“Mandroid”: Prepare yourselves for a blood-soaked showdown between man and machine

By on September 7, 2017

1993’s Mandroid — now streaming in our Full Moon horror movies category over on Night Flight Plus — originated with comic book designs and an accompanying storyline, dating back at least to the mid-80s, by the legendary Marvel Comics comic book artist, writer, and editor Jack Kirby.

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If you’re familiar with Full Moon‘s Charles Band, and his 1980s-era film company, Empire Pictures, then you may already know that Band often announced far more film titles than he actually intended or planned to make, for whatever reason.

One of those titles was originally attached to the legendary Marvel Comics writer Jack Kirby, who had recycled a few of his own superhero characters for a film Band’s Empire was going to make in 1986 (read more about Band here).

Kirby’s character Doctor Mortalis — which was basically a clone of Dr. Strange, for all intents and purposes — was going to be one of those titles.

Another was Mindmaster, which involved a scientist who — as the result of an accident — is left debilitated, and wheelchair-bound. He then must use a thought-controlled robot of his own invention to stop a crazed fellow scientist.

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Kirby had not apparently fully committed to these Empire projects, though, even though he had made drawings which survive (the text accompanying his Mindmaster sketches simply says “Projections of Things to Come”).

Then, after dissolving Empire and starting a new company in 1989, Full Moon Entertainment, Band revived Kirby’s Mindmaster scenario for a new film project, although now the paraplegic scientist was going to use a virtual-reality headset to control the robot.

Essentially the end result was the same: the scientist and his robot must stop the evil plans of a fellow mad scientist.

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Read more about Mandroid below.

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Despite the similarities between Kirby’s creations and the new film — now titled Mandroid — the story was now credited as being “Based on an original idea by Charles Band,” and Kirby received no credit whatsoever.

The film’s screenplay was written by Earl Kenton and Jackson Barr, the latter — like many members of Band’s Full Moon collective — working on a number of Full Moon’s straight-to-video releases (he also wrote the screenplays Subspecies, Robot Wars, and Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys, to name just a few).

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Here’s what it said on the back of Mandroid‘s original Full Moon VHS release tape box:

“Deep within the shadowy heart of Eastern Europe, two scientists struggle for control of their remarkable discovery, Superconn, an element so powerful it can only be handled by a hi-tech robot guided by a “virtual reality” headset — Mandroid.

Dr. Karl Zimmer, joined by his devoted daughter Zanna, wants nothing more than to help mankind, but his partner, Dr. Drago — obsessed by Superconn’s potential to transform Mandroid into an invincible fighting machine — has plans of his own.

Following a hellish, disfiguring laboratory accident, Drago steals Mandroid and begins a gruesome game of cat and mouse with Zimmer, carving a deadly path down cobblestone streets and abandoned mine shifts… toward a blood-soaked showdown between man and machine.”

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Let’s delve into that a bit deeper.

Zimmer (Robert Symonds) is a brilliant Romanian scientist, and along with his daughter Zanna (Jane Caldwell) he develops a crystal-like element which they believe can become the most powerful force on earth.

They both know that if it fell into the wrong hands, it could also mean the end of the world as we know it.

Zimmer’s actual partner, the deviant Dr. Drago (Curt Lowens) is only concerned with their project’s success. Their goal is to have Superconn inserted into the processing units of powerful androids which can then be directed by human thoughts and actions.

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Superconn is apparently made from these crazy mushroom spores that, when mixed with a binding agent, transform the mushrooms into its final usable form, only it becomes a highly-toxic substance which under radiation turns into the usable element.

Their first test subject is the Mandroid unit, an indestructible humanoid robot (played by an uncredited Jake McKinnon) which is connected to the human mind through a virtual reality prototype headset (the controller has to move their own arms and legs in order to move Mandroid’s too).

Mandroid can apparently withstand great levels of heat and radiation without being damaged, making him the perfect test subject for their experiments.

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Drago, however, has a sinister plan of his own, to offer up their invention to the United States’ military, who send CIA agent Joe Smith (Patrik Ersgård) and a U.S. government scientist named Dr. Wade (Brian Cousins) to their lab for a closer inspection.

The night he tries to steal Mandroid, however, Drago becomes exposed to the highly toxic Superconn and his face is left terribly disfigured.

He enslaves a homeless mute and partially fixes his hideous face after the mute makes him a metal mask to wear.

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Zimmer’s assistant Benjamin Knight (Michael Della Femina) also becomes exposed to Superconn, but he begins to turn invisible, and that’s kind of a drag because he and Zanna have just fallen in love.

We’ll leave the rest of the Mandroid story for you to check out on your own.

Jackson Barr also wrote the screenplay for Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight, a sequel-of-sorts to Mandroid, with mostly the same cast. It was released during the same year (presumably the two films were back to back, another Full Moon tradition).

Mandroid — directed by Jack Ersgård –also boasts a score by Grammy-nominated composer David Arkenstone, who blends global, cinematic, and rock elements into his version of new age music.

Prepare yourselves for a blood-soaked showdown between man and machine and then watch Mandroid over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.