DirectorBruno Mattei/Claudio Fragasso
Release Date(s)1988 (June 25, 2019)
Studio(s)Flora Film (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: B
In an era when many attempts were made to capitalize upon everything from The Road Warrior to Escape from New York to The Terminator, the 1980s saw a change in the output of Italian cinema, going from giallo films to knock-offs. Chief among them were films like Shocking Dark and Robowar, both directed by Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso.
Robowar (aka Robot da guerra) tells of a group of commandos who infiltrate a jungle island and find themselves under attack by an unseen force that’s hell-bent on killing them all... sound familiar? Featuring Reb Brown as Major Black and Catherine Hickland as Virginia (or Virgin as she’s credited), this K-mart version of Predator was never officially released theatrically or on home video in the United States until now.
What’s fascinating time and time again about these Italian copycat films is just how much they adhere to the original material, yet somehow escape lawsuits. None of the character names are the same and the ending is slightly altered since there isn’t a “choppa” to get to, but for the most part, Robowar is a beat for beat retread of what it’s aping – complete with a group of badass soldiers, an outsider tagging along with a secret agenda, a silent but ever mindful commando who can sense oncoming danger, the firing of automatic weapons into numerous amounts of foliage, and a woman who is brought along for protection. The key difference is that the unknown assailant is actually a humanoid robot instead of an alien, which ultimately ties in with Major Black’s backstory and affects the movie’s climax.
While no one can accuse Robowar of bringing something fresh and original to the table, you can’t fault it for how entertaining it is. Whether you’re in it for its unintentional comedic value – Reb Brown’s war cries always manage to elicit laughter – or if you’re just fascinated by its blatant, nay breathtaking amount of plagiarism, Robowar is certain to gain a response.
Severin Films debuts Robowar on Blu-ray with a transfer “scanned in 4K from the original negative.” It’s actually one of their better presentations due to how clean and stable it is. Grain isn’t abundant, but detail, even in darker scenes, is impressive. The colors of the jungle, as well as the beach, are fairly vivid, offering a variety of greens, browns, reds, and blues. Skin tones also fare well. Blacks are deep with mild crush but contrast never wavers. Everything is bright and clear with only minor imperfections leftover, mostly speckling.
The audio is a different matter. It’s presented in both English and Italian 2.0 mono DTS-HD with subtitles in English and English for the Italian audio. The English track is loaded with instances of hiss and crackle, as well as unbalanced volume in several spots. The dialogue is also more pronounced than usual due to the post-dubbing. The Italian track is cleaner, though it too has occasional crackle during calmer moments, while the dialogue is dialed down a bit lower comparatively. Sound effects and score have the same amount of impact on both tracks. Gunfire is handled well and the hard rock songs are represented well sonically with decent push.
The extras in this package include Robo Predator, a 23-minute interview with co-director and co-writer Claudio Fragasso; Italian Rip-Off, a 9-minute interview with co-writer Rosella Drudi; Violence She Wrote, a 22-minute career interview with co-writer Rosella Drudi; Robolady, a 12-minute interview with actress Catherine Hickland; Papa Doc’s War, a 13-minute interview with actor John P. Dulaney; The Robowarrior, an 9-minute interview with actor Jim Gaines, Jr.; War in the Philippines, an 18-minute interview with actor and stuntman Massimo Vanni; 15 minutes of Catherine Hickland’s behind the scenes home movies via camcorder; and an English language trailer. This release is also available in a Limited Edition with a CD soundtrack.
Robowar certainly has plenty going for it, and some may find more worth in it than others, particularly with a crowd, but Severin offers a nice transfer of a film that’s never been available before with a nice batch of extras to bulk it up.
– Tim Salmons