Rotor-02The idea of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence run­ning amuck is an ever­green of sci­ence fic­tion because it taps into mankind’s deep­est fears about tech­nol­o­gy. However, it’s a risky the­me for film­mak­ers to tack­le because you have to be care­ful and pre­cise in your depic­tion of insid­i­ous tech­nol­o­gy. There’s a thin line between impres­sive and sil­ly when it comes to depict­ing futur­is­tic tech­nol­o­gy and if you lack the resources and/or the vision, it’s easy to fall on the wrong side of that line.

Case in point: R.O.T.O.R. This film’s poster, which dou­bled as the cov­er art of the VHS box, sold the poten­tial view­er on a Frazetta-esque vision of a ram­pag­ing robot cop. However, the film itself offers up a vision that is much more lo-fi and unex­pect­ed­ly eccen­tric. It is the tale of Coldyron (Richard Gesswein), a curi­ous­ly macho sci­en­tist who is devel­op­ing a robot­ic police­man for his local police force. Unfortunately, a jan­i­tor-induced mal­func­tion brings said cop-bot to life and it is soon shoot­ing up the pop­u­lace for minor infrac­tions. In short order, Coldyron is chas­ing down his rogue robot with the mys­te­ri­ous, body­builder-sized Dr. Steele (Jayne Smith).

Rotor-01R.O.T.O.R. is a bad movie but it takes such a bizarre, con­vo­lut­ed road to its bad movie des­tiny that it ends up being fas­ci­nat­ing in ways that a good movie could nev­er be. Director Cullen Blaine and writer Budd Lewis worked almost exclu­sive­ly in t.v. car­toons so this movie has a weird, kid’s car­toon sense of humor, com­plete with wise­crack­ing robot mas­cot and a Native American jan­i­tor who talks jive. The dia­logue sug­gests they were going for some kind of quirky, ani­mé-style humor, includ­ing an insane press con­fer­ence where every­one ask­ing ques­tions about the cop-bot pro­gram mix­es comic-book sci­ence jar­gon with weird philo­soph­i­cal non-sequiturs (“Is there some good vibra­tion to its mol­e­c­u­lar tonal­i­ty you can uti­lize?”).

Mill-Rot-bluAnd that’s just the first wave of weird­ness in R.O.T.O.R. The plot mean­ders con­stant­ly in its setup, with unnec­es­sary detours like a lengthy mon­tage of wak­ing up and eat­ing break­fast for Gesswein set to a coun­try tune and a roman­tic lunch mon­tage set to a pukey mid-80’s bal­lad. The stone-faced per­for­mances of Gesswein and Smith are acci­den­tal­ly made sur­re­al by promi­nent, uncon­vinc­ing post-dub­bing for both. Smith also looks like a futur­is­tic wrestler who wan­dered in from the WWF. Finally, the tit­u­lar cop-bot is sim­ply a stunt­man dressed in black and his bud­get-con­scious ram­page plays at a lev­el of action and effects you nor­mal­ly see in Super-8 movies made by teenagers.

Thus, R.O.T.O.R. is strict­ly for the bad movie brigade — but they’ll be hyp­no­tized by the straight-faced insan­i­ty of its approach to arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory recent­ly released this as part of a 2-for-1 dou­ble bill with Millennium. Those who grew up with this title on VHS will be sur­prised by the crisp, col­or­ful trans­fer it gets here and the DTS 2.0 stereo track allows you to soak up the dubbed dia­logue and dopey sound­track songs with ease. The one extra for this film is a trail­er but as men­tioned before you also get a full sec­ond film on the same disc.