Guyver (a.k.a. The Guyver)

GUYVER, a.k.a. THE GUYVER is a 1991 sci-fi/martial arts b-movie that I saw back in the day and decided to revisit when I did that Polygon piece on ’90s comic book movies. The idea comes from a manga that had also been turned into anime, which is pretty apparent just from the look of the main character.

Jack Armstrong (STUDENT BODIES) plays Sean Barker, a blandly handsome karate student who finds an alien super weapon hidden in some garbage (much like Stanley finding a magic mask in the river in THE MASK) and it merges with his body, giving him the power to encase himself in bio-mechanical armor and weaponry. We know he’s mixed up in an ancient intergalactic war because of some detailed text and narration that opened the movie. It started by saying:

“At the beginning of time, aliens came to the Earth to create the ultimate organic weapon. They created Mankind. By planting a special gene into man they created the ZOANOIDS — Humans who can change at will into super monster soldiers.”

Cool. Got it. The table is set. Oh wait – you’re not done? Okay, go ahead.

“Eons later, the Zoanoid leader, called the ZOALORD, has awakened and formed the Chronos Corporation to further develop the Zoanoid techology for world domination.”

Oh, okay. So that’s what our good guy is gonna be fighting against, this is a good set up here, now let’s get into–

“Among the alien remains, was found the ‘Unit’ — a bio boosted alien armor. Worn by the aliens it serves as an ordinary shield. If the wearer is human it increases his natural powers a hundred fold — he becomes the ‘GUYVER.’ But how to activate it remains a mystery.”

Yeah, so as you can see that’s a mouthful there, that’s pretty clunky how much they tried to cram in there. I can at least admire that they end it on the perfect line to leave us wondering wh– oh, for God’s sake.

“Dr. Tetsu Segawa, a research scientist at Chronos, senses danger if this ‘unit’ is activated by the Zoalord. Now the doctor has stolen it and is on the run.”

And instead of smash cutting to this doctor running they start with a quiet establishing shot of the abandoned lot he’s about to run onto.

That opening scene also gives us some glimpses of what’s going on. The doctor (Greg Paik, PENTATHLON, 2005 best picture winner CRASH) is sort of a whistleblower fleeing from the labs of the Chronos Corporation (still wearing his lab coat) to the L.A. river culvert to stash “the unit.” He’s chased by a group of thugs led by Michael Berryman (THE HILLS HAVE EYES) and including Jimmie Walker (LET’S DO IT AGAIN). The weird thing is that both Dr. Segawa and Berryman’s character Lisker transform into monsters before they fight. Walker’s M.C. Striker stands by to yell “Teriyaki sauce! Turn him into sushi!,” which I’m guessing was not in the script.

The doctor is killed and his monster body shrivels up and nobody would ever know what happened if grizzled C.I.A. agent Max Reed (Mark Hamill, CORVETTE SUMMER) hadn’t been spying on the whole thing. This is a very different character for Hamill because he has a trenchcoat and a mustache and he smokes and chews gum, sometimes simultaneously. Nobody believes him about what he saw, but he goes to talk to the doctor’s daughter Mizky (Vivian Wu, THE LAST EMPEROR, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III), who runs the dojo Sean goes to. He has a crush on her and worries when he sees her through her office window talking to Agent Reed and crying.

I have to admit that although this is a pretty cool movie I pretty much hated the hero right at the beginning when he went to Mizky’s place. Even though he just watched her receive the news that her father was dead, and then spied on her at the crime scene, and then she opens the door with a frown and tears streaming down her face to tell him she’s not giving him a ride to class today, this is the look he gives her:

What a dipshit. I don’t blame them for pretending Mark Hamill is The Guyver on the cover.

Anyway yeah, he gets more interesting when the alien parasite turns him into a super weapon. His transformation happens while being beat up by street toughs. They have the stereotypical clothing and they’re in an alley and he’s throwing them into garbage cans and empty cardboard boxes like you’d expect, but they also make a joke about them all being trained in kung fu, so they can get some choreography in there. (I’d say who did it, but they’re not listed on IMDb.)

