aka Frankenstein ‘88
Director – Jean-Claude Lord, Screenplay – David Preston & Edith Rey, Producers – Don Carmody & John Dunning, Photography – Rene Verzier, Music – Paul Zaza, Special Effects – George Erschbamer & Bill Orr, Frankenstein Designed and Created by Stan Winston Studios, Production Design – Douglas Higgins. Production Company – Frank and Stein Productions
David McIlwraith (Carl Lehman), Teri Austin (Lauren Lehman), Richard Cox (Alex Whyte), Pam Grier (Hunter), Maury Chaykin (Burt Arthurs), Stephen Mendel (Ian Massey), Catherine Disher (Catherine), Larry Aubrey (Kurt Kessler), Denis Simpson (Simpson)
Scientist Carl Lehman protests at the appropriation of his research budget by his superior Alex Whyte. He is then caught in an ‘accidental’ laboratory explosion and killed. Whyte keeps Carl alive and rebuilds his body as a cyborg intended for use in Mars exploration. Carl is able to make an escape from the lab. However, he leaves without the remote control that keeps his anger response in check, something that makes him regard anybody who touches him as a threat and respond with lethal force.
The Vindicator was one of the first films coming out seeking to exploit the success of The Terminator (1984). What makes this interesting is that The Vindicator had been announced at least a couple of years before The Terminator came out under the title Frankenstein ’88. Clearly, it was made before or at least around the same time as The Terminator and then renamed with a Terminator-like title after The Terminator‘s success. From the original title, you realise that the film was originally designed as a hi-tech reworking of the Frankenstein story – a potentially intriguing idea. The important thing is that The Vindicator was made as a horror film not as a science-fiction film – quite simply because at the time it was made, the notion of the killer android action film created by The Terminator was not embedded in the public consciousness.
The original idea of a version of Frankenstein where the monster becomes an alienated cyborg in modern society is intriguing. [The film could almost be a B movie version of Frederik Pohl’s excellent novel Man Plus (1976) about a cyborg created to explore Mars]. It was a Canadian production, made by Jean-Claude Lord, a Quebecois director who had previously made the above average slasher film Visiting Hours (1982).
That said, The Vindicator is unimaginative and crudely made. In comparison to The Terminator and its ilk, Jean-Claude Lord’s emphasis is on human mutilation, not action – he takes some unpleasant delight in an extended rape sequence and a scene where a victim is crushed inside a car. Moreover, the plot is stupid at times – one simply fails to believe that a designer would incorporate such a moronic feature in a cyborg as having any human touch cause it to go uncontrollably into a killing mode with the only off-switch being the other person’s death.
Stan Winston creates a good cyborg suit. A major plus of the piece is cult action queen Pam Grier, caught in a lull between the end of the Blaxploitation genre and her rediscovery by Quentin Tarantino, who adds some tough class that is lacking anywhere else in the film.