call it a knock-off—this is a reboot.
Yutaka Daimon’s crime-fighting partner is a robot that can turn itself
into a motorcycle. You could say he
transforms—just like he did in the early 1970’s Japanese television series Denjin Zaborger. The spelling is slightly different, but the
spirit is the same in Noboru Iguchi’s Karate-Robo Zaborgar (trailer
officially launches on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday from Well Go USA.
fabricated with the DNA of his twin brother who died in infancy, Zaborgar
represents more than a weaponized motor bike to Daimon. He considers him a brother. Nursing a grudge against Sigma, the
THRUSH-like international crime syndicate that killed his (their) father,
Daimon is obsessed with “righteousness.”
Yet, he frequently finds himself protecting venal politicians (and their
DNA) from Sigma’s machinations. Further
complicating matters, the secret agent starts developing feelings for Miss
Borg, the chief hench-cyborg of Sigma’s evil wheelchair-bound mastermind, Dr.
Akunomiya. Despite her initial
resistance, Miss Borg begins to reciprocate his affections. Their resulting affair clouds Daimon’s
judgment, leading to his disgrace and the apparent destruction of Zaborgar.
wait, there’s more, including possible redemption for the older but possibly
dumber Daimon and even a relationship with Akiko, the cyborg-daughter he never
knew he had. He needs to get his act
together quick though, before Akunomiya completes his plan to turn Akiko into a
giant, mindless, city-stomping robot.
Tokyo property values are depending on Daimon and maybe a rebuilt,
on the clips of the original 1974 show seen during the closing credits, KRZ is remarkably faithful to its original
source material. A production of Sushi
Typhoon, Nikkatsu’s low budget genre specialists, from Iguchi and FX director
Yoshihiro Nishimura, the behind classics like Machine Girl, KRZ is not
the sort of extreme gore fanboys might be expecting. The Film Society of Lincoln Center actually programmed
it as part of the children’s series, but that was really pushing it. After all, those busty cyborgs have some
lethal torpedoes. It also has a
strangely downbeat vibe at times.
Iguchi and Nishimura’s reputation as Japan’s answer to Troma, the effects in KRZ are surprisingly well rendered, even
including the little remote-controlled bots coming out of Zaborgar’s head and
feet. Conversely, the performances are
as cheesy as you would expect, except maybe more so. As the tandem of Daimons, Yasuhisa Furuhara
and Itsuji Itao are especially wooden and relentlessly un-self-aware. Still, Mami Yamasaki somehow maintains her
dignity as the tragic Miss Borg, regardless of her Metropolis-fetish wardrobe.
Not exactly a masterpiece of world cinema, KRZ still has a weird way of invoking
nostalgia in viewers, even if they never saw Denjin Zaborger in the first place.
Anyone familiar with Ultraman of the mid 1960’s, or the subsequent Power
Rangers, will be able to get it. More of
an exercise in manic energy than a comic send-up, per se, Karate-Robo Zaborgar is recommended for specifically
self-identifying fans old school Japanese sci-fi monster movies when it releases
tomorrow (9/11) on DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA.
Labels: DVD, Japanese Cinema, Noboru Iguchi, Sushi Typhoon