Picking a Full Moon movie to celebrate 1993 week was a bit of a challenge. The company released six films that year (more if you include titles from their offshoot labels like the kid-friendly Moonbeam and the boob-friendly Torchlight Entertainment). Two of those films, Bloodstone: Subspecies II and Arcade, I have already written about. Two others, Puppet Master 4 and Dollman vs. Demonic Toys, are sequels to films I have not yet covered and my crippling OCD will not allow me to go out of order. That leaves just Mandroid and Robot Wars. Six in one, half dozen in the other.
So while Mandroid certainly sounds promising -- and I'm sure I'll get to it eventually in a Full Moon Fever column -- I went with Robot Wars. Though marketed as a spiritual sequel to Robot Jox and in some cases literally called Robot Jox 2, I knew that Wars had nothing to do with Jox other than that Charles Band went on a giant robot tear in the early '90s (in addition to these two titles, there was also Crash and Burn). Maybe it was his way of offsetting his obsession with tiny puppets. Still, the movie is directed by Albert Band (father of Full Moon head honcho Charles Band) and stars Barbara Crampton, so that was enough to sway me.
At just 72 minutes long, there is an insane amount of plot in Robot Wars. Very little of it is of the compelling pulp variety, either, but rather the kind of pseudo-futuristic political nonsense that torpedoed The Phantom Menace. One would hope that a movie called Robot Wars would deliver on the promise of its title -- not that it would feature a ton of wars being fought by robots (Full Moon never had the budget for that kind of thing even during the halcyon days of the Paramount deal), but that it would be a movie with the energy and spirit to warrant the name. While it's not uncommon for a low-budget genre movie to spin its wheels with dialogue and exposition for most of its running time only to save the good stuff for the end, it would be nice if Robot Wars spun its wheels in a way that was less dry and confusing.
Doctor Mordrid his best, but he was a co-director on that), is pure exploitation on the cheap -- a movie that unapologetically embraces being pulp. He's never able to do that with Robot Wars because the screenplay won't let him. It's too busy focusing on the wrong things like political machinations or trying to accomplish world building through clunky expository dialogue. Robot Wars falls into the trap of a lot of low-budget genre movies: it's too much tell and not enough show. Like a lot of Charles Band productions (particularly during the Empire days), the poster for Robot Wars sells a more exciting film than is actually delivered.
1993 was still very much part of the Golden Age for Full Moon Features (then called Full Moon Pictures), but a title like Robot Wars is evidence of both the company's blessing and its curse: they made too many movies for all of them to work. They were often stretched too thin; they were rushed and under-funded. It speaks to the studio's ambition and creativity, but it's also the thing that hobbled them at times. The upside is that they were cranking out movies at such a ridiculous pace that there exists now an enormous back catalogue to work through, most of which have already been made available on Full Moon Streaming. I like that there was room for different kinds of movies on their slate in '93: there were the sequels to keep fans happy and make the big money (though Subspecies II isn't just a cash grab but actually a superior film), but there were other weird and more experimental movies like Arcade and Robot Wars. It's never going to be one of my favorites, but it doesn't have to be. I'll leave that responsibility to Robot Jox.
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