The unit falls out of his backpack, his face gets smashed into it, and he melts into a mass of veiny bumpy flesh that opens like a cocoon, revealing his biomechanical armor. It’s really cool and then they interrupt the mood with a dumb joke where one guy pulls out nunchakas and makes Bruce Lee squeals. I hate that shit.

Although a director’s cut eventually became available, apparently the distributor made some changes to the original American release, trimming some of the, uh, humor to emphasize the action more. I definitely have some sympathy for that.

There’s plenty about this movie I don’t like. I have a hard time with the dorky lead, the intrusive bad humor and the cheesy keyboard score by Matthew Morse (NINJA VENGEANCE, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOYMAKER), and though Hamill is way cooler than our protagonist his grittiness feels pretty forced. But what makes it worthwhile is the plethora of elaborate monster effects. The Guyver is such a cool and unique design for a live action movie, maybe a precursor to SPAWN but without the American super hero trappings (like the cape and the Spider-man-style mask). But we also got plenty of humans transforming into weird lizardy dudes. Even the head of the Chronos Corporation, Fulton Balcus (David Gale, RE-ANIMATOR), is a fuckin Zoanoid. And you know how Zoanoids are. They have a slit that opens up on their head and they do mind control shit on you.

Or they turn into a giant dragon monster like that demon at the end of HELLRAISER crossed with Yoshi from SUPER MARIO BROS.

There are so many monsters in this. Here’s a part where a bunch of them are in the same shot. It’s a boring, static camera angle, but still. That’s quite a group there.

It’s cool when the doctor turns into his monster form but instead of roaring he keeps talking about his concerns.

I guess in general they just talk like normal humans.

Zoanoids are just like us, really. I guess it’s kind of funny that Striker still says dumb Jimmie Walker shit when he’s a monster, but it would be better if he wasn’t such a cartoony caricature design. And if the movie didn’t end on him saying his famous catchphrase. I hope he really wanted to do that because it would be so sad if they forced it on him.

They also have him do the ol’ “monster walks onto set of movie and they think he’s an actor in a suit” joke. At least it’s a good excuse for a Linnea Quigley cameo.

The coolest turn of events is when one of the monsters kills The Guyver by digging the metal ball out of his head. His whole body deflates and shrivels up, turning to slime.

So poor Sean Barker is dead for a while, but that ball sits in the Chronos lab and some muscle tissue starts to grow out of it…

…and let’s just say it gets thrown at one of the Zoanoids and he swallows it and then the blade on the top of the Guyver head tears out like a shark fin as he fully reconstitutes himself and bursts out of the sucker’s belly. Now I’m absolutely not saying that THE GUYVER is better than THE ROCKETEER, but The Rocketeer never died and shriveled up and then started to grow himself back and got swallowed by a monster and ripped out of it like a xenomorph. That’s just a fact. So this goes a long way toward rehabilitating a previously lame-o hero. Especially when he announces, “I’ve been rejected by death” and does a martial arts pose.

The second coolest turn of events is when poor Agent Reed gets turned into a bug against his will. That is one fucked up transformation.

How did this manga movie become such a glorious showcase for creature effects? Well, it’s directed by veteran makeup artists Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang. If you weren’t reading Fangoria in the ’80s and ’90s maybe you wouldn’t have heard of Screaming Mad George, but he was a guy who made gory music videos for his punk band and then started getting jobs doing makeup effects on BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and PREDATOR. His distinctive creations include the cockroach sequence from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, a bunch of crazy shit in FREAKED and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS, and the Sistine Chapel of slimy latex FX grossouts, the motherfucking shunting in SOCIETY. He got a credit for “surrealistic makeup designer and creator” on that, and it was one of many collaborations with Brian Yuzna, who produced this one.


