In the last war against Hell, when Manborg was a mere human soldier fighting with his ‘bro’ on the front line, Count Draculon and his orc-esque vampire minions take down humankind. Years later, in a dystopian Bladerunner city landscape, the protagonist awakes from death to find himself horribly mutated into half man… half borg… ALL MANBORG! This endeavour by Astron-6 (Adam Brooks, Steve Kostanski etc.) is not horror, it’s science fiction satire and roaringly funny.
Once Manborg escapes to the streets, he meets #1 Man, a stereotypical poorly dubbed martial arts character (because who cares about genre boundaries). He’s a powerful and skilled man, punching people’s heads clean off. Recaptured with #1 Man and taken to the vampire’s laser prison, Manborg is introduced to the sibling pair of Justice and Mina. Justice is an illiterate merging of Home and Away with the rebellious Vyvyan from The Young Ones. Mina is the sole love interest, and only female with dialogue; in her numerous action shots Mina exudes a cuteness and playful quality to oppose the majority of this manly feature.
These three human renegades and Manborg are forced to fight members of Draculon’s vampire race for entertainment purposes. The humans are triumphant, and an attempt to overthrow Draculon ensues. Manborg remains face up flailing like a tortoise, misusing his shiny guns and gadgets. In fact, the titular character is portrayed as an idiot in his new identity. This, among other aspects, proves Manborg‘s absurdity and the extent to which it contradicts traditional science fiction and action films. That is exactly why this film is flawless. Manborg is a self-conscious, vast improvement on the reel of classic, 1980’s science fiction, spoof B-movies.
Not only is the concept entertaining in itself, the script has been perfected to concisely retain hundreds of jokes in a mere 60 minutes. A moment not spent laughing is one anticipating another in the next line. The humour varies so widely that each joke feels completely fresh. There are responses that make no sense semantically, such as ‘I don’t believe you!’ ‘I’LL BE THE ONE ASKING THE QUESTIONS AROUND HERE!’. Sentimental dialogue is twisted into the brutally funny, and simple one-liners are so direct and unexpected that it becomes clear how similarly the characters and plot take themselves lightly.
And it is truly great comedy. The character of the Baron is particularly at odds, contrasting any previous attitudes of the vampires. His love for prisoner number 7, Mina (she’s numero uno in the heart-shaped hole in his chest), humanizes him as an ordinary man troubled with courting, and this segues into his job stress. Following this, Draculon is the only face of evil in this sci-fi adventure, equalizing the remaining characters and leaving little concern for the renegades’ opposition.
Manborg‘s budget was $2,500, so be impressed. Having been shot in what appears to be a garage, with borrowed equipment, costumes made from second-hand materials and actors which worked for free – hence why some were Astron-6 company employees – you wouldn’t expect much from the final piece. The graphics are reminiscent of old school Mortal Kombat, as well as mid-20th century dinosaur films like One Million Years B.C. Its cinematography is poorly constructed, it’s awkward, and it is absolutely fantastic in every scene.
Hopefully this review has not been read as confused and contradictory. To clarify, Manborg is an excellent film. Budget struggles improve it all the more, with the title of excellence deserved by blockbusters and films akin to Manborg alike, the latter of which are wholeheartedly entertaining and defiant. Kostanski’s dystopian joke-fest will be remembered, bought on DVD and watched by generations in years to come… until one day, the future audience merges with #1 Man’s future society, and the menborgs will have elbow missiles at the ready to take on Draculon’s army.