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From the Mists of Time: “Assassin”

April 9, 2013

625282900796“From the Mists of Time” is a new, semi-regular filler feature based upon Sci-Fi Invasion, a cheapie DVD set of 50 films that was an impulse buy as I was killing time until it was a more respectable hour to hit the local bars.  These are all largely-forgotten movies that span the history of cinema. They’re not good—Lord, they’re not—but some of them are entertaining enough to warrant a mini-review…

Installment #1: Assassin (1986): You know, you just can’t go wrong with Robert Conrad. He was the essential ‘60s and ‘70s tough-guy—a gravely-voices, ruggedly handsome leading man for the small-screen, equally comfortable slipping into the Cockpit of an F4U Corsair in Baa Baa Black Sheep as he was into a pair of the tightest pants in existence for The Wild Wild West (you know, before the inevitable scene where he’s stripped to the wait and tied up…man, that show had issues.) Anyway, in this made-for-TV movie he plays a retired CIA operative called back in to hunt a rogue—you guessed it!—assassin. It’s a fairly solid setup for an intrepidly-goofy movie.

Why bring Conrad back in, you ask? Well, it seems the assassin, Robert Gollum stole the file on every other active operative (literally, it’s a manila file-folder, not even that thick), so see? Makes perfect sense.

Unfortunately, after his first run-in with the assassin, Conrad—being the professional super-spook he is—recognizes something unusual about this assassin: he is unfazed by multiple, close-range handgun hits before jumping out a five-story window and running away. In Conrad’s professional judgment that’s pretty weird—even more than his CIA handlers’ continues entreaties to shoot for the stomach (“uh…er…he wears body armor…look, just target the stomach, would ya!”)

Soon enough, the truth wills out: Gollum is actually the code-name for a super-high-tech android that the agency built to, you know, kill people. Unfortunately, his creator was a bit of a lunatic war hawk, who sends the thing off after anyone he felt was weakening national security. Yeah, apparently, no one else on the project thought of adding a “no treason” subroutine. Maybe they were gonna save that for V1.2.

So, the rest of the movie is Conrad and a hawt computer engineer chasing down Gollum before he can kill everyone on his list. They, uh, they don’t do a great job. But, hey, we get some pretty TV-friendly good action sequences, so what the heck.

Finally, they manage to trap the thing in an impenetrable bunker, which kicks off its self-destruct protocol—seems if it ran into a situation it couldn’t escape from it just blows up (the command “think harder” was probably also gonna be in V1.2). And Conrad goes off with the girl. Like we knew he would.

Interesting stuff:

* Robert Conrad’s Seduction Techniques: When it told the thing can do anything a human being can, he replies, “Can it make love to a beautiful woman?” You sly dog, Rob.

* Conrad just hates the H&K VP70 he’s armed with. “This thing has all the finesse of a flintlock.” Uh, I know the trigger-pull is a bit heavy, but you got 18 rounds of ammo to use against the android. Might want to concentrate on the positive.

* When the android enters a room, it does a weird little 360-degree pirouette to look for targets. Even watching this when I was 13 years-old, that seemed dumb.

* People in this movie keep asking the CIA director why the CIA is operating on US soil. His attempts to justify this massively-illegal are never not funny.

* The engineer is hawt in that ‘80s way—lots of shoulder pads and poofy hair which somehow manage to make 30 year-old women look no older than 45.

* The CIA approaches Conrad by dropping in—literally. They arrive in a helicopter in his backyard. Even Conrad asks them why they didn’t just call.

* The android hides out by picking up a lonely woman in a bar and then boning her silly all night. That must have been his “What the hell, it’s the ‘80s” subroutine.

* Jonathan Banks is in this (hi Mike!), because, well, of course he would be.

* When the robot self-destructs, he begins spinning in circles very, very fast. I guess because his inventors couldn’t think of anything goofier for him to do.

* Great dialogue moment: CIA FLUNKIE: “This door is locked from the inside! How do we open it?” CONRAD (aggrieved): “Use your foot.”

So, that’s Assassin. If you’re gonna send anyone after a horny, killer-android, it might as well be Robert Conrad. Now please enjoy this clip dubbed in French.

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