Robowar (1988)

Have you ever sat through Predator and thought to yourself how much you’d like to see the same movie, but without the cool space monster, the big name actors, the special effects, and technical expertise of John McTiernan?

Did you ever watch Robocop and say to your buddies, “you know what would make this movie really rad? If Robocop looked a dude in a motorcycle helmet, shoulder pads, and black fetish outfit and was lurching around a jungle reducing no name Italian actors to pulpy goo.”

And once Strike Commando was over, did you stifle a sob whispering, “please God, just one more adventure with Rebbo in the jungle! One more Rebbo mission! I would give everything I am and everything I have just to see his stupefied expression in between scenes of him grunting while opening up on some native with his assault weapon one more time!”

Well, I’m sorry for all the atheists out there, but Robowar is proof positive that there is a Big Man Upstairs and he’s listening to the pleas of his followers who love low budget foreign rip-offs of successful Hollywood movies! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, Rebbo!

Director Bruno Mattei and scripter Claudio Fragasso take the essential elements (killing and blowing stuff up) of Strike Commando and thankfully detonate even more of it all over the audience in Robowar!

Rebbo is the leader of a military team called BAM. These guys are so hardcore that I can’t even repeat what BAM stands for! Okay, I’ll give you a hint. “Mutha” is somewhere in there.

While I don’t recall precisely what their mission was, I do know that Omega One, the military’s newest, perfect, ultimate weapon had a brain fart and starting shooting down our helicopters in the jungle and that it needed to be stopped, but Rebbo and the rest of BAM were in the dark on that. They had an “advisor” attached to their team named Mascher and he turned out to be the creator of Omega One. (Why isn’t he called Robowar? Omega One sounds like some type of fish oil supplement.)

Mascher spends most the movie keeping what he knows from Rebbo so Rebbo and BAM have to periodically threaten to shoot and/or slit his throat to get him to parcel out the information. Eventually he reveals a secret about Robowar that threatens to tear Rebbo’s very soul apart! Well, at least it induces battlefield flashbacks, but in Rebbo’s world that’s pretty much the same thing.

Robowar isn’t the only problem Rebbo comes up against. If you grew up in the jungle like I did, you know that it’s full of deadly intrigue! Every step could be your last! One BAM member gets harassed by a wimpy looking snake. Another steps into a bear trap, no doubt set for those jungle bears we hear so much about. Don’t believe me? Check out The Jungle Book – it had a bear in it!

Then you have the guerrillas who are roaming around shooting people. This is how Rebbo hooks up with Virgin. Virgin? That’s what the credits said. Normally, I’d be prone to making a snide comment about how proud Catherine Hickland must be of this role, but she seems to normally work in soap operas, so the role of Virgin in a Bruno Mattei movie may actually count as a “big break.” Plus she used to be married to David Hasselhoff, so she’s probably suffered enough.

Virgin though proves to be more than just a blonde bimbo as she is the last survivor of a group of people from the United Nations who were setting up hospitals in the jungle. There’s some jabber about a cholera epidemic and moaning about guerrillas destroying hospitals and killing children, but where Rebbo and I really started paying attention was when she said she was a chemist and could make napalm! That’s a handy skill to have for a gal named Virgin being ruthlessly pursued in the jungle by an unstoppable killing machine!

Once Rebbo gets the rest of BAM killed off by Robowar, it’s just him and Virgin trying to stay one step ahead of the unreasoning deathbot!

Taking refuge in one of Virgin’s hospitals, she sets to work making napalm from the stuff lying around. Let’s see. Dirty bedpan, used hypo, two Vicodin, a rubber glove, and PRESTO! Instant napalm! A gal named Virgin might not have much future as a girlfriend, Rebbo, but you might consider putting her on BAM if you ever re-form it.

Rebbo goes off to lure Robowar to the hospital and the moment we’ve waited well over an hour for is finally here: Robowar vs. Rebbo! Robowar pretty much has his way with Rebbo before Virgin rolls in to deliver some of that hospital acid that’s always lying around examining rooms to Robowar’s head. Robowar may be an unstoppable killing machine, but a bottle of acid to his head short circuits him and renders him malfunctioning long enough that Rebbo and Virgin can escape the hospital and blow it up.

“Thank goodness that’s over,” says Rebbo! Rebbo must not have seen Halloween II and Halloween IV or he would have known that getting your ass blown up in a hospital is no more than a scraped knee to unstoppable rampaging freaks!

The film ends the only way a confrontation between the worst of modern technology and the best of modern man could – atop a jungle waterfall! But what’s this? No punches thrown? No headbutts launched? No curse-filled vows to destroy one another’s way of life? No, the battle this time isn’t between two people, but between Robowar’s high tech upgrade and the last remnants of his humanity.

He asks Rebbo to do what Rebbo couldn’t when Robowar was Rebbo’s best friend mortally wounded on the battlefield before he was turned into this cybernetic monstrosity. He asks Rebbo to kill him!

After waiting an appropriately respectful amount of time (5-6 seconds), Rebbo says, “will do!,” punches the self destruct button on the remote control, and jumps off the waterfall followed by fiery chunks of Robowar.

Easily another winner from Rebbo and friends. The moment in the film where Rebbo throws a knife at a guy impaling him on a wall, turns to the camera, winks and says, “don’t move” encapsulates everything great about the Rebbo-Mattei-Fragasso axis of exploitation. I just don’t understand why they didn’t call it Rebbowar.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

7 thoughts on “Robowar (1988)

  1. Excellent stuff- I need to ask – what made you want to seek out and watch Robowar? I’m intrigued to understand how this became a cult hit!

      1. Haha! Of course. I’m in a phase of wanting to watch some fun, obscure films most people wom’t have heard of. Y’know – movies where you might see em on the shelf and think “WTF is that!?!”
        Can you recommend anything random?

        1. More Reb Brown and/or Bruno Mattei of course! Strike Commando, Shocking Dark, Rats: Nights of Terror, Hell of the Living Dead just for starters. Italian action, sci-fi and horror rarely let me down!

  2. Hey, did you know they released a special edition bluray for this movie with a CD soundtrack and a bunch of extras, including an interview with Fragasso? Thats truly amazing! I’ve heard the score and it’s a very C64-like but a lot of fun.

    1. I never thought I live to see the day all these trashy Italian movies would surface on bluray! I wish I had seen them like that 15-20 years ago instead of via cruddy bootlegs of Japanese VHS tapes or whatever. Now I can’t really justify the expense or the time to watch them again.

      I think the ready availability of so many of these formerly obscure films has sapped my enthusiasm for watching and reviewing them. I used to think I was at least performing some minimal service in letting people know they existed, even if they hated the review. But if you can just go and watch it on Amazon Prime and read 50 reviews of it, what’s the point?

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