HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:66
WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM BOTH FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW
Back again back again Jiggity jig. Yup, once again we’re back again with another double feature from SCREAM! Factory. This time it’s less horror and more Science fiction with a pair of oddly matched films from the late 1980’s. “Millennium” was a title that I actually watched to death on VHS (even though for some reason I didn’t pick the title up when it was available on DVD oddly enough), and had a blast doing so. It has plenty of cheesy special effects, but a solidly entertaining plotline that does a lot better than its budget would belie. “R.O.T.O.R.” is nothing but a reverse “Robocop” story, with the robotic cop being the villain this time instead of the hero. It’s a movie that’s almost beyond redemption writing and acting wise, but is so hilariously macho and takes itself so serious that you can’t help but have a good time.
Airplane crashes are a terrible thing and something that requires a lot of time and effort to recreate the reason for the crash and ascertain who/what was at fault. Bill Smith (Kris Kristofferson) is the best NTSB investigative agent there is for plane crashes, but this next one may through him for a loop. He’s called out to investigate a plane crash where things are a bit odder than your typical crash. The plane’s black box has the co-pilot saying some strange things during the crash, such as seeing the passengers already burned up, and the inclusion of Nobel prize winning physicist, Dr. Arnold Mayer (Daniel J. Travanti), in the mix is even more puzzling.
All might have gone away and been thought of as a simple crash, but for the interference of a beautiful aid named Louise Baltimore (Cheryl Ladd). Wonderfully alluring and hypnotically familiar, Bill’s work soon goes off the rail as his relationship with the young woman burgeons into an overnight romance only to be shattered hours later as he sees Louise once more, this time she doesn’t recognize him. Becoming obsessed with the appearance and disappearance of Louise, Bill Smith soon finds himself in over his head as he becomes involved in a thousand year old time traveling experiment where visitors from the future are interfering in the past to save their own dying race.
I hate to go TOO into detail about the story, because it behooves the viewer to actually watch the entire film as it unfolds instead of having me explain all the plot points. Needless to say that the time traveling Louise and the confused Bill Smith form a very important part in a well nuanced issue of Time Travel. After watching this film after having not seen it for almost 15 years I have to say that the story REALLY holds up under scrutiny. The special effects are cheesy and the idea of what the “future” will look like is definitely old 1980’s “SyFy” Channel quality. However they paid a lot of attention to the ins and outs of time travel, creating a fairly cohesive set of rules that they stick to rather well. Since time travel is really theoretical, rules are made up on the fly, but so many time travel movies break their own rules part way through the movie. It’s kind of a nature of the beast due to just coming up with ideas on the fly. “Millennium” tends to stick pretty well to its basic premise and the resulting cataclysm that comes to rise from the rules fits well within the story.
There’s some flaws in the script, but it’s mainly form the ending and the characters. Bill and Louise do fine, especially forming their forbidden romance, however we have a personal robot that seems to have more emotions than Louise does, including LITERAL winks and nods to the camera. The ending is another weak link in the story, as it feels just a little rushed and clichéd. Especially with the push from the robot at the very end. Today’s science fiction would have had some horrible dark ending where everyone died at the end, but the 80’s was still a time when science fiction was mainly hopeful at the end, even if that feels awkward in today’s cynical society.
Robot cops was taken to one of the highest heights with the invention of “Robocop” in the 80s. He was the perfect hero, a mixture of man and machine that became the symbol for a frustrated people who wanted someone better than a man to take out what man has done. “R.O.T.O.R.” (originally titled “Blue Steel”) is a cheap knockoff of “Robocop”, but with the robotic warrior as a villain rather than the hero. The perfect soldier and police officer, R.O.T.O.R. (Robotic Officer Tactical Operations Research) is a cybernetic frame with an operating system that would allow him to think and adapt on the street. That is when he’s in full working order. Brilliant Texas scientist and lawman, Captain Coldyron (pronounced Cold Iron to make him a true man’s man) has created this weapon in order to clean up crime on the streets without risking any real life police force. It all seems simple, but Coldyron (Richard Gesswein) is fired by his district chief who angrily screams that he needs product by the end of 60 days. Coldyron knows he can’t get the robotic officer on the street for at least a few years, and is routinely canned.
The issue arises when Coldyron’s replacement accidentally activates the officer by the end of 24 hours, with his only command inputted being “Judge and Execute”. With those simple commands as his only primary directive, R.O.T.O.R. is out on the streets killing his way across the state with impunity for any simple violation of law. Tracking down a young girl and her fiancée for speeding, the unstoppable killing machine slaughters her fiancée, and when the girl speeds off to escape, R.O.T.O.R. is in hot pursuit, with only one goal in mind. Her execution. Coldyron is now called back in to fix the issues, and has to figure out a way to stop the unstoppable before it’s too late.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like a weird hybrid between “Robocop” and “Terminator” then you’re right. The film takes elements from each of the classic 1980’s films and cheeses them out with enough velveeta to make a child sick. The film is HORRIBLY awful, but the redeeming factor is that it also takes itself so seriously. Coldyron is chewing up every bit of scenery he possibly can, snarling out of the side of his mouth one liners that would make Arnold wince, and the inclusion of a bodybuilding scientist who fights hand to hand with R.O.T.O.R. in a battle that had me dying. Honestly, the best part about the film is downloading Mike Nelson’s Rifftrax from the film (basically a modern day Mystery Science Theater 3000) as it makes the film even better.
