R.O.T.O.R. (1988) poster

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)


USA. 1988.


Director/Story – Cullen Blaine, Screenplay – Budd Lewis, Producers – Cullen Blaine, Budd Lewis & Richard Gesswein, Photography – Glenn Roland, Music – David Adam Newman, Visual Effects – Roger Scott Productions & Monty Young, Special Effects/Production Design/Art Direction – Budd Lewis. Production Company – Westwind Pictures.


Richard Gesswein (Barrett Coldyron), Jayne Smith (Dr Coren Steele), Margaret Trigg (Sonya ‘Sony’ Garan), Carroll Brandon Baker, Brad Overturf & Clark Moore (R.O.T.O.R.)


Barrett Coldyron is developing R.O.T.O.R. (or Robotic Officer Tactical Operations Unit) for the Dallas Police Force, an android that would provide the answer to the increasing problems of lawlessness. Coldyron quits when he is ordered to activate the R.O.T.O.R. within an impossible schedule. R.O.T.O.R. is activated without him. The force then has to call Coldyron back in to help when the prematurely activated android motorcycle officer goes amok, relentlessly pursuing one female motorist across the countryside.

R.O.T.O.R. is an astoundingly bad regionally-made (Texan) ripoff of The Terminator (1984) and RoboCop (1987). Everything about R.O.T.O.R. – from the acting and the dialogue to the androids themselves – is hysterical. The android is utterly laughable – the titular runaway cop-droid is so human-like it even comes with its own mustache.

Being made in Texas, the film casts a good-ole-cowboy type as the hero – the scenes early in the piece with the hero getting up out of bed, pulling his boots on and roping a tree to the accompaniment of a country-and-western song, while the action elsewhere stands still for the duration, are incredibly funny. In the role, co-producer Gesswein approaches everything with a poker-faced seriousness that, considering the silliness of the exercise, proves rather funny.

The sheer awfulness of Richard Gesswein’s performance is only superseded by that of Jayne Smith. Only about 5’2″ and dressed like a military drill instructor, she powers through with a deadpan determination and a complete lack of anything resembling acting ability to hysterically inappropriate effect.

The Robotic Officer Tactical Operations Unit in R.O.T.O.R. (1988)
The Robotic Officer Tactical Operations Unit (R.O.T.O.R.) goes amok

Both of them, Gesswein in particular, are helped by some spectacularly bad dialogue. The scriptwriters were clearly aiming to provide pithy Schwarzenegger-esque one-liners but fall woefully flat – Gesswein gets to grate out lines like: “The only difference between heroes and villains is the amount of compensation they claim for their services” and “I’m like a cemetery, I take anybody.”

At other times, the scriptwriters take to laughing about their source of inspiration. “I get the feeling this is how The Terminator got started,” a scientist says looking at a laboratory accident. Someone else comments: “What do you think this is – some sort of low-budget sci-fi flick? What can possibly go wrong?” This may be closest that R.O.T.O.R. comes to producing an intentional laugh, however its willingness to so poke fun at what is glaringly obvious to everyone watching shows a film that does not even believe in itself.

Director Cullen Blaine now works as a storyboard artist on various animated tv series including The Simpsons (1989– ) and Hey, Arnold! (1996-2004). His one other directorial outing was the Disney video special Belle’s Magical World (1998). None of the rest of the people involved have gone on to do anything of distinction since.

Trailer here

Full film available online here:-

Actors: ,
Themes: , , , , ,