Scream Factory continues to deliver for fans of the Empire Pictures and Charles Band era, with a double feature Blu-Ray set featuring two of their most entertaining titles from their heyday. While I’d be hard pressed to call these films masterpieces, they’re nonetheless entertaining and novel genre films that attempt to market on a particular trend. Charles Band was always savvy about aspiring to make films for his company that touched on current cinematic trends and the double feature here from Scream! Factory covers the gamut of pop culture trends quite well.
“The Dungeonmaster” from 1985 is also known as “Ragewar” and “Digital Knights” and is the company’s efforts to drop an episodic adventure on fans. A take on “Tron,” the science fiction fantasy film is a fun adventure where our hero Paul Bradford is introduced to a number of various worlds and landscapes that he has to conquer. Oddly enough, the movie is presented more like an anthology with each world garnering a new storyline and feel, while every new landscape has a different director tackling the action. This includes folks like Dave Allen, Charles Band, John Carl Buechler, Steven Ford, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou, and Rosemarie Turko, all of whom lend their distinct flavors and creativity. Paul Bradford is a skilled compute programmer with a penchant for coding, and is creating an AI known as “X-CaliBR8.” His relationship with the AI interferes with his relationship with his girlfriend Gwen, but he’s forced to assess his priorities when an ancient being known as Mestema challenges Paul to a series of trials set in dangerous magical worlds.
Using “X-CaliBR8” as a weapon and tool to help guide him to his captive girlfriend, Paul enters various worlds, and even battles a hard rock band W.A.S.P. who take up appropriate time with a performance, and in light torture of Paul’s girlfriend. Richard Moll seems to have a good time with villain Mestema, challenging Paul, and antagonizing him in to a battle of wits and technology that will decide the fate of our nerdy hero and his girlfriend Gwen. “The Dungeonmaster” is a fun and unusual fantasy adventure, and one that garners much of the typical Charles Band elements, like stop motion monsters, obligatory musical numbers, and tons of ambition that outweigh the film’s actual budget. Featured on “The Dungeonmaster” section is a thirty minute interview with director Peter Manoogian, who discusses working on the film, and what his life has been like working as a filmmaker.
“Eliminators” from 1986 is another very entertaining and unique science fiction action film that takes from “Robocop” while also channeling survival action fare, and even “Star Wars.” A somewhat distant cousin to the 1993 film “Mandroid,” we follow Patrick Reynolds who plays the Mandroid, a half man and half android who breaks free from his prison. After demolishing an army of guards, he seeks out the man who created him, and garners the help of scientist Nora Hunter. Hunter, along with her robotic sidekick SPOT, go along with Mandroid through the jungles, and are paired with a rebellious jungle guide, and a silent ninja, to bring down evil scientist Abbott Reeves. As they battle through gun toting soldiers, jungle thugs, and the elements of the swamp, Abbott is building his own body of android armor that he plans to use to conquer the world.
He is also preparing a machine that he wants to us to travel through time and conquer various empires with his technology. It’s up to Mandroid to stop him, and the duration of “Eliminators” is based around our foursome going through various backwater locations, battling gun toting thugs, and soldiers, all the while tracking Abbott through the adorable SPOT robot. The finale is much too simple and idiotic to really serve as a proper pay off to the action and build up to seeing Mandroid battle the Robotic Abbott, but “Eliminators” at least entertains for most of its run time and balances out the silly with some solid action scenes, and stunt work. I also like the concept of Mandroid and would have loved to see him further fleshed out in future films.