Don’t get me wrong. The film itself is horrible, but the machismo oozing from every pore makes the film a barrel of horrible fun. Besides the police robot making wisecracks at the lab, the creators honestly expect you to take away a sense of highbrow pontificating on the creation of life, and playing God. However, the end result is so campy that you can’t possibly help but wonder if this wasn’t made for a midnight TV special rather than an actual film. The movie is a natural 1/5 rating for cohesion and quality, but a 4/5 for sheer fun and hilarity, which is why I had to compromise with a 2.5/5 rating even though it was honestly worse than that, but so much more fun that rating.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA / Not Rated by the MPAA
For an old forgotten 80’s title I was really surprised how good “Millennium” looked. There’s some mild print damage and some aliasing around some of the characters (look at Louise’s hair when she’s got her little spiked “future” do going on. It looks a little stiff and sharp around the edges), but nothing that really stood out. The clarity is nice and sharp with some solid colors. I didn’t notice a pasty look on skin tones during the opening 20 minutes but that soon faded to a sort of pink tone for the rest of the film. Contrast is a bit low, but not overly so and the resulting image looks rather nice. You can see the individual hairs on Kristofferson’s face and the wrinkles in his clothing as plain as day. The 80’s “poofed” hair stands out exceptionally well and despite the few bits of aliasing looks incredibly nice. It’s rare that a SCREAM/SHOUT Factory niche title that hasn’t been remastered gets a 4/5 rating, but it looks like the master for “Millennium” has been kept in nice shape and SCREAM! Did a good job on the encode.
Color me even MORE surprised when “R.O.T.O.R.” looks just as good as “Millennium” with a fairly sharp picture and a nice lack of print damage. Sure there’s some flecks here and there, but overall the resulting image shows impressive clarity and good color reproduction Colors appear to be on the warm end of the scale, with typical 80’s contrast loss and some color boosting on the red end of the scale. Blues and blacks show up nicely and while the blacks aren’t INKY black, they are certainly deep enough. Grain is reproduced nicely with a moderately thin layer over the whole film and only mild aliasing and haloing here and there. For a forgotten 1989 film that REALLY shouldn’t have played anywhere but on a midnight TV special, the Blu-ray looks really well done.
“Millennium” has been given the standard 2.0 DTS-HD MA treatment like the original source audio, and it does the job nicely. Dialog is strong and clean, without any auditory artifacting or distortions. There is a few times where I noticed a mild hiss in the background, but only upon high volume and even then I can’t tell if it’s something in the recording background or in the encode, it’s that mild. The front two speakers take all the major duty and as such one wouldn’t expect those surrounds to light up. LFE is nice with some oomph when the transporter gate is open or when the temporal shockwaves hit the future, but it’s fairly mild in comparison to modern LFE driven tracks.
“R.O.T.O.R.” fares much the same way. It’s 2.0 DTS-HD MA track that really focuses on dialog more than anything else. There’s some good separation of channels during some of the fight scenes between Coldyron and the out of control Robocop, but really this is just a dialog driven track with a few low budget special effects thrown in for good measure. The gun shots show nice LFE usage and there’s the occasional crash and boom here and there to spice it up. I noticed a harshness to the high end of the vocals here and there, almost sharp and grating, but still mild enough to not be a nuisance.
• Theatrical Trailer
• Alternate Ending
• Theatrical Trailer
“Millinnium/R.O.T.O.R.” is an odd combination of movies really held together by the fact that they’re Science fiction. “Millennium” is a rather under rated sci-fi movie with some great themes (albeit a low budget and cheesy costumes for the “future”) while “R.O.T.O.R.” falls into that so terribly bad and cheesy that it’s actually fun category. What makes this set special is the rather nice looking video encodes that come with the set. Usually these forgotten titles don’t look AMAZING due to negligence or budgetary limitations from studios who stored the negatives for so many years, but the two titles look to be in nice shape which makes them look a lot better than expected. Both titles are cheesy and fun in a different sort of way. “Millennium” is a fun movie that is better than it has every right to be and “R.O.T.O.R.” is a movie that you REALLY have to check out the Rifftrax for, as it is one of the most hysterically bad movies that I’ve seen in quite some time. Worth checking out.
Starring: Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd, Daniel J. Travanti : Margaret Trigg, Richard Gesswein, Jayne Smith
Directed by: Michael Anderson : Cullen Blaine
Written by: John Varley : Cullen Blaine, Budd Lewis
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono/Stereo
Studio: SCREAM! Factory
Rated: PG-13/Not Rated
Runtime: 106 minutes : 90 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Buy Millennium/R.O.T.O.R. Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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