The Guyver (aka Mutronics) reminds me of Johanna, this girl I was dating back in the early 90s. Before I saw the movie I bought Gorezone #22 specifically for the articles on The Resurrected (1991) and The Guyver (1992). When that issue came out we were still dating, by October when The Guyver premiered unexpectedly on Pay-Per-View we had broken up and gotten back together. We were only together for three months (October-December) before the relationship finally came to an end, on Christmas day of all days. Worst fuckin’ Christmas I ever had.
Gorezone’s coverage was also the first time I learned actor David Gale (Re-animator, Bride Of Re-animator, The Brain, Syngenor) was dead. He plays Fulton Balcus, head of Chronos, and a Zoanoid, a Zoanoid leader commonly referred to as a Zoalord to be exact—more on all that later, though, but in that issue there’s a caption under one of the photos that starts out saying, ‘The late David Gale’s last film—‘ I was actually shocked to read that and shocked I hadn’t read about it in Fangoria. I remember Johanna was with me that day I bought the magazine. She wasn’t into horror movies. I don’t remember if I had to tell her who he was. I felt I might have, because I remember being so taken aback by news of his death I think I said something out loud, like, “oh, man, I didn’t know David Gale was dead!” or words to that effect. I wish my memory was sharper on this one.
I think I may have been aware The Guyver was an anime and a manga before this live action movie came about. I also still remember The Guyver article in Fangoria #107 and thinking this is right up my alley with all these strange creatures and this almost insect-like looking Guyver-thing as the hero.
The article from Gorezone #22. Click photos to enlarge and read.
When I saw it on Pay-Per-View that October I quickly whipped out a tape and recorded it. I think I may have watched it with Johanna too.
These next three reviews (The Guyver, The Guyver 2, The Mangler) are a result of being duped by Amazon’s specs on these titles, well, the first two anyway. I know people commonly say you can’t trust the specs they put up for DVD and blu-rays from time to time. Until now I never really had any direct experience with that. But for Guyver fans like myself you all know there was a different cut that was aired on cable back then (I’m not sure if that cut was put on VHS, for I can’t remember if I ever bought it). It was a bit bloodier and violent, most of which comes at the expense of the evil Zoanoids and how the Guyver “dispatches” them. But when Warner finally got around to releasing it on disc they put out a “Director’s Cut.” When I heard Warner was releasing it on MOD through their Warner Archive label the specs for it on Amazon had it listed as unrated, yet the runtime was the same as the DVD. That didn’t deter me since the added violence is mere seconds, but the cover Warner decided to go with made no mention of a “Director’s Cut,” which is prominently featured on their previous DVD release. I got my hopes up that, perhaps, Warner screwed up again and put the unrated version on disc. This happened once before when they released When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970) on DVD back in 2008. It was supposed to be the PG version but they inadvertently released the international unrated version that had some cavegirl nudity in it. Long story short, as I understand it, some mother(s) complained about the nudity when they bought the flick for their kids, and as a result Warner pulled it from circulation.
I reached out to Steve Wang, co-director of the first flick, on Facebook and asked him what this “Director’s Cut” was all about, and he told me, “I imagine that’s our original unreleased US cut that was released in Japan.”
The specs for The Guyver 2 also had it unrated and a minute longer in the runtime, which naturally had me wondering if there was some mysterious minute longer cut of that one I never knew about. Anyhow I sought out review copies and when I got them I learned they were exact duplicates of the previous DVDs. I will say, though, I like these movies enough to want to review them anyway no matter what cut is on these new discs.
I saw this Director’s Cut for the first time a few nights ago and all though I haven’t seen it since 1992 I’m surprised I noticed most of the little things that were restored. Go here to see a list of what was cut, but I was a big fan of this movie when it came out and used to watch it a lot. I lost interest in it, however, when the sequel hit in 1995 and that’s because the first one has an undercurrent of comedy that flares up from time to time during the course of the movie, where as the sequel does not. Plus the sequel went unabashedly into R-rated territory, while the first one, well, this other cut anyway, did not. There are other reasons too why the sequel is an improvement, but more on that later.
Mark Hamill is the biggest name in The Guyver and that’s why he’s billed on the cover, which is deceptive. Hamill plays CIA agent, Max Reed, but he’s not the Guyver as the cover suggests, this kid, Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong) is.
What this first movie does have over the sequel is a cast of genre actors you’ve seen in other movies, not to mention being produced by well known genre director, Brian Yuzna. David Gale, well known for his portrayal of Dr. Hill in Re-Animator (1985) and Bride Of Re-animator (1990) is the movie’s bad guy, Fulton Balcus, the aforementioned Zoalord of the Zoanoids, humans that can shape-shift into monsters thanks to alien intervention that created our race. The Zoalord is back in action and eager to take full control of the human race, and the discovery of this “guyver” unit has made things more interesting for him. Speaking of the Re-Animator movies, Jeffery Combs who played Herbert West has a cameo as one of Balcus’ scientists, Dr. East. Cute.
A scientist in his employ, knowing if Balcus can make use of this guyver unit he would pose an even greater threat to mankind, steals it. Balcus sends a team of Zoanoids after him and its led by another well known genre vet, Micheal Berryman, as Lisker. If you’ve seen The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and its sequel, The Hills have Eyes, Part II (1985), you’ve most definitely seen Berryman. On his team is Jimmie Walker! That’s right the same Jimmie Walker from the series, Good Times (1974-1979). I know he’s not a genre vet, but if you’re Gen-X you know his name like the back of your hand. He provides a good deal of the comedy in this flick as the rapping M.C. Striker.