This would be George’s only feature film as a director, but Wang would go on to do a couple more, which I will be reviewing this week.

“I’m absolutely… saying that THE GUYVER is better than THE ROCKETEER!!!” raves outlawvern.com


p.s. new profile pic

This entry was posted on Monday, April 22nd, 2019 at 8:53 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Martial Arts, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “Guyver (a.k.a. The Guyver)”

  1. I have never actually seen this one but I have seen part 2. The martial arts in part two is really good even if the movie is too long. I was talking with the director of Beyond Skyline 2 and he had never seen it but I thought he should considering Beyond Skyline 3 would probably be monster martial art scenes.

    Also, Vern, how the hell have you never reviewed Drive before?

  2. “Especially when he announces, ‘I’ve been rejected by death’ and does a martial arts pose.”

    I feel like I’m gonna have to watch this now, just for that moment.

    On a totally unrelated note, I just watched Tony Leung Siu-Hung’s SUPERFIGHTS (1995), and I have to say there is no movie on Earth I would more eagerly read a Vern review of. Just putting that out there. I might advise against viewing the trailer on account of it spoiling one of the craziest moments, but seeing that moment was what convinced me to watch the movie, so…

  3. I remember seeing MUTRONICS standing around in the video stores back in the days, but I didn’t know that this was the same movie as GUYVER.

  4. Warms my heart we’re getting a Steve Wang week… I’ve always been in his corner and rooting for him. He’s one of those guys who should be way more popular than he is. Also kept frustratingly getting close to being a thing or successfully being a director for it to be robbed from him at the last minute.

    As for this movie, it’s kinda proto-SPAWN. It’s faithful to the comic but not it’s tone. Wang has mostly disowned this one and taught him to leave projects he didn’t believe in anymore (he was going to direct the ‘95 POWER RANGERS but left when he and Fox started bumping heads). I’m sure that GUYVER 2 being like a billion times better helps him leave this one in the past.

    Here’s hoping Vern reviews Wang’s Power Ranger episode and the entirety of his Kamen Rider TV show.

    Ironically I just ordered the Arrow Video of this one.

  5. Oh I’ve waited a long time for this! CJ is correct in that it was labelled as Mutronics. This was mainly in Europe and definitely over here in the UK. Why? Because no one knew what the fuck a Guyver was. Mutronics conjures cool shit like mutants and…electronics…certainly a worthy mash up for any teenage punk who this sort of this was aimed at.

    I came about it in a really weird way – I’d been reading Sonic the Comic (an actual comic book about the video game character) which advertised the original Guyver anime series in the back pages. You could buy a single VHS with two 30 minute episodes on, and they came out over the course of a few years which I avidly collected. During that period I saw the poster for Mutronics in my local video store. I immediately recognised the design and knew it was a fabled Guyver movie. I must have rented it 20 times. My Mum even wrangled the poster from the shop when they were throwing it out. It found a home on my wall for about 15 years and when the few and far between young ladies would venture into my lair of despair they’d inevitably go “Wtf is that? Is that Luke Skywalker” and my beady little eyes would light up. It’s since been lost (the poster I mean).

    The sequel, Guyver 2: Dark Hero really is far superior. It’s actually pretty decent, and retcons some of the silliness in Guyver/Mutronics. The tone is much more serious too. Perhaps most importantly, it stars David Hayter in the lead role. Fanboys will of course recognise the name as the future writer of X-Men 2 (AKA the best X-Men movie ever made), and the voice of Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid video game series.

  6. I can’t tell you how many times I thought about renting this as a lad. I’ve made a huge mistake. I must rent this immediately.

  7. I saw this as a kid on TNT MONSTERVISION with Joe Bob Briggs once and the movie set scene confused the hell out of me, I thought it was the movie breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging that it was a movie.

