After bowing at Fantastic Fest and Toronto After Dark in 2011, the little independent no-budget Canadian film that could has been chugging along and building a fairly large cult following and is now available to watch at home. In Manborg the gates of Hell have opened and spilled out across the planet, and it’s going to take a new kind of hero to be able to save us all.
The armies of Hell have taken over Earth and all that stands in the way of the villainous Count Draculon and humanity’s total extinction is a motley crew of misfits lead by the mighty Manborg — a young soldier who is killed during the first war against the forces of Hell and awakens in the distant future as a walking, talking weapon who is mankind’s last hope for salvation. Struggling to learn the secrets of his origins, Manborg unwittingly befriends a post-apocalyptic Australian punk, a knife wielding vixen and a kung-fu master before finally squaring off against Count Draculon in a desperate battle to reclaim the planet.
For the past year and a half the myth of Manborg has been growing steadily and deservedly as this low-fi ode to the cheesy 80′s genre movies is surprisingly endearing. Director Steven Kostanski co-wrote, edited, directed and did the make-up and visual effects. When I got the chance to sit down with him and ask him about how Manborg truly grew from his first couple of festival screenings he had this to say.
Everything that happened after the premiere I was not expecting. I mean, I had a hunch that people would enjoy it and I felt that I had a pretty good track record of making films that were at least entertaining, especially with my experiences working with the other Astron 6 guys who always go the extra mile to make the movie extra hilarious. However, once executive producer Peter Kuplowsky passed the movie off to Colin Geddes, who came on board and then passed it to the team at Raven Banner, it really started this whole snowball effect where suddenly they are talking about doing a theatrical run, and I was baffled since I had made this movie in a garage!
Up until that point I had never really considered any of my films to be super marketable because they all had a certain low-fi charm to them and I was fine with that. I was used to making my movie, showing it at a few festivals, people dig them and have fun with them and then I just shelve it and go make another one. For it to all of a sudden become this huge debacle of theatrical runs and DVD releases and getting a poster done was truly a huge learning experience.
I’m ultimately a pretty reserved guy. I just like to sit in a corner and make my movies. I was never big into publicity and marketing and having to go out and push your movie. I had never really realized until I had moved to Toronto, that the publicity side of it all is another aspect of filmmaking that I was just not aware of and it becomes even more important than the movie itself sometimes. There are a lot of movies out there that are just terrible, but they have great marketing and they get the whole big push, that is what makes the process worthwhile and getting people to see it, which really rounds the whole cycle out. It was really an eye opening experience. Learning how to distribute a movie, I definitely know what to do better next time… like maybe make my movie longer than 60 minutes [smiles] would be a good start.
When someone makes something creative they have certain expectations for their work, but Manborg is that rare case when expectations got blown out of the water pretty early on during the festival screening process. When I asked Steven what he thought about all the press the film was getting, he lived up to his reputation of being a fairly humble guy.
To be honest, I’m pretty baffled by it all. I look at the movie now, with all the press that it is getting and I just shake my head and think to myself, “Gee, I wish I had shot it on a REAL camera, or actually hired people to do some of the post effects!” Then I realize that seems to be why people keep going back to it. During the screenings at The Royal, I would see the same people keep coming back for their second and third trips, I mean I could never do that. I go each time and introduce the film and do a Q&A, but sitting through it is agonizing for me. So there must be some charm in how clunky the movie really is, and I am fine with that and it is why I like so many of the movies that I enjoy because I can see that nothing is flawless and it makes it more of a learning experience for me. I’ve had younger filmmakers come up to me and tell me that they are inspired to make their own movies and to me that is the best thing that you can do with a movie.
Not a movie you can review on any traditional scale, but it is an unquestionable amount of fun that has inspired genre fans and even aspiring filmmakers everywhere to give the art of filmmaking a try. You just kick back relax and enjoy.
The special features on the DVD include commentaries with Kostanski, actor and co-writer Jeremy Gillespie, and executive producer Peter Kuplowsky, deleted and alternate scenes, bloopers, a behind the scenes look, a stop-motion montage, a VFX montage, interviews, Q&A from the premiere and the short film Bio-Cop that plays after Manborg.
Bio-Cop wasn’t originally part of the festival run for Manborg. When I asked him, Steve gave us some insight on how Bio-Cop came about.
Bio-Cop was filmed last summer after we had made the deal with Raven Banner entertainment and we realized that we had to pad the run time a bit so it would be an actual feature length film. We decided to do a faux trailer, like they used to have on VHS movies back in the day that would play at the end of the feature not the beginning and we ran with it. So I crammed the entire stress of Manborg into a 5 week period while shooting Bio-Cop. Thankfully though there were no green screens used on this one which I was ecstatic about. Shooting on location was fun since what we shot is what’s there.
And as Steven slyly teased future projects without saying anything, when I closed off asking him about his hopes for this DVD release he managed to keep it all in a legitimate perspective.
You mean like will it sell? Will it end up in a Wal-Mart discount bin? The fact that it is coming out on DVD is absurd to me, but also a victory. If I had told myself four years ago, that this movie I was making was going to be available on DVD, I would just laugh it off as ridiculous, but I’m so happy. I’d push for a limited VHS run at some point though if it were ever possible, as that seems like the best way to truly experience the film. There is a German dubbed version of Manborg out there on Blu-Ray as well, that might be the only way I’d be able to sit and watch the whole movie again [Laughs].
To give a film like Manborg a star rating would be a little absurd, since it is that kind of film. It is however a real treat to be able to see a movie grow from its infancy to what it is today as Canada’s very own iconic midnight movie. Manborg is available now from all major retailers. Go get yourself a copy and have a fun night on your couch.
Check out the trailer for Manborg below.