The Vindicator

vindicator_movie_posterFilm School Rejects dismissed The Vindicator as  a”formless blob…a RoboCop ripoff.” We’re not hear to um, vindicate it, but it’s worth noting that this on-the-cheap Canadian techno-action-thriller predates the Paul Verhoeven film by a year and a half…

And it’s not like RoboCop doesn’t share stuff in common with early comic versions of Judge Dredd.

However, there are key differences between RoboCop and this film: boom mics in the frame, Canadian production values, tenebrous cinematography that resembles Bruno Mattei in his sub-prime, and the fact that RoboCop is still in print…

In The Vindicator, ARC is a sinister corporation, headquartered in an unnamed city, but which fans of tax shelter Canadiana will instantly recognize as Montreal. They’re developing “rage program” serum being tested on chimps (and we’ve seen that movie before! That’s Monkey Shines/Link/Shakma territory, primate-run-amok films which have made monkeys of us in the past).

However, being evil and all, ARC Corp does have other stuff in the innovation pipeline: a super high tech space suit, but more interestingly, Japanese technology which suspends grey matter in an oxygenating fluid to keep it viable. When a lab explosion claims the life of rockstar scientist Carl Lehman (who’s certainly no layman) ARC’s top-dog Alex Whyte figures they’ve got a recently still-warm body to test out their technology.

vindicator_movie_Now, if you weren’t already aware of the similarities to Frankenstein, The Vindicator pummels you over the head with it, as the evil corporation’s venture is none other than “Project Frankenstein.”

That won’t arouse suspicions at all!

The company builds Carl a cyborg body, and tries to re-animate him with rage serum, with a remote control safeguard. Unfortunately, there’s a short circuit..and a big fire! The gold lamé space suit burns away, leaving this proto-RoboCop looking somewhat less like an Austin Powers villain.

Cyborg Carl escapes…high-tails into an alley, beats up a bunch of Francophone motorcycle toughs, before being chased into a scrapyard, where in the sunny light of day…his form is fully revealed…not the sleek chassis we’ve come to associate with Peter Weller, but…a kind of rusted, jalopy Swamp Thing.

The Vindicator is sorta dull, but the presence of the ever-gorgeous Pam Grier helps as Hunter, a kendo stick-wielding assassin.

**1/2 (out of 5)

Horror Express



When you gaze up at the stars, you are looking back in time. So too, apparently, if you gaze into the ocular fluid of a primitive creature unearthed from a Manchurian cave. Science!

Horror Express is an oddball film to say the least, set in the claustrophobic confines of a choo-choo a la Jamie Lee Curtis’ Terror Train, albeit with a conveyance that looks like a wide-body 747.

Train travel for a time was glamorous, then became unglamorous,  and has remained largely that way, at least in North America. Here, the train looks positively fabulous, with nice curtains, loads of amenities in the form of lots of booze, and ways to whittle away the hours chugging through Siberia, with sociable pastimes like chess. Too bad about the killer creature on board.

Christopher Lee is Dr. Saxton, an anthropologist whose giant crate is occupying space that probably should be used for luggage aboard said train. Its contents: along with a bunch of fossils, the head of monster that looks like something Lucio Fulci would puke up. The curiosity of everyone on board is piqued and a rival anthropologist (Peter Cushing as Dr. Wells) pays off a porter to drill a hole and take a peek inside.

Bad move.

Peter_Cushing_Christopher_LeeWith passengers ending up dead, complete with creepy milky opaque eyes, a capable lawman gets involved. Just kidding. It’s Captain Kazan, played by a truly terrible Telly Savalas, chewing the scenery with such gusto, he’d need a breath mint thereafter.

He declares that the “devil fears an honest Cossack,” before declaring everyone on board under arrest. Is that the way habeus corpus works on the Russian steppes?

Horror Express is absolutely hilarious, complete with ludicrous science, mumbo jumbo about yogic mystical nonsense and some dryly British wit courtesy of the two giants of Brit horror, Cushing and Lee.

And it turns out that the killer missing link has within its eyes, at a molecular level, imprinted memories of its journey from outer space. We shit you not. There’s even a mad Rasputin monk to add to the proceedings, which makes this can’t miss Amicus.

***1/2 (out of 5)