A ninja a mercenary a scientist and a mandroid walk into a bar…
“Mandroid. Mercenary. Scientist. Ninja. Each one a specialist. Together they are Eliminators!”
So says the tagline of (you guessed it) Eliminators (1986) that tantalizingly cheesy action movie with that one guy whose legs were a tank. If I remember correctly it actually played in theatres and the poster promised B-movie heaven. In a barely detailed blue wasteland we saw four heavily armed badasses erupting from an explosion aiming their shotguns and laser units in random directions while the ninja just snarled and hefted his sword. Cool. Best of all the guy in front was one of those 1980s cyborgs where all the flesh above the right cheekbone is replaced with black plastic and a single red-glowing robot eye. And of course his legs are a tank.
Even back in 1986 we knew the deal. You can’t have a character spend an entire film as a torso sticking out of a set of tank treads — surely that dude was going to have regular human-shaped robot legs for 90 per cent of the movie and then maybe have one scene with the tank-body near the film’s climax if we were lucky. Surprisingly we get to see the “Mandroid” (human half played by Patrick Reynolds) treads and all right at the start of the film and for much longer than we expect. The big guy time-travels to the Roman Empire laser-zaps a few centurions and comes back home all stoic and emotionless handing a bronze shield to his present-day boss Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice). Reeves thanks the plasticky warrior and then gives the order to have him disassembled since ol’ tank legs has served his purpose. But the scientist who built Mandroid helps him to escape amid much gunfire and chaos.
Escaping into the woods Mandroid finds the terrain too difficult for his “mobile unit” (his tank treads) and straps on his regular boring man-in-robot-suit legs for the next part of the film. Darn.
The only person who can help Mandroid now is super-scientist Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby!) so he walks all the way from Mexico to find her. Nora is fascinated (and a little annoyed) to find a half-robot based on her own designs and insists on accompanying Mandroid back to his home base in order to confront Reeves who we are beginning to realize is a time-travelling supervillain.
Nora finds a riverboat guide by staging a bar fight (er I guess there weren’t any phone books or bulletin boards available) and winds up with lovable rogue Harry Fontana (Andrew Pine) as the “mercenary” promised in the tagline. They begin journeying down a river and things get a bit African Queen -y until a bunch of shotgun-toting toothless rednecks chase them in speedboats at which point things get a bit Gator-Bait -y. After callously blowing up several innocent watercraft the team presses on until the top-heavy cyborg falls overboard and vanishes. Nora “emotes” blankly over this loss (er… this really isn’t Denise Crosby’s best performance) before deciding to press on without him.
Meanwhile the Mandroid simply walks along the river bottom eventually emerging unharmed onto dry land where he meets the long-awaited “ninja” from the tagline who we realize is played by Conan Lee the guy who went chainsaw-against-chainsaw with Gordon Liu in the best fight scene ever filmed in Tiger on Beat (1988). Awesome! Conan doesn’t have his saw this time just an ’80s-style sleeveless ninja suit with a sword and some throwing stars. Hey it’ll do.
While the heroes are slowly preparing to make the poster image a reality the bad guy is adding cybernetic prostheses to his own body and zapping his own henchmen in the crotch with wrist-lasers.
Mandroid finds his abandoned “mobile unit” and storms the villain’s lair along with his newfound friends but Reeves comes out wearing his own robotic armour a red-and-gold number that’ll remind you of Iron Man but with ancient Roman accents and a shield that shoots lightning.
You can probably tell from the synopsis that Eliminators is stupid as hell. You can probably also tell that it doesn’t matter one bit. This movie exists for raucous nostalgic movie nights where you can barely make out the tin-eared dialogue for all the laughing and mockery coming from the audience.