. Coldyron about the R.O.T.O.R. project falling apart and all of them going to jail. The scene goes on and on and this tense music plays. But, it only makes the whole thing sillier. The government guy even opens a Coke and pours it in a glass awkwardly.

The thing about it is — if you’re cool, you’re cool. Even if you do something goofy, it can be spun-off as cool or easily forgotten. It takes a lot to lose the “cool.” Same with awkward. Once you do an awkward thing, it takes one cool thing to make you neutral again. Each goofy thing you do expands your reputation exponentially. You will always be tainted with “dork” until it is fully shed and that may never happen. R.O.T.O.R. certainly doesn’t do it.

Some folks are dubbed, some speak live. But, almost every line spoken is awkward. It could have been translated from Russian to English by a non-English and non-Russian speaking Guatemalan. There is a meeting of scientists that consists of the most hilariously odd lines of dialog ever. Really. At first they just seem strange, but, boy they build. Not a single line sounds natural or makes any sense. The folks sitting around the table delivering them only add to the ambiance. It is legitimately hysterical.

Now, one guy I know who has seen this movie thinks that the things I’ve said here means that this film is junk and not worth your time. I like to think we make friends with the fat kid here at Bleeding Skull. We welcome in everyone and make a place for them. Some folks, granted, just don’t want to play and that’s fine. Go with God. But, R.O.T.O.R., Sweet R.O.T.O.R., is one for the whole family (figuratively speaking).

It wants to be an exciting action film with a touch of comedy so badly that you watch and giggle but definitely enjoy. I think that’s enough.

Go out today and make a new friend — with R.O.T.O.R.

 The Scream Factory Blu-Ray is delightful. Plus, it's a longer cut! Plus, Steele in HD! Plus, Millennium. 


My Extras: A Letter to Dr. Steele
(Mr. Skull has been kind enough to place a photo of Dr. Steele nearby.)

Dr. Steele,

Will you be my friend? I don’t want to push. Who knows where this could go? I know: You are huge. You could pick me up and toss me across the room. And, frankly, I would love every minute of it. Your skunk mullet would draw attention to us at restaurants and people would say “Who are they who believe they can flaunt societal decorum?” and I would tell them to “Cram it!” because you and I should be friends. Good friends. I’m making you a mix tape, downloading it to my MP3 player and sending it, online, to your heart. Call me?

– Dan “Bleeding Skull’s Friend”

More awkward than a greased melon on top of a conical soup tureen, R.O.T.O.R. is, nevertheless, pure joy. This one may be obscure but it sure ain’t tough to find. Find it, watch it and enjoy. If you know Dr. Steele, send her my best.

“We’ve got to find our hideaway!” We will.

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