Monday, November 16, 2009


We are all undoubtedly familiar with visionary director Stuart Gordon, the brilliant mind behind such classics as Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon, Castle Freak, Fortress, and Dolls. But somehow, the fact that he directed the 90's-defining masterpiece Robot Jox had slipped entirely off my radar. In fact, I had largely forgotten the movie itself until recently, which is surprising considering how hard it rocked my entire world upon its release. You see, I was 11 in 1990, and the whole premise of Robot Jox absolutely BLEW MY FUCKING MIND back then.
Now that I have become re-acquainted with this film, I must admit that my reaction isn't much different than it was back then.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

How had I managed to not even watch this one for a second time in almost 18 years?

Gordon basically followed a string of home runs with a grand fucking slam, a special effects extravaganza that is not only a feast for the eyes but also a cautionary tale, a morality lesson, and a marathon robot ass-kicking maelstrom.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Jox takes place in a society where war is obsolete and mankind is struggling to re-populate the planet. As a result, nations settle their disputes through the use of Robot Jox, men who control giant robots to battle each other in huge public arenas. The winner of each match (and the nation he represents) are the victor of each conflict, bypassing the need for war and the loss of valuable human life altogether.
The story basically follows the trials of Achilles and Alexander, two Robot Jox with a score to settle. Achilles is pretty much the "good guy", representing clean-cut, patriotic Americanism (although America doesn't specifically exist anymore -- we are known as the Western Market), while Alexander is the cartoonish representation of psuedo-Soviet Cold War xenophobia, sort of the Ivan Drago to Achilles' Rocky Balboa. Alexander killed Achilles' bro in an earlier robot battle (as we are informed in the opening scene), so revenge is the centerpiece of this magical film.


But despite its ham-fisted approach to social commentary via giant robots kicking the shit out of each other (did I mention that Alexander's robot has a chainsaw weiner?), it's the little things that make Robot Jox a distinctly Gordon endeavor. For example, the repopulation-obsessed society of the film features "sexy" bikini models in billboard advertisements -- who also just happen to be pregnant. The shots are subtle, asserting themselves without hoopla or fanfare. Attention to detail is Gordon's game.
In another scene, Achilles' family members inform him that they will be eating "real meat" for dinner in celebration of his return home. When the "real meat" appears, it is in the form of a sole hot dog floating on top of a bubbling mass of brown gruel. Nice.
Robot Jox went from being an utter obsession to my simple 11-year-old mind in 1990 to being my own personal Sleeper Hit of 2009 in my 30-year-old mind. It rivals Starcrash. There, I said it.

Heresy? Perhaps. But Robot Jox is THAT GOOD.

But apparently not everyone agrees with me.
For one, where was the Robot Jox tie-in toy line? This movie seemed custom-made to move rad toys, so what happened? Where was Hasbro? Where was Kenner?
No Nintendo game? No Underoos?
Someone dropped the ball on Robot Jox, and despite a wonderful novelization (right), it was a potential film franchise left out in the cold. Another surefire, money-in-the-bank empire, forsaken by a foolish public. Captain Power, anyone?
All of which brings me to my next point, the confusing matter of the Robot Jox sequel.

Most people familiar with good-bad 80's/90's science fiction films think that the Robot Jox sequel was 1993's Robot Wars (left). And while this film, whose tagline was "First there was Robot Jox...", shared several members of the Jox production team (Full Moon's Charles and Albert Band, for example), this idea is a fallacy. Wars shared plot concepts and animation style with the superior Jox, but was not "officially" connected to the former film.
That honor belongs to a movie called Crash And Burn aka Robot Jox 2: Crash And Burn (below), hurriedly released in 1990 immediately following Part 1. It's a common misconception, one that I felt needed clarification here. But no one ever saw Robot Wars OR Crash And Burn, so why dwell on it?

Check out the beginning and an awesome fight scene from Robot Jox below. Then watch ALL the rest of it via YouTube playlist here.

Now that we're all super pumped on Robot Jox, why don't you all head over to The Manchester Morgue and download Frederic Talgorn's awesome soundtrack?
Side note: Is it just me, or does the Robot Jox theme bear a striking resemblance to that of Police Academy?
Well played, Mr. Talgorn.

OK. So you have the soundtrack and you've seen the whole thing on YouTube (resolution snobs can get it on Netflix here), why don't you head over to Amazon and BUY IT ALREADY???
It's only SIX BUCKS, for fuck's sake! Not much to ask for the greatest giant-robot-battle-Cold-War-sci-fi-post-apocalyptic-revenge-tale ever told (in 1990).

And I didn't even have to mention the cameo by
Jeffrey Combs.



1 comment:

Helm said...

I don't even need to say that I love this and how much.