Color, 1986, 79 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Tim Kincaid
Starring Norris Culf, Nadine Hart, Jennifer Delora, Joel Von Ornsteiner, Angelika Jager, Michael Downend
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A very cheap, very colorful, and very goofy sci-fi quickie churned out for Wizard Video back in the '80s, Robot Holocaust is the third in a six-film genre run from director Tim Kincaid, who got his start as an actor in Quadroon before becoming a very prolific gay adult filmmaker under the name Joe Gage (the namesake for Michael Madsen's character in The Hateful Eight, no less). Anyone who's seen Kincaid's other films in this batch like Breeders, Riot on 42nd Street, or Bad Girls Dormitory should have some idea of what to expect here in terms of acting and general filmmaking aesthetics, though nothing can quite prepare you for the experience of actually watching this mixture of rubber robot outfits, post-apocalyptic shots of Brooklyn and Manhattan in various states of disarray, and terrible actors running around in skimpy clothing.
In "the last city still standing" after the destruction of society by a robot rebellion and an ensuing radiation spill, humans are slaves and playthings for their mechanical overlords. Under the domain of the Dark One, the robots control the atmosphere and can use the threat of poison air to keep the humans under their thumb; however, a new arrival from the wasteland, Neo (Breeders' Culf), is impervious to this toxic atmosphere. Accompanied by robot buddy Klyton (Slash Dance's Von Ornsteiner), he teams up with Deeja (Hart) and other intrepid travelers to take control of the atmosphere via the power station, a home base and tracking location that can be used to save everyone via a breakthrough from Deeja's captive scientist father (Downend).
Imbued with that dark, druggy atmosphere that only mid-'80s to early '90s films really nail down, Robot Holocaust aims low and manages to make any Italian post-nuke film can name look like a lavish Hollywood epic by comparison. The acting is highly amusing as well, with Angelika Jager shining(?) in particular as the Dark One's lackey in a performance that rivals late period Lina Romay for shaky command of English dialogue. Troma fans will also recognize Kincaid regular Rick Gianasi, who went on to Z-Not surprisingly, this film was an early target for Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and was included in one of the DVD box sets), but it's also quite entertaining on its own in a ratty, brain-damaged sort of way.
Not the easiest film to find on home video after its initial VHS release and a subsequent one from MGM (due to its covert inclusion in the Empire Pictures library), Robot Holocaust first bowed in a remastered HD widescreen version on the MGM HD channel who ran it with surprising frequency for a few years. Available through Ronin Flix and (internationally only until April 30, 2019) Diabolik, the film made its Blu-ray in 2019 from Scorpion Releasing and comes with a limited edition slipcover and 9x11 mini-poster with artwork by Nathan Thomas Milliner while supplies last. The transfer itself looks like the same scan used for HD broadcast though without the significant noise reduction applied by that channel, so it's more detailed here and features finer, more visible film grain. Very colorful and finally legible in the many dark scenes, it manages to show the film off on its best behavior and is likely as good as we'll get it for a very long time. The DTS-HD MA English mono audio is also in great shape, though the actual dialogue recording and delivery isn't exactly the kind of thing that will have audiophiles writhing in ecstasy. A new video interview with actress Jennifer Delora (17m42s) covers her collaborations with Kincaid, her "bad ass" role here as Nyla ("Queen of the Amazon Warriors"), the evolution of her wardrobe, and thoughts on her fellow actors whom she got to hang out with a lot on the threadbare production. Bonus trailers are also included for Panga, Iron Warrior, Shredder, Gas Pump Girls, and The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.
Reviewed on April 2, 2019.