Saturday, October 27, 2007
#24: Death Machine (Stephen Norrington, 1995)
If I were running for office, my campaign slogan would be, "Down with Mondays, up with skirts, and, for God's sake, more killer robots." That is why Death Machine is a film I can get behind. Death Machine is pretty stupid, but its stupidity warms my heart. Set in the darkly futuristic, Robocop-by-way-of-Blade Runner days of 2003 (god, it's going to be dark times when we make it to 2003), Death Machine begins with a corporate controversy at the Chaank company, a defense systems organization. They are secretly running experiments on supposedly MIA soldiers, erasing their memories and implanting weapons, defense, and fighting data to turn them into super-soldiers with no mercy, emotion, or fear. The project has encountered some glitches, and someone has leaked it to the press, causing a firestorm of controversy. Enter newly appointed CEO Hayden Cale (Ely Pouget) to repair the damage. She wants to fire one of the board of directors, the mysteriously absent-from-meetings Jack Dante. Unfortunately, he's gone nuts and created a killer robot that can hone in on pheromones, i.e. smell fear. The more scared you are, the more accurate the robot will be in finding you and shredding you up. He sets the robot loose to take out his competition, leaving him free to run the company with the object of his unrequited desire, Hayden Cale. Adding to the mess, a group of radical activists have infiltrated the building and plan to blow part of it up. Apparently, in futuristic times, the joints hippy punk activists smoke are four times as fat, with smaller joints branching off of the giant joint. Radical, dude.
The scenery chewing in this movie is massive. One of the corporate execs constantly screams out "What the fuck?" or "Fuck you!" or "Go fuck yourself!" Jack Dante is played by none other than Brad Dourif, a great actor who becomes Captain Ham when he's in a shitty movie. Dourif has worked with Milos Forman, John Huston, Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Peter Jackson, Dario Argento, and Michael Cimino. He's also been in fifty billion schlocky B-movies, and is the voice of Chucky in the Child's Play series. He is so hammy in this movie that in one scene reams of spittle fly out of his mouth after every line he speaks. A man with a small part as a security guard gives it his all, 20 movies' worth, including the memorable phrase "Holy donuts!" Hayden Cale gets to perform one of the greatest movie punches in history. A fat guy gets called "Ho-ho." The robot slices people up.
Norrington later directed the first Blade movie and the notorious flop The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and was a special effects and make-up man on the second and third Alien movies and some Jim Henson stuff. The robot bears a strong resemblance to the alien creature, and characters are named after Joe Dante, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Ridley Scott, and the corporation in the Alien series. Death Machine is far from being an essential part of cinema history, but I'm sure it's 12 times more fun than those Bourne Identity movies.
Killer robots! Whoo!