Friday, February 28, 2014

Time Travel Time #3: Cyborg 2087

In my series of "Time Travel Time" ruminations, I'm slipping from a cinematic blockbuster ("Time Machine" 1960) to one of back-shelf obscurity: Franklin Adreon's "Cyborg 2087", released in 1966, starring Michael Rennie.

Like Rennie's famous spaceman Klaatu, in "Day the Earth Stood Still", his "Cyborg 2087" persona also tackles an important mission to pave Earth's destiny, but unlike with Klaatu, there's an edgier, more urgent element at play here.


Arthur C. Pierce's ahead-of-its-time script opens with Garth (Rennie), a cyborg fleeing via a time pod from 2087 to 1966 to prevent a "radio telepathy", mind-control invention that will eventually turn our social structure into a totalitarian state, wherein citizens will have no free thought and will be further controlled by more advanced mechanized humans, of whom Garth was designed.

The device's inventor is Dr. Sigmund Marx (Eduard Franz), and I'm speculating that his surname purposely connects to Cold War concerns of the time. Interestingly enough, Garth's intent is not to kill Marx, but rather to reason with him, so that he won't reveal his invention to those who are otherwise destined to exploit it.

Though it's only mentioned briefly in the film, it appears that a select few in Garth's realm have somehow broken from governmental influence, thanks to freedom fighters. It's also evident that the government has caught wind of the rebels' time-traveling plot and quickly implements one of its own: dispatching "Tracers" (cyborg police/soldier types) back in time to laser-blast Garth before he can fulfill his task.

In that Garth doesn't immediately meet Marx, he has time to converse with two of the professor's colleagues: Dr. Mason (the fetching Karen Steele, whom Trekkies will recall from "Mudd's Women") and Dr. Zeller (Warren Stevens, from Trek's "By Any Other Name" and of course, the science-fiction epic, "Forbidden Planet"). A skeptical sheriff (Wendell Corey) also engages in the escalating tension.

The interaction of the main characters nicely punctuates the plot, nurturing its sense of humanity. For example, Mason falls for Garth in the process of the proceedings, and though a mutual fondness mounts, in the end, both realize that, if Garth succeeds, the ripples of time will surely prevent them from ever staying together.

Overall, "Cyborg 2087" feels like a precursor to James Cameron's "Terminator", even though the former has never been attributed credit for such (but then, for a brief spell, such was also the case with Harlan Ellison's acclaimed "Outer Limits" episodes, "Solider" and "Demon with a Glass Hand"). "Cyborg 2087" holds equal similarities to Charles Band's "Trancers", which in its own clever right, is derivative of "Terminator", and therefore, also arguably links back to the Adreon film.

"Cyborg 2087" doesn't sport a big budget, and generally such blatantly shows, but it does have its heart in the right place: the story being empowered by human determination and ultimately, poignant sacrifice. Adreon also moves things along smoothly, offering just enough well-timed chase sequences (though primarily on foot) to bridge the often philosophical and scientific dialogue.

If you enjoy dystopian and time-travel tales, or if you're simply a Rennie fan, "Cyborg 2087" should prove a most engaging and thought-provoking diversion. It's readily available on YouTube or through any number of other prolific, movie sources. Give it a try. It'll surely leave you pleasantly satisfied.

No comments:

Post a Comment