I absolutely do not want to survive the kind of global apocalypse that's going to lead to the wasteland worlds portrayed in popular cinema. While it would be super-fun to drive a motorcycle around and hit people with big metal sticks, I'm really quite fond of clean water and bountiful food supplies--to make no mention of such niceties as dry cleaning, bottomless mimosas at brunch, and climate controlled indoor spaces. I pray that whatever space junk/zombie plague/Red Army nuke sets off the world-changing cataclysm hits me so hard that I'm just like "oh gee, what a pretty handbag" one minute and then--BAM: sweet motherfuckin' oblivion.
With this in mind, it's peculiar that I enjoy post-apocalyptic movies as much as I do. Maybe it's the same smug urge that draws me to reality television--knowing that I'm way saner and better off than the folks portrayed on screen probably provides me with some selfish satisfaction. Or perhaps it's just that I like ridiculous bullshit, and post-apocalyptic adventures are crammed full of ridiculous bullshit.
I caught about fifteen minutes of "American Cyborg: Steel Warrior" on one of the Spanish-language cable stations a number of years ago and quickly discerned a few things: the filmmakers had seen "The Terminator," the filmmakers had a decent sense of the absurd, and this flick had the Golan and/or Globus odor all over it. In short, it looked well worth the ninety minute time investment. Having watched the movie a few times since then, I can tell you that my initial assessment was spot on--this is another one of those "so bad it's good" movies that has enough weird junk happening to satisfy the appetites of fellow cheese hounds.
"Oh crap--did that say Golan-Globus?!"
Released under the banner of "Global Pictures" instead of the more iconic Cannon Films or Golan-Globus Productions tags, "American Cyborg: Steel Warrior" was produced in part by the B-film dream team of Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan. This marks a crossroads for many genre film fans--some will groan in anticipation of painfully poor cash-in junk movies, while others will execute a quick fistpump and scoot a little closer to their seat-edge waiting for the absurdity to start. I'm firmly in the latter group, believing as I do that more ninjas/cyborgs/vigilantes = more better.
A helpful voice-over informs the viewer that it's 17 years after a nuclear war that has left the earth devastated. A totalitarian computer system runs the world and big leather-clad cyborgs enforce the law, waiting for the remaining humans to die off (this makes exactly as much sense as anything else in the movie, so if you're already unable to suspend disbelief, it's best for you to check out). As is so often the case in these circumstances, a solitary human female is left fertile and she and her fetus (which she keeps in a jar in her backpack--f'reals) are attempting to make it across cyborg-controlled territory to some sort of not-cyborg-controlled territory across the sea. How this works, I'm not entirely sure--the helpful voice-over seemed to indicate that THE WORLD was controlled by an evil artificial intelligence, and to the best of my knowledge, boats are really sort of bound to THE WORLD so this plan would seem to be entirely futile. Along her way, she teams up with pretty-boy adventurer Austin, whose hunky good looks make him appear as if he was ripped from the cover of a slightly dusty romance novel. All of the theme-gangs, mutants, and abandoned factory sets one has come to expect from 1980s post-nukers are present, as are the characteristic Golan-Globus production values.
"American Cyborg: Steel Warrior" is about as subtle as a punch to the junk. Its idea of symbolism is naming its fertile female "Mary" and having her travel to Europe via boat like some sort of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" knockoff with lasers. There is a lot of dialogue delivered in front of American flags, and crowds of mutants look on as characters are tied to crosses. The movie is so earnest in its message that it forgets simple science like "guns don't float" and "'test tube babies' isn't a literal term."
I love "American Cyborg: Steel Warrior" because of its shameless knock-off-ery, unwieldy title, ham-fisted symbolism, and rubber baby in a jar. Sure, it's clunky and silly, but therein lies its charm. Its kitchen-sink approach to post-nuke sci-fi is perfectly complemented by a giant bowl of sugar cereal and an appreciation for ludicrous adventure stories.