Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two '60s Sci-Fi Cheapies For Tuesday

United Pictures produced CYBORG 2087 for a 1966 theatrical release. The stodgy science fiction programmer was probably made back-to-back with DIMENSION 5, with which it shares director Franklin Adreon (PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO), writer Arthur C. Pierce (WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET), producer Earle Lyon (PANIC IN THE CITY), cinematographer Alan Stensvold (IT’S A BIKINI WORLD), composer Paul Dunlap (I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF), art director Paul Sylos (WILD IN THE STREETS), and other crew members.

Both DIMENSION 5 and CYBORG 2087 are turgid affairs, due to Adreon’s lock-down-the-camera directing style, Pierce’s ludicrous scripting, and Lyon’s puny budget. The latter film is probably a tad better, thanks to its familiar cast, unintentional laughs, and bemused similarities to THE TERMINATOR (which credited Harlan Ellison’s OUTER LIMITS episode “Soldier” as its inspiration).

Rebels from 121 years in the future send Garth A7 (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL star Michael Rennie), a cyborg, back to 1966 to prevent Dr. Marx (Eduard Franz of THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE) from announcing his new scientific breakthrough to the world. Garth’s orders are to either kidnap Marx and bring him back to his time machine stashed in a western ghost town or kill him. Pierce’s screenplay reveals that future governments will use Marx’s invention to enslave the human race. On Garth’s tail to stop him from stopping Marx are two killer robots called tracers carrying sweet ray guns. Using Marx’s future device, Garth mind-rapes the scientist’s beautiful assistant, Sharon (Karen Steele), and forces her to help him carry out his mission.

FORBIDDEN PLANET’s Warren Stevens helps out as biologist Carl Zellar, who claims not to be a medical doctor or a surgeon, yet he has surgical instruments in his home lab and performs surgery on Garth to remove his homing device. The tracers, played by old-time stuntmen Troy Melton and Dale Van Sickel, look hilarious jogging around town while holding their left wrists in front of them like they’re perpetually checking their watches. Even funnier are Zellar’s daughter Laura (Hanna-Barbera voice actress Sherry Alberoni) and her partying pals, who dance wildly to bad rock music (one of them is macho ROLLERBALL co-star John Beck, sans mustache in his film debut).

Adreon directs with expediacy over style. At least he gets outside on the backlot occasionally for some fresh air, unlike DIMENSION 5, which remained mostly housebound. Adam Roarke (DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY), Byron Morrow, Richard Travis, and MATCH GAME hottie Jo Ann Pflug are among the past and future familiar faces dotting Adreon’s supporting cast, and Wendell Corey, who stayed plastered throughout THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, grabs third billing as the local sheriff trying to make heads or tails out of the evening’s weird events.

Both DIMENSION 5 and CYBORG 2087 deal with time travel, and it’s a tough call as to which is duller. Considering the director of both began his career writing, directing, and producing Republic serials, like DRUMS OF FU MANCHU and THE FIGHTING DEVIL DOGS, it’s something of a surprise that his pacing of these two pictures is so damned slow. Adreon shoots quickly and flatly on an obviously small budget.

After a silly action prologue filmed in Bronson Canyon, which is even more laughable to anyone familiar with the popular B-movie location’s layout, DIMENSION 5 jumps into a bland plot about a Red Chinese organization called the Dragons, led by former Peking secret policeman Big Buddha (Harold “Oddjob” Sakata, dubbed by Paul Frees), and its plan to detonate an atomic bomb in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. Jeffrey Hunter, who did this after playing Captain Christopher Pike in the first STAR TREK pilot, stars as American agent Justin Power, who enjoys a jocular relationship with his crippled boss Cane (Donald Woods). France Nuyen, who did four I SPY episodes with husband Robert Culp, co-stars as Power’s Chinese-American partner Ki Ti, pronounced “Kitty.” Hunter seems to be putting in a professional effort, but Nuyen seems bored, as she often did, though this time she has a good reason.

Lyon’s threadbare production allowed Adreon to populate scenes with pretty girls, but very little in terms of sets and special effects. Hunter and Woods lay out some heavy exposition in a laborious walk-and-talk scene that finds the actors passing through doors, but strolling down the same (barely redressed) corridor three times. Power’s big gimmick is a time-travel belt that neither Pierce nor Adreon seems to understand and neither do we. It’s a cheap prop that Hunter conceals beneath his suit vest. He pushes a button and disappears in a purple flash. It makes no sense.

DIMENSION 5 also features Linda Ho, Robert Ito (QUINCY, M.E.), Jon Lormer, Kam Tong (HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL), Robert Phillips, Maggie Thrett, LAND OF THE GIANTS sexpot Deanna Lund, and Ed Parker as “Sinister Oriental.” I assume Feature Film Corporation of America programmed DIMENSION 5 and CYBORG 2087 on double bills together, though the former certainly shared marquees with the Rod Taylor espionage adventure THE LIQUIDATOR.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

I will forgive a film many sins in exchange for being a showcase for Nuyen, particularly in these years.

Still haven't caught this one yet, however. Arthur C. Pierce is the unsung hero of cod-sf films of the 1960s.