This film transports us to the year 2041. The world is pretty much a desert in these times, the aftermath of a great war between the authorities and a rebel army known as the Centroes.

Since 1993, the world has existed in turmoil due to said war. So much so that both sides agreed to an amnesty in 2012, effectively banning the use of all weapons and in particular giant robots that had been used as killing machines up until that point.

One robot, fashioned in the guise of a huge metallic scorpion, is however still in use. The military now employ it as a means of transporting tourists who want to visit a "ghost town" called North Hemi which allows people to experience how people lived pre-1993.

The latest tour attracts the likes of pretty Leda (Barbara Crampton) and journalist Anna (Lisa Rinna). Tasked with controlling the robot, cocksure pilot Drake (Don Michael Paul) takes an instant shine to the former - but she manages to resist his charms, at least initially.

This tour is especially important to its bosses as it has attracted the attention of potential investor, Wa-Lee (Danny Kamekona). This Asian general commands respect as the crew fret to impress him. All that is, save for Drake: he has no interest in the continued operation of the giant robot due to the potential threat it presents.

Meanwhile, it transpires that North Hemi is rumoured to possess a tunnel where one of the banned robots was buried hidden many years earlier. Wouldn't it be really bad if one of the tourists had a secret agenda and was intent on unearthing the old robot with designs on using it to overthrow the government and bring the Centroes into power?

When the shit inevitably hits the fan (it takes longer than you'd think), can Drake stop boozing long enough to save the day...?

Two words: gobble gobble!

Yes, this is one fat turkey. The plot is not only hokum but it's really unclearly dished out and often needlessly confusing. Matters are not helped by the fact that it's not very interesting either. I've no idea what the budget was but this looks very, very cheap. How cheap? It has the look and feel, production-wise, of an episode of TV's "Power Rangers" series. Obviously that's something a good filmmaker can rise above but director Albert Band (father of Charles), bless him, is not that man.

Instead, he exacerbates the situation with a leaden pace that seems intent on accentuating the unfunny one-liners of the script and the largely terrible performances. Perhaps these elements would be enjoyable if the film delivered on the action front. Alas, there's precious little of it to report: for a 71-minute film about fighting robots, ROBOT WARS was quite a chore to sit through.

Admittedly, the robots do get to scrap in the film's final 10 minutes (it's a fight, not a war). But even this climactic battle is shot and edited in such ham-fisted fashion that it feels sluggish when it should excite. The one thing ROBOT WARS should be is fun. And it's not.

Crampton looks super-hot here though, and undoubtedly she's the main reason to see this. Her charisma and warmth are present and correct here as per usual, and there's an added element of ease about her performance thanks to her pairing with off-screen buddy Rinna. In contrast, Paul is a smug and disagreeable lead. Fair enough, his job is to portray an arrogant pilot - but a better actor would've at least have been able to pull this off with a modicum of charm.

Jackson Barr's screenplay is pretty terrible, veering from daytime soap inanity to painfully unfunny comedy with equal amounts of failure. As mentioned above, the biggest flaw with the screenplay too is that it doesn't provide enough in the form of action set-pieces.

To cap it all, it's not even a proper sequel to ROBOT JOX.

88 Films DVD is region free and not a bad proposition, considering its nice price.

ROBOT WARS is presented in its original 1.33:1 pillar-boxed ratio, with a decent transfer in terms of colours and detail. Blacks are deep and stable, digital noise is minimal. Although an NTSC-to-PAL conversion job, this doesn't seem to have had a detrimental effect on the film in motion. I suspect this is as good as such a cheap production could ever likely look.

English 2.0 audio does a good job of being clean and clear, although the balance between dialogue (quiet) and explosions (booming) seems a little off.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene-selection menu.

Of the extras, the best by far is a 10-minute Making Of featurette. This provides some usual footage of the cast and crew working in the oppressive Californian desert heat while maintaining high spirits. Crampton comes across as agreeable as ever, while Band Senior tells of how plans to co-direct the film with his son Charles were scuppered by the latter's commitments with running Full Moon Pictures. The most interesting bits are undoubtedly the insights into the creation of the clunky robot effects. This is presented with VHS-type picture quality and in a pillar-boxed format.

The film's original trailer is a typically bombastic 85-second affair.

Never ones to shy away from promoting other titles in their canon, 88 Films also provide a fine selection of trailers for our perusal: THE CORPSE GRINDERS, HIDEOUS!, DR MORDRID, DOLLMAN, THE DOLL SQUAD, CASTLE FREAK, GIRL IN GOLD BOOTS, SLICE AND DICE, BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS and TWO MOON JUNCTION.

My understanding is that this release also comes with double-sided reversible cover artwork, but we weren't privy to the packaging for review purposes.

ROBOT WARS isn't a great film, then. Lovers of bad movies and Barbara Crampton completists may get some twisted pleasure from it, I suppose. But 88 Films' DVD is certainly the best way to see it, being much superior to the Shout! Factory's US release (the film features as part of their fairly basic GIANT ROBOT ACTION PACK boxset).

One question though ... where was Craig Charles?!

By Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review