I mentioned last week that I wanted to do some more writing about b-movies, and over the weekend I came up with the idea to offer up some choices as alternatives to Hollywood blockbusters. Thus, "Plan B" has been birthed out of my thought canal...
So, you didn't have an extra eight dollars to buy a movie ticket or an extra thirty to buy popcorn and a soda-bucket while Man of Steel was in theaters this summer; I didn't either. So, you got Netflix to watch the new season of Arrested Development, but they don't have Man of Steel on there yet; I know where you're coming from! So, you haven't watched the bootleg copy of Man of Steel that your friend from work let you borrow because you've been watching the new season of Arrested Development; are these getting too specific to my own life? Alright, I'll skip any more examples of reasons you haven't seen Man of Steel yet. Hell, I haven't seen it since I wrote that blog months ago talking about how I haven't seen it yet. But I have seen Hands of Steel, and you can too!
First, let's do a little plot rundown...
Man of Steel: From what I can tell based on trailers and the IMDb summary, essentially the newest Superman movie is about Clark Kent's journey to discover himself, which involves working on a fishing boat, which is how most of us discover ourselves (I discovered myself working in a riverboat casino, but I always try to put my own spin on things). Well, if you're longing to see a human-looking metallic being on a journey of self-discovery, but Man of Steel is too mainstream for you, then your best option is...
Hands of Steel (aka Atomic Cyborg, aka Vendetta dal Futuro): An evil business man (played by John Saxon, who is in like 1/3 of the hundreds of b-movies I own) has a cyborg programmed to assassinate a guy who is some kind of revolutionist/ecologist or something. After pulling his death-punch to only almost kill the guy, the cyborg, Paco, goes on a journey of self-discovery, chops wood, arm wrestles some truckers, and falls in love with the owner of the hotel/bar/restaurant where he's staying.
I'll start with a slightly negative aspect of the movie. I'm not sure if the film, which came out in 1986, is supposed to be taking place in a dystopian future or if it takes place in 1986. It's hard to tell; they do drop some hints about dystopian stuff, but then again, everything looks like the 1980s. Double-then-again, a lot of filmmakers in the 1980s seemed to think the future would look a lot like the 1980s. Gag me with a spoon!
Anyway, despite the time-period-confusion, the movie gets off to a quick start. Paco, the man of steel with hands of steel, realizes that his human side is still at least partially in control when he defies his programming and critically injures the scientist-or-whatever instead of killing him. He hit him hard enough to leave a fist-shaped mark on his chest, but I suppose he could have hit him hard enough to put his fist right through the man. Even cyborgs have hearts. Our cyborg hero now finds himself on the run from both the police and some goons that work for his employer. He flees to Arizona, where he is taken in by the film's leading lady, who happens to own a hotel and happens to need a helper, which is good for Paco, since he has no money. He agrees to work for his room and board, chopping and stacking an incredible amount of firewood in like 10 minutes. (This film was actually not the inspiration for the wood chopping man who wishes he was a robot scene from the new series of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show, as I didn't see this film until after we had filmed that. It's just a coincidence, albeit one that makes me very happy.)
Paco is just starting to enjoy his new lifestyle of doing chores (that don't include punching people to death) when trouble shows up. 'Trouble' starts with T, and also has an R, a U, and an E, and so does 'truckers'. That's right, some rough-neck truckers show up to raise a ruckus, make unwelcomed advances toward Linda (the hotel owner), and arm wrestle. It seems arm wrestling is a big deal in this particular part of Arizona. One of the sleezo truckers gets into a verbal altercation with Paco, which escalates into an arm wrestling altercation. The truckers put some money down on their boy, who is no match for Paco's cyborg strength. Paco wins the purse, shares it with Linda, and sends the truckers away with their tails between their legs.
The truckers later return with the arm wrestling champion, and despite the fact that they trick Paco into getting tied to a tow truck (long story) and drag him around the desert before leaving him for dead, Paco returns and beats him in the most dangerous of arm wrestling matches: one where there's a glass case under the contestants arms, and not just any glass case, but one with a venomous snake inside! Paco shows his heart once again, sparing his opponent from being bitten by the snake.
So, things seem as if they've worked out for the best, but Paco's past has caught up with him. His former boss and his goons catch up with him, attempt to have him killed by a female cyborg, shoot at him with a missile launcher but miss over and over again, and finally settle on kidnapping Linda, who is now aware that Paco is a cyborg because she walked in on him tuning up his cut-open arm.
By the by, you may be wondering about the police who were also trying to catch the attempted assassin. The police work is about as lousy as the acting done by the people playing the police. It takes an "expert" about half the movie to figure out that the fist-shaped mark on the victim's chest was made by a fist. Once they discover that the guy was nearly punched the death, they come to the obvious conclusion that only a cyborg could have punched so freakin' hard, and they've got a lead!
From here we launch into the film's climax, with Paco, the evil businessman and his men, the police, and some truckers all jumping into the mix. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say the filmmakers did go for a bit of a cliche ending, which disappoints me when I watch a b-movie. Not that it was bad, because the evil businessman has a big laser. Big laser!!
Alright, so maybe you'd still like to see Man of Steel after reading this; I'm going to watch Superman's latest flick when I get the chance, so I can't blame you for that. But if I haven't enticed you to check out Hands of Steel with the mention of cyborgs, arm wrestling truckers, and a big laser, then I don't even know what you're doing reading this, man. You can check it out here if you can't find a copy of it on a cheapo DVD set like I did.
Maybe Man of Steel has better special effects, a better story, and better actors, but when any of my friends have talked about the movie I haven't heard any mention of a scene where a cyborg and a human arm wrestle over a glass case with a deadly snake in it. No, sir or ma'am, you'll need to watch Hands of Steel for that.