DNDF: Robot Jox (1989), Crash and Burn (1990) and Robot Wars (1993)

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Friday, August 16, 2013

DNDF: Robot Jox (1989), Crash and Burn (1990) and Robot Wars (1993)

When I was in college, every weekend I would drive up to Philadelphia to send Sunday with my cousin Rodney.  Some weekends we would go bowling, some we would walk down South Street and check out all the crazy people and shops; if you don’t know, South Street is a freakshow.  The one thing that seemed to be a constant is at some point we would be near a TV and Robot Jox would be playing.  I have no idea why but it seems like I have seen this film about twenty times.  Now whenever I see this movie I start reminiscing about being in my early twenties and hanging out with one of the coolest dudes I ever had the pleasure to know.  Now even though these films did not get very good reviews they did have the necessary items needed for a “Giant Freaking Fighting Robots Movie”.

  1. Are there giant robots?
  2. Do those giant robots beat the living be-jeebus out of each other?
  3. Does the plot make sense?
  4. Who cares?  Giant Freaking Fighting Robots!

Oh crap, it’s another triple-feature.  I had no idea there were three related movies until I started writing this latest installment of the Friday Night Fare.

Robot Jox (1989)

  • Directed: Stuart Gordon
  • Produced: Charles Band
  • Written:
    • Joe Haldeman (Screenplay)
    • Stuart Gordon (Story)
  • Starring: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo
  • Music: Frédéric Talgorn
  • Editing: Lori Ball, Ted Nicolaou
  • Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
  • Studio: Empire Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Trans World Entertainment (Theatrical)
    • Columbia Pictures(Canada)
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment (Home media)
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: November 21, 1990
  • Running Time: 85 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

The film's plot follows Achilles, one of the "robot jox" who pilot giant mechanical machines that fight international battles to settle territorial disputes in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world.  Achilles retires after his final contracted battle against his primary rival, Alexander, ends in an inconclusive disaster, but returns when he realizes that a female genetically engineered athlete, Athena, will replace him.  Athena attempts to steal the robot and fight against Alexander anyway, and when she is defeated, Achilles reclaims his robot to fight.  After a prolonged battle, Achilles and Alexander reconcile and salute each other.

After producer Charles Band approved Gordon's initial concept, the director approached Haldeman to write the script.  Gordon and Haldeman clashed frequently over the film's tone and intended audience.  Principal photography finished in Rome in 1987, but the bankruptcy of Band's Empire Pictures delayed the film's release in theaters until 1990.  It earned $1,272,977 in domestic gross, failing to earn its production cost in theaters.  The film received negative critical response and little audience attention upon its first theatrical run, but has attracted a minor cult following and influenced elements of popular culture since its initial release.

Fifty years after a nuclear holocaust, open war is forbidden by the surviving nations, which have merged into two opposing factions: the western-influenced Market and the Russian-themed Confederation.  To resolve territorial disputes, the two sides hold gladiator-style matches between giant robots piloted by "robot jox".  In a contest between Confederation fighter Alexander (Paul Koslo) and the Market's Hercules, it becomes clear that the Confederation is receiving information about new weaponry and designs from spies within the Market, resulting in the loss of critical matches and the deaths of several of the Market's best pilots.  Market jock Achilles (Gary Graham), supported by robot designer "Doc" Matsumoto (Danny Kamekona) and strategist Tex Conway (Michael Alldredge), the only jock to win all ten of his contract fights, prepares for his final contracted fight with Alexander. During the battle, Achilles attempts to intercept a wayward projectile launched by Alexander when it careers towards a civilian spectator section, but his robot takes the full impact and collapses on top of the bleachers, killing over 300 spectators.  In a post-match conference, both sides reason that their respective fighter was the victor; however, the referees decide that the match is inconclusive and schedule a rematch.  Achilles, shaken by the incident, insists the fight was his contractual tenth match and retires, much to the disapproval of his management and fans.

After competing for the position with other genetically engineered "gen jox", Athena (Anne-Marie Johnson) is chosen to replace Achilles.  Concerned that she may not win, Achilles agrees to fight Alexander again, which infuriates Athena.  Prior to the scheduled rematch, Doc confronts Conway in his office.  He analyzes Conway's final match and deduces that the "lucky" laser hit that won Conway the match against a clearly superior opponent was in fact deliberately aimed and the match was rigged for Conway to win.  He accuses Conway of being a spy who has leaked Market robot information to the Confederation.  Conway confesses and murders Doc, unaware that Doc has recorded the conversation.  Conway tells Commissioner Jameson (Robert Sampson) that Doc was the spy, and that he committed suicide upon being outed.