Another genre vet cameo to watch out for is Linnea Quigley, she’s part of this movie crew that gets crashed by Striker during a chase scene. She’s playing a Scream Queen- type actress (wow, talk about type casting) on this low-budget creature feature where Striker (in monster form) gets mistaken for the monster she’s about to be in a scene with.
Vivian Wu plays Mizki Segawa, the daughter of the scientist who stole the guyver unit and Sean Barker’s love interest. I had never heard of her at the time, but I remember seeing her later in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) and some martial arts-type show on TV called, Vanishing Son (1994).
I’m still not as big of a fan of this first movie as I used to be, but I’m still adding it to my collection because it still provides valuable entertainment for me mainly in the FX department thanks to FX artists-turned-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang. George and Wang even dip their toes into Kaiju territory when Guyver has to battle Balcus in his monster form and it ends being this giant mutant lizard dragon thing!
The sequel manages to outdo the first one in action and plot, while still maintaining the same high quality for the monster effects. There are no name actors in this one, and the martial arts the guyver uses is not Aikido, which is what he fought with in the first one. Here he’s taking on Zaonoids with something like tae kwon do, and the fights are much more impressive. Vivian Wu and Jack Armstrong did not reprise their roles as Mizky and Sean Barker respectively. David Hayter took over the role as the guyver’s human half and Billi Lee became Mizky, but the character of Mizky is no longer a major force in Barker’s life in this follow-up. She’s only in one scene (a flashback) and it’s a break-up scene. Hayter makes a better Sean Barker, but Vivian Wu was better as Mizky. Steve Wang also took over the reigns as sole director of this one and upgraded the guyver suit giving it a more anime-flavored look, which I liked a lot.
This is an actual sequel and not a remake, the events of the first flick are acknowledged and Barker has been fighting “low-level human based” crime ever since he thinks he destroyed the Chronos Corporation. The movie opens with him taking on a cartel in a warehouse and right up front you’ll see this ain’t no kids flick for he kills the drug kingpin by slashing open his throat with one of his elbow blades.
This installment acts as a guyver origin tale as well. Barker is confident he has taken down Chronos but all he’s done is taken down the Los Angeles branch. Chronos is still very much “alive” and still trying to exploit this new guyver technology they discovered in the first flick. This has led them to an archaeological dig in Utah that may be housing an alien craft. Using Marcus Edwards (Stuart Weiss), his daughter, Cori (Kathy Christopherson), and a bunch of university students they start unearthing the ship keeping their real intentions and who they are on the down low, which isn’t too hard since Marcus is a Zoanoid. His daughter, however, is not. His daughter is hot, too.
The main bad guys here are Arlen Crane (Bruno Patrick) who’s in charge of the dig, his Head Of Security, Gus Volker (Wes Deitrick), and their security personal, which are all Zoanoids.
Barker’s been having nightmares and likes to draw the symbols he sees in his dreams down on paper, then one night he catches a broadcast of a man supposedly killed by a werewolf in Utah. The reporter shows a crude drawing the dead man’s friend claims is the creature that killed him and a symbol on the wall in that cave the dig is in. That symbol is just like the one Sean has seen in his dream, so it’s off to Utah.
Cori is the first person he meets and it’s clear she’s going to be the love interest, but she’s more hands on than Mizky was when it comes to the attacking Zoanoids and helping Sean.
Barker does battle with Volker in Zoanoid form tipping his presence off to the other Zoanoids but for a while they don’t know who the guyver is in human form.
Barker isn’t the only one in camp with a secret; Atkins (Christopher Michael) is a government agent who’s been tracking Chronos for some time.
Once the ship is uncovered Sean learns the secret of the bio-weapon inside him. Aliens created the guyver units and implanted them in mankind so they could be used to fight their wars for them, but mankind rebelled. Deeming the guyvers a failed experiment, the Zoanoids were created next. Yeah, that’s right, the Zoanoids are the upgrades.
The big finale in the first movie was the Guyver taking on a giant monster, in this one the Guyver combats a guyver zoanoid. That’s what Balcus from the first flick intended to do once he got the guyver unit back, implant it within himself and create a guyver zoalord. Here we get to finally see what a zoanoid crossed with a guyver looks like and it’s quite impressive, so is the battle they have.
I have a vivid memory of buying Guyver 2 on VHS at this video store at the mall called Saturday Matinee (sadly it’s been out of business for decades now) in summer of 1995, and that memory is connected to another genre flick I love to watch, Mosquito (1995). I don’t recall which came out first but I bought Mosquito at that store too and their releases were very close together.
I wish they had done a third film. According to the Guyver 2 page on Wikipedia: “According to David Hayter, he pitched an outline for a Guyver III to Steve Wang but the rights to The Guyver reverted to its original owners in Japan.” Well, that explains why there wasn’t a third movie.
You can still buy Warner Brother’s previous DVDs of The Guyver and The Guyver 2 on Amazon, though it appears Guyver 2 is now out of print. You can also get these new MODs on Amazon too. (Go here and here).
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen—5.1 English DTS Surround, English Dolby Digital Stereo, 5.1 English Dolby Digital—English & Spanish subs only
Both transfers are the exact same ones used on the previous DVDs, that being said I haven’t seen for myself what The Guyver DVD looked like, but my Warner Archive contact tells me they are. I do own the DVD of the sequel and indeed this MOD is identical.
Extras included . . .
These two really need to get blued and personally I’d love to see Warner put them on a blu-ray double feature with the bloodier version of the first flick included. This is my command. Make it so, WB. Make. It. So.