THE YEAR: 1989
THE DIRECTOR: Albert Pyun
THE WRITER: Kitty Chalmers
THE CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn
When we last left our heroes… err, Cannon Films, they had two box office disasters with Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, and after having already invested reportedly over two-million dollars in pre-production, had now lost the rights to both the Masters of the Universe franchise and the license to their highly anticipated Spider-Man live-action film. On the brink of collapse, Cannon put what little they had left into the hands of director Albert Pyun to throw a Hail Mary pass.
So let’s hit the rewind button and see what happened…
In the dual pre-production for Spider-Man and Masters of the Universe 2, Cannon films had started construction on a number of sets that would be used for both films. Once they had lost the rights to both properties, Cannon was left with little choice but to put those sets to immediate use in an effort to recover their staggering losses.
B-movie maestro Albert Pyun was already set to direct those films, and shouldered the task of trying to repair what had happened. The premise for Cyborg emerged from the re-writes and was rushed into production. Apparently, Pyun wanted to tap veteran Cannon star Chuck Norris for the lead role, but execs instead wanted to roll the dice on up-and-coming martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme, who had just wrapped up the action-packed bio-pic Bloodsport for the company.
Time was of the essence, and thus the ambitious film had a tight shooting schedule… but you know what they say about limitations breeding creativity?
For me, one thing that makes Albert Pyun stand out in the world of low-budget films is that no matter what the financial constrictions he may be working with, he always infuses his films with tons of personality. His characters, big or small, are memorable. That goes a long way in b-movies. Cyborg is a prime example of Pyun at his best is that regard. The members of Bender’s gang of baddies are all distinct.
The film was something fresh and different compared to much of what was out at the time, both in the realm of action movies and science fiction, helping it find itself an audience.
The film was a sizable success at the box office and helped keep Cannon Films going for a while longer, although they did eventually fold up. Cyborg was also one of the films that cemented star Van Damme as a leading action hero, as prior to this film he had actually played more villains than heroes. The film has picked up a big cult following through the years, largely attributed to the movie’s eccentric villain, Fender. Fender’s opening monologue has even been sampled by music artists Method Man, Mortician, Vomitorial Corpulence and Chimairas.
One of the biggest what-if’s – what if the film hadn’t ended up so heavily edited? – has actually been answered by Albert Pyun himself. Along with some of his other older films, the director has put together a renegade director’s cut of Cyborg (or Slinger as it was originally titled) and put it out himself via www.albertpyun.net. Removed violence and story elements are back in place and the film is back in line with Pyun’s original intention.
THE BIG QUESTION:
What if this film had stayed its original course as a Masters of the Universe sequel? The reports as to the storyline have differed, some saying that very little was changed between that script and Cyborg outside of character names. Knowing that many of the sets would have been the same, it does get the brain working to guess what may have gone where. Any guesses?
Let us know in the comments below!
We discussed the positives of Albert Pyun’s direction earlier, and when you couple that with an eager, young Van Damme giving his all on the action end, and for any of its faults, Cyborg is a fun ride.
NEXT WEEK: CYBORG 2!