  8. Also, the theme for the DTV cartoon is awesome:

  9. DTV cartoon? *ahem* I think you mean *adopts nasally, nerdy voice* OVA, which stands for original video animation.

  10. Which means DTV anime.

  11. MovieBastard- I was also a SONIC THE COMIC reader, although I might have moved on by the time they were advertising GUYVER Tapes. I still very fondly remember my grandad reading an issue to me and explaining what Dr Robotnik (Eggman to you youngsters) meant when he ran away from some kind of Hedgehog-instigated attack saying that he “would rather watch a double-bill of ELDORADO”. (ELDOARDO was a high-profile UK soap opera which flopped.) It has been suggested to me in the years since that this was likely the writing of a young edgelord named Mark Miller.

    I do also remember the GUYVER tapes being a staple of HMV and GAME stores in the mid-90s, and I was always fascinated by them because there was still (at least to me) a certain exoticness to animation aimed at “adults” (i.e. teens) in those pre-SOUTH PARK, pre-Anime in the mainstream-ish of the West days, at least those with age ratings which prevented me from buying or renting them. By the time I was old enough to theoretically buy them I realised I’m generally more interested in animation with U or PG certificates anyway. Ah well.

  12. I don’t have anything to say about this movie but I will second the SUPERFIGHTS recommendation.

  13. I actually haven’t seen Superfights yet but I can absolutely, 100% recommend Blood Moon which is fucking awesome.

  14. Griff: Gotta speak to your audience. No one here is cool enough to know OVA / OAV terminology, so gotta speak on their level.

    Never heard of SUPERFIGHTS, will have to add it to the ‘ol queue…

    I’m not British despite what people in real life think due to my voice, but I did read SONIC THE COMIC via the world wide web back in the day and that was definitely a thing made all the more so by it being Mark Millar’s first gig. We can only hope that the SONIC movie will be based on those.

  15. geoffreyjar: That’s why I explained it as DTV anime, but to explain what it is even further OVAs were either roughly feature length standalone releases or multiple “episodes” though usually no more than 3 episodes at a time, making it a weird blend between movie and TV series and they were all released originally direct to video.

    It basically a dead format now though, with the only OVAs still being made just bonus episodes to TV series, usually just excuses to have more nudity.

    The last standalone OVA I can think of is DEAD LEAVES which was like 15 years ago.

  16. Pacman 2.0: Never knew that about Mark Millar! I personally used to browse Guyver (and Dominion Tank Police) in Woolworths. Those and Akira were the only anime/adult animation they ever seemed to have.

    Griff: You’re correct in regards to the OVA thing. There was two original Guyver anime interpretations from the 80s. The first was the OVA movie Guyver Out of Control which was followed by the 12 part series which largely followed the Manga arc. Out of Control was made on a tighter budget (AKA cheap – though the animation is reminiscent of the original Vampire Hunter D) was gorier/grosser, featured more nudity, a female baddie Guyver and pretty much ended where episode 2 does in the series.

    The series is generally considered the superior of the pair and more closely resembles the comics. Ironically, the comics (which is still going) would eventually feature a female Guyver…

    The intro music was also badass too:

  17. There must be a law specifying that when “OVA” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” are mentioned in such close capacity someone must mention that there’s a Sonic OVA where he flips someone off. So I have.

  18. Griff: As I’m sure you know, most OVAs now are just ‘special episodes’ of existing TV series to entice people to buy the Blu-rays or volumes of the comic.

    MovieBastard: I kinda love that DTV GUYVER cartoon movie OUT OF CONTROL. It’s poorly animated but it’s a lean and mean little mean-spirited movie. Usually edgelord/grimdark shit doesn’t do it for me but this one gets so over-the-top with it that I dug it. I mean the kid is practically just walking down the street and the evil corporation is killing everyone within a one-meter radius of him.

    Pac: That Sonic OVA is great because I know what a Sonic is and I had Sonic stuff when I was young. To make it relevant to Vern, Dr. Eggman is voiced by the Hitchhiker from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE in the dub!

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>