Brilliant? Masterpiece? Manborg?
Being a serious horror/sci-fi fan, I don’t always appreciate the humor that many others find in low-budget productions leaning more toward comedy than thrills. Had it not been the highlighted feature during the second week of Panic Fest in Kansas City, I never would have spent my time watching a movie called “Manborg”. And now I can say, I would have missed a real treat!
From what I understand, the Canadian five-filmmaker team called Astron-6 filmed Manborg over the course of a year primarily in front of a green screen, then spent two years in post-production. The highest quality thing about it is the poster; whoever drew that is an artist. But the production values of the movie itself are strictly bargain basement. And that’s what makes it a true masterpiece.
It’s actually entertaining to see what a low-budget movie can accomplish; you think, “Wow, that’s really amazing that they did that!” When you see a big-budget blockbuster dripping with CGI you think, “That looks like crap; they could have done better.” Every cheesy moment in Manborg, every ridiculous special effect, is intentional. And taking into account that it’s a tribute to bad 80s straight-to-VHS action/sci-fi movies, this approach is brilliant.
On paper, the story (and imdb synopsis) reads, “A soldier, brought back to life as a cyborg, fights alongside a band of adventurers against demon hordes in a dystopian future.” On screen? Sure, if you say so. But I’m less likely to remember plot points than I am the characters and gonzo energy of Manborg. It’s manic, non-stop and an incredible amount of fun. The best things about it are the worst things…
Let’s start with Manborg him/itself. Why spend time and money on makeup when you can simply set a plastic face piece on top of an “actor’s” head? Any other accessories can be picked up at the local hardware store, if they’re not found laying around in the garage. I could have made this movie with Super 8 in the back yard during summer vacation when I was in junior high; however, it would not have been nearly as creative.
When you get into the supporting cast, Manborg becomes even more clever in its satire. Justice and Mina are Australian siblings with big accents and even bigger 80s hair. My favorite is #1 Man, an Asian swashbuckler whose voice is dubbed, I assume for the heck of it. Every cliché in the book appears, but instead of groaning, I found myself laughing. I need only mention the name of the villain and you’ll get the idea: Count Draculon!
The primary creative force (writer, director, producer, editor, makeup and stunts) behind Manborg appears to be Steven Kostanski. Ironically, his other screen credits come mainly from makeup and visual effects of several better-financed movies. This fact only reinforces that Manborg is not meant to be taken seriously. However, it is a serious accomplishment on many levels. At only 75 minutes, it breezes by in no time. Just sit back, relax and let its awesomeness wash over you.