Monday, December 19, 2016

"I Don't Like It Even More" - R.O.T.O.R. (1987) - Part 2 of 3

This is Part 2 of our discussion of 1987's R.O.T.O.R. You can read Part 1 here.

Previously, we watched as rancher/scientist/police captain Dr. Coldyron explained the development of the R.O.T.O.R. project, a police android capable of cleaning the streets of human scum, though it will not be ready for deployment for at least a decade.

Dr. Coldyron ends the scientific meeting with an invitation. "Twenty-five years from now, if you come back next fall, you'll see the only thing that stands between humanity and itself." The meeting over, Dr. Coldyron is approached by his assistant, who has a message for him. Coldyron needs to explain his project to Division Commander Earl Buglar downtown by phone. Buglar starts off in a no-nonsense way: "Let's not spar with the social amenities, Coldyron, and say we did. Now down to business." Buglar is angry at Coldyron because Buglar had to lie to a Senator and tell him the project is ahead of schedule. They have 60 days to complete the R.O.T.O.R. project, but Coldyron needs more time. The commander threatens to fire him but Coldyron has the perfect comeback: "You fire me and I'll make more noise than two skeletons makin' love in a tin coffin, brother."

This eloquent threat works and the commander backs off, but Coldyron decides to quit anyway. The project is put into the hands of Coldyron's second-in-command, Dr. Houghtaling, who commiserates with Willard, the wisecracking robot in the officer's cap.

In the lab, a jive-talking American Indian with the traditional native name of Shoeboogie flirts with a blonde scientist and combs his hair with a switchblade, a practice that results in the accidental triggering of an electrical circuit.


Elsewhere, through a series of plot complications too intricate to detail, Dr. Coldyron runs an errand to pick up some charcoal at the gas station near his farm. Outside the convenience store, Coldyron grows suspicious of some young punks--possibly also dope dealers or another form of society's scum--who walked inside. Coldyron convinces the getaway driver to drive away by showing him his gun, then knocks one man unconscious with the pistol wrapped in a newspaper. In the parking lot, Coldyron shoots one punk who took a woman hostage, but when the last of the punks emerges from the convenience store, the woman--a confused expression on her face the entire time--kicks her abductor repeatedly until he is subdued. (Note: We never see this woman again.)

After the police arrive, a detective gives Coldyron his gun. "Don't use that next time," the detective says. "Hank and his boys don't like pickin' up bodies with a pooper scooper."

Coldyron replies, "I don't like it even more."

Back at the lab, the R.O.T.O.R. Project, no longer a skeletal metal frame but an android that could pass for human male, complete with a bushy mustache, breaks out of its chamber, steals a motorcycle cop's leather outfit, and steals its own custom monogrammed motorcycle.

Walking through the police station's parking garage, the android rudely bumps into an officer, after which the officer gives an impassioned soliloquy to the audience: "Spit and polish academy snot! God save us all!"

Houghtaling and Willard are aware something is wrong because every battery in the lab has been drained. Deciding to leave their eclectic, mint collection of 1970s video display terminals, they investigate the source of the trouble, just missing a message that appears on one screen: "R.O.T.O.R. Activated."

Not content to simply present a chase narrative like the inferior Terminator series, the filmmakers of R.O.T.O.R. add interest by introducing new characters with a fully developed storyline. Sony (occasionally called Sonya) and her fiancé are driving through the night. Sony wants to get a job after their honeymoon but her fiancé says it would be embarrassing if his wife worked. Unsurprisingly, he also feels that weddings are pagan rituals for sacrificing virgins, and they are expensive as well. He makes a deal with Sony that, if they elope tonight, he will help her find a job. To clinch the deal, they head for the nearest IHOP.

But their excessive speed has drawn the attention of R.O.T.O.R., still posing as a motorcycle cop. The android pulls the car over. Sony is suspicious: "A police officer? This far out of town?"

When the man attempts to bribe Officer R.O.T.O.R., the android shoots him in the head. In the car, Sony stumbles against the horn, revealing Officer R.O.T.O.R.'s weakness: a car horn. The robot grabs its helmet, nearly paralyzed by the blaring sound.

Taking advantage of the machine's paralysis, Sony speeds away. Officer R.O.T.O.R., moving quite slowly, eventually gives chase.

For unclear reasons, however, Sony stops her car and reaches into her purse to get her license and registration. The android reaches into the car and grabs at her in a Frankensteinian manner, but again she escapes by speeding away, dragging the robot outside the car until it is thrown off into the dark.

Back home, Dr. Coldyron is informed via beeper that a murder victim was found clutching a police nametag with Coldyron's name on it. Coldyron instructs the police to ignore the fact, and they agree. He heads back to his lab in Dallas to investigate. When he finds out R.O.T.O.R. has escaped, he makes a series of phone calls informing people that the android will stop at nothing to perform its prime directive: to judge and execute. "It's like a chainsaw set on frappe."

Sony drives to a gas station and uses a phone booth to report that she is being chased by a murderous motorcycle cop. Despite pleading with the officer on the line that she cannot go anywhere because the rogue motorcycle cop is after her, she hangs up and drives away. Unfortunately for Sony, the android catches her trail, being able, like most androids, to see through time.

When Sony stops at a roadside diner for coffee, we hear a loud blast and the sounds of bricks crumbling as the filmmakers suggest through audio effects that the android has forced his way through a wall. "Hey," says a short order cook," you can't come in here like 'at!" The cook grabs a knife and attacks the android, to little effect. The android presses the bucktoothed cook's face against the grill.


Dramatically, the mustachioed murderbot enters the diner to search for Sony. He stands still for about a minute, then moves slowly through the place, showing off his custom R.O.T.O.R. motorcycle helmet.

Perhaps unwisely, Sony chooses not to run away until R.O.T.O.R. Is right beside her. Fortunately, the android is distracted by three ineffectual patrons who pick a fight with it. These overconfident patrons are quickly dispatched by the machine.

We have come to the end of Part 2 of our discussion of R.O.T.O.R. Stay tuned for Part 3.