Brick Bardo (Tim Thomerson) is a cop on Planet Arturos, 10,000 light years from Earth. Under suspension for being too badass, a combination of circumstance and bad guys that bear a grudge finds him in high speed pursuit of criminal mastermind Sprug, during which he flies through the energy bands surrounding his planet and is hurled, along with Sprug, to planet Earth. Though regular in size on his home planet, he is 13 inches high on Earth, with Sprug (a disembodied head attached to rotor blades) similarly sized. After quickly coming to terms with his situation (“Giants...I hate giants”), Brick saves Debbie (Kamala Lopez), a local neighbourhood watch organiser and feisty single mum, from the unwelcome attention of three gang members and along with his spaceship, is taken home to the relative safety of Debbie’s apartment, where he soon becomes the source of much attention from her son, his friends and various neighbours. Meanwhile, Sprug is enlisting the help of the local gang, lead by Braxton Red (Jackie Earle Haley), promising them use of a dimensional fusion bomb he was carrying in his spacecraft, if they dispatch Bardo. Events escalate from this point onwards, with assaults, violent retribution, a squashed head, limb removal and a gorgeous sunset all getting thrown into the mix.
From the slightly too long opening credits to the extremely drawn out end credits (a low budget, time-wasting staple), Dollman is a lot of fun. It packs enough into its 82 minutes to never drag and has the good sense to stick to one story and not be tempted to flesh things out further than they need to be. The South Bronx is portrayed as a drug infested, graffiti strewn hell hole, with characters to match. Your sympathies are supposed to rest with the only ‘normal’ person we encounter and despite an occasional attempt at social comment, the boundaries between good and bad are never blurred. Humour is kept to a minimum and therefore the few funny lines are both welcome and, more importantly, work. It would have been nice to see a slightly more satirical tone taken, but then that’s possibly due to the film’s resemblance to Robocop, in style, if not plot.
Thomerson essentially reprises his Jack Deth role from Trancers and good value he is too. Taking a lead from every hardnosed, no nonsense, cannon-toting cop you’ve ever seen, he keeps his shades and his Dirty Harry impression in place throughout the movie and carries enough attitude to scare a rat by simply speaking aggressively to it (don’t take this menace lightly – remember that the rat is the same size as him!). As a director of previous Charles Band/Full Moon productions, Albert Pyun knows what works in low budget movie making and makes a decent effort with what’s available. The cinematography never dazzles, but captures the sleazy streets and derelict industrial sites with an almost documentary-like zeal and the special effects sequences are adequate and fortunately kept to a minimum. The music score is very early 1990’s, all fast moving funk/rock riffs, and drives the action along nicely.
Dollman is great fun when taken at face value and is a fine example of low budget film makers using the success of bigger budget movies as an opportunity to get their similar, if more modestly scaled efforts out there and into the hands of an audience eager for more of the same. It never strays from keeping the story moving and if your tastes stretch to a hero who is 13 inches high and a bad guy who is basically a head on a helicopter, then you won’t come away from Dollman feeling short-changed.
88 Films present Dollman on blu-ray for the first time in the UK, in a very good looking widescreen print. External scenes are sharp and detailed, with only one really noticeable instance of damage. The film carries a slight greenish hue overall, which may be down to the film stock (and may even be a subjective thing that some won’t even notice), but it’s certainly not jarring. Interior and low light scenes have a pleasing amount of grain, so kudos to the transfer team for not DNRing the life out of it. The special effect sequences don’t look half as sharp or clear, but with pre-digital effects work and multiple processing of the same piece of film, these are no doubt as good as they looked on first release. Sound is offered in two flavours – the original two channel stereo and a remixed 5.1 track. Both are clear and undistorted and while hardly reference pieces, are perfectly adequate. The electronic score is bouncy and bright and effects are punchy without being too distracting. No subtitles tracks are available.
An original VideoZone featurette is included, which is sourced from videotape and therefore presented in 4:3. Despite the age of the piece, picture and sound quality are both good. However, considering its purpose as a promotional item (and its brief 8 minute running time) it manages to give away both the bad guys demise and the final shot of the film. Next up is the Original Theatrical Trailer, which is in HD and of a similar quality to the main feature. Based on this, plus the fact it features two F-bombs (which I doubt would have been in the original trailer) I’d say it’s more likely to be a re-creation of the original trailer, rather than the actual thing. A 6 minute “Vidcast” follows, in which Charles Band and Tim Thomerson barely mention Dollman and instead bring us up to speed on the exciting projects ahead for Full Moon Entertainment, while also pimping Band’s line of limited edition dolls at $40 a pop. Things are rounded off with a HD trailer for Demonic Toys, again seemingly taken from a new master. A liner booklet written by Calum Waddell and reversible sleeve art are also included in the retail package, but these weren’t available with the review copy.
Dollman is never more than the sum of its parts – an exploitation quickie, designed to appeal to the Terminator/Robocop crowd. What differentiates it from today’s quickies (I’m looking at you, Sharknado), is that it was made with a theatrical release in mind, which in turn was followed up with a VHS release. People had to want to go and see films like Dollman, so the attention to craft and storytelling was much greater and didn’t rely simply on flicking through to the SyFy Channel on a Friday night for an audience. The pacing is spot on and the lean running time merely adds to the feeling that you’re not being fed anything you don’t need. This blu-ray shows the film off in the best condition it’s been seen since original release and although a little light on meaningful extra content, 88 Films should get a pat on the back for treating this film (and others from the Full Moon catalogue) with the decent release it deserves.