Robocop is one of the most iconic film characters of all time. It’s chrome design is instantly recognisable and Murphy’s conflict between being man and machine is more relevant than ever as debates rage about artificial intelligence. It’s no wonder that a slew of filmmakers decided to enjoy a surf on the Robocop wave by making movies that shared similarities with the sci-fi hit from 1987. We’ve followed the directive to seek out just how influential it was and present to you seven of the most interesting films that came in its wake.
The Demolitionist (1995)
Mad Dog and his cronies are destroying Metro City in a crime wave that can’t be stopped. Honest cop Alyssa Lloyd (Nicole Eggert) gives it a good try but is cruelly shot down. However all is not lost, since scientists have found a way to bring Lloyd back to life and turn her into The Demolitionist! Wearing a metal face covering mask and riding a motorbike that would make Bruce Wayne salivate, she wages a war against the thugs but when her own police force turns against her, she’s all on her lonesome.
Directed by Robert Kurtzman, best known for his almost 40 year special effects career including Tremors, From Dusk Til Dawn and Vanilla Sky and a fresh out of Baywatch Nicole Eggert, it’s filled with mid-90s goodness and a smoke machine working overtime.
There’s something incredibly evocative about the name Robowar. It simultaneously sounds like it could be a NES game, 80s action figure range, Saturday morning kids cartoon or indeed the VHS era, sleazy action film that it is. A group of soldiers are dumped into the jungle where they find they’re used as hunting practice for a fearsome robot called Omega-1…who would look a lot less fearless if he didn’t look like a bloke in a motorcycle helmet with a voice like Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
OK, perhaps it has more similarities with Predator than Robocop but director Bruno Mattei certainly pays hefty homage to both given that *SPOILER ALERT* the fearless Omega-1 robot is no robot at all but a part man/machine with the brain of a former soldier. An oddly fascinating flick that is invariably helped by the presence of cult actor Reb Brown (Yor, The Hunter from the Future, Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf) screaming his lungs out.
In a cyberpunk version of Los Angeles in 2057, a former soldier, Hawkins, who can no longer use his legs agrees to join a cybernetics program to be able to walk again. It works a treat…however he’s also transformed into a murderous robot who is dead set on killing the leader of the revolution against machines, Chandra, who also happens to be his girlfriend. Oops! Hawkins can kind of remember his past, is there a chance that the human can be freed from the machine?
Chunky computer monitors and 3D graphics abound, it’s one of those films where the future ends up looking more like the past albeit with prescient fears about the power of machines. Director Philip J. Roth would tread similar ground with Digital Man in 1995, another film where a robot goes on a murderous rampage. He’d also have a very productive output working as a producer on dozens of SyFy channel films including Roboshark, Triassic Attack and Rage of the Yeti.
Cyborg Cop (1993)
The leader of an international drugs cartel (Jonathan Rhys-Davies) has captured a DEA agent and turned him into part man/part machine to carry out brutal killings for him. It comes down to Jack Ryan (no, not that one) to save the fallen agent, who is also his brother, and stop the cartel from ruling the Caribbean.
A film that wears it’s influences on its sleeve with the hope that chucking enough violence on screen will keep everyone entertained. Two sequels followed with diminishing returns but have some value if you’re in the mood for some midnight schlock. By the third one, the cyborg isn’t even a cop with a mad scientist trying to experiment on his students to turn them into cyborgs. I guess Cyborg Undergraduate just isn’t as catchy a title.
Cyber C.H.I.C (1990)
More comedy than action, Cyber C.H.I.C (aka Robo C.H.I.C) is the tale of a part woman/part machine who is tasked with stopping a criminal (Robin from TV’s Batman Burt Ward) from detonating a series of atomic bombs. She fires lasers from her fingers, struts around in revealing outfits and takes good care of her blonde perm. Robocop this ain’t. With characters called Dr Von Colon and Gimp, The Satan’s Onion you have an idea of the type of humour you’re going to get.
Beset with production issues, lead Kathy Shower quit halfway through the making of the film and is replaced by an uncredited actress. It’s a mess but it’s also the kind of mess you might be able to get behind.
8 Man – For All Lonely Nights (1992)
The first film on our list where the character actually predates Robocop, 8 Man is considered Japan’s first cyberpunk superhero. It gained popularity in the early 60s with a manga comic followed by an anime television show before lying dormant for a number of years and finally resurrected in 1992 with a live action film.
Featuring a police officer who is killed yet saved when his brain is transported into a robot body so he can continue working on the force, he then has an existential crisis when he begins to remember his past. It’s inevitable that comparisons with Robocop would abound but 8 Man dwells longer on the melancholy and has a darker, less satirical side. Either way it’s a satisfying slice of Tokyo noir.
Robo Vampire (1987)
A character looking very similar to Robocop appears on the film artwork but this isn’t a Robocop film that snuck out in the early 90s that you missed. No, this is Robo Vampire, an absolutely bonkers movie which is stitched together using footage from a Thai action film from 1984. How’s that for life imitating art? A slain agent is killed but his brain is saved and…well, you know the rest. The twist this time – this Robo warrior is built to fight vampires. Not only that, Chinese hopping vampires!
Costumes look like they were rented from fancy dress shops, Robo is welded together with a sparkler and electronic drum beat sound effects are used more liberally than in The Beach Boys’ 1992 Summer in Paradise album. It’s either the best thing you’ve seen in a long time or the very worst.