On the morning of the fight, Athena sedates Achilles in his apartment and impersonates him to gain access to the robot's cockpit, forcefully taking his robot to the field.  Achilles decides to help her and plays the instructional video Doc had prepared for the new weapons installed in the robot.  When the video cuts to footage of Conway's confession and Doc's murder, Conway leaps to his death.  On the field, Alexander overpowers Athena and Achilles rushes to get her out of the robot.  The referees order Alexander to stop fighting or be disqualified, but Alexander destroys the referees' float platform and continues the attack.  Achilles takes control of the Market robot and ignores Commissioner Jameson's instruction to stop the match due to Alexander's disqualification.  The two jox continue their fight, with both robots eventually being crippled and destroyed.  Facing each other without their machines and using wreckage as weapons, they fight in hand-to-hand combat.  Achilles convinces Alexander that a match does not necessarily have to end with the death of a jock.  Alexander throws down his weapon, and they salute each other with the jox's traditional "crash and burn" fist bump.

Crash and Burn (1990)

  • Directed: Charles Band
  • Produced:
    • David DeCoteau
    • John Schouweiler
  • Written: J. S. Cardone
  • Starring: Paul Ganus, Megan Ward, Jack McGee, Eva LaRue
  • Music: Richard Band
  • Editing: Ted Nicolaou
  • Cinematography: Mark Ahlberg
  • Studio: Full Moon Entertainment
  • Distributed: Paramount Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: September 1990
  • Running Time: 85 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Crash and Burn is a 1990 American science fiction film directed by Charles Band.  It was originally titled Robot Jox 2: Crash and Burn in most European markets, despite not being related to Band's 1990 film Robot Jox.

Set in the year 2030, the film concerns a rebel movement led by Lathan Hooks (Ralph Waite), who is dedicated to the riddance of the conservative corporate machine which rules America.  Unicom is a powerful organization overseeing most of the world after its economic collapse.  They have banned computers and robots in an attempt to ensure "life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic stability."  When a Unicom Synth robot infiltrates a southwest TV station and kills the manager, a revolutionary against the Gestapo-like corporation, a lowly Unicom delivery man must help the rest of the station survive through the incoming "thermal storm."

Crash and Burn was officially titled Robot Jox 2 in most European markets at the time of release, but renamed when re-released on DVD.  Despite the title, same opening theme, and involvement of Charles Band, and reused cover art, the plots of Robot Jox 2: Crash and Burn and Robot Jox are completely unrelated.

The film was released on DVD by Full Moon in 2000, but was discontinued for copyright reasons.  The DVD contained a widescreen print of the film.  The film was later released onto DVD again through the Charles Band DVD Collection, released in 2006.  The boxset also contains Meridian: Kiss of the Beast, Doctor Mordrid, and Head of the Family.  The film was again released on DVD by Shout! Factory on June 14, 2011, as a double feature DVD with Robot Wars.

Robot Wars (1993)

  • Directed: Albert Band
  • Produced:
    • Charles Band
    • Letitia Knight
    • Keith S. Payson
  • Written:
    • Charles Band (story)
    • Jackson Barr (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna
  • Music: David Arkenstone
  • Editing: Margeret-Anne Smith
  • Cinematography: Adolfo Bartoli
  • Studio:
    • Full Moon Entertainment
    • Paramount Pictures
  • Distributed: Paramount Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: April 28, 1993
  • Running Time: 72 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

It has been listed sometimes as a sequel to Robot Jox, but is not a real sequel, story-wise.  It is closer to the vein of "another giant robot movie" from the same company.

A foreign dignitary, Wa-Lee (Danny Kamekona) and his partner Chou-Sing (Yuji Okumoto) are shown how to pilot the last active Mech on Earth, the MRAS-2 (which looks like a mechanized scorpion).  They later hijack it and use it to threaten the Eastern Alliance into war.  The only thing standing in their way is Drake (Don Michael Paul), a renegade pilot, and his friend Stumpy (James Staley), who find a humanoid robot long forgotten under the city, the MEGA-1.  Along with Archeologist Leda (Barbara Crampton), they use the MEGA-1 to combat the MRAS-2 and prevent war.

Robot Wars was originally released on VHS by Paramount Home Video.  It made its DVD debut in the 2007 box set Full Moon Classics: Volume Two.  The film was also featured in the limited edition box set Full Moon Features: The Archive Collection, a 20th anniversary collection which featured 18 of Full Moon's most popular films.  The film was released on DVD again by Shout! Factory on June 14, 2011, as a double feature DVD with Crash and Burn.

Related Articles:

Robot Jox – IMDB

Robot Jox – Wikipedia

Crash and Burn – IMDB

Crash and Burn – Wikipedia

Robot Wars – IMDB

Robot Wars – Wikipedia

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