Saturday, 21 May 2011

Archangel Thunderbird

Wondering where to watch this? Your only option is YouTube, as this thing is not available on DVD nor does it get reruns, it never has and never will. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4

This is truly something from the depths of obscurity, and never before has there been a beast such as crazy as this. Archangel Thunderbird was the first production Tony Luke ever made under his Renga Studios banner, until he turned it into Renga Media and produced Dominator, a film so insane it deserves to be known, whether you hate it or love it.

This 20-minute short was made to promote the launch of the Sci-Fi Channel in Europe in 1998 and it had record viewing figures, of course, no one remembers it, perhaps due to how it was never really promoted, or because it was an extremely low-budget one-off. Still, one has to ask, once the sight of this has been burned into someone's mind, how can they forget it?

With the first few minutes looking like something from a student film, people probably wouldn't be wrong in guessing that this short piece had a budget of no more than three or four figures; amateurish stop-motion action, laughably ancient CGI, green screen ahoy, and Doug Bradley being the only real name in this thing's cast. Despite my apparent harshness, I don't hate Archangel Thunderbird, it's just for the most part, totally unbelievable, in a way that makes you smirk. What's funny is that this probably would have looked acceptable as a 3DO or Sega CD FMV game, but it actually came out toward the end of the 90s; the style of it all is almost dazzling in a way.

Our plot involves a "renegade scientist" known as John Churchill (Doug Bradley) who discovers ancient texts prophesizing that doomsday will be spearheaded by pre-Christian otherworldly demons. Churchill has gone into hiding after the UN laughed his theories out the door, silly move in hindsight really, because shortly after, Earth was attacked by many giant demons led by the Lovecraftian Baal. Churchill has however assembled Doomshield, Earth's last hope, consisting of soldiers and scientists (a few extras carrying big guns and a guy in a labcoat with crazy hair), along with a very bondage friendly girl called Miki Manson being suspended by wires and tubes (played by Eileen Daly, the only other name in this who at least has some credentials, but I'm being mean). With new recruit Rob (Adrian Bunting, yes you haven't heard of him), who doesn't seem to do much other than turn on Miki, Churchill has Miki control something known as the Archangel Thunderbird, using pages from the Necronomicon, that allow her to shift through giant monster forms.

In all honesty, this is pretty much an accurate live-action depiction of anime; the incomphrehensible plot, insane dialogue, giant monsters killing each other, fetishized-women, and battles with garish special effects, especially when combined with the frenetic feel of the whole thing, and even right down to the inclusion of a cool little end credits song. This pretty much has all the makings of a one-off OVA, it just suffers from being a woefully low-budget live-action product, if it was an anime with money spent on it, it would probably be more well-known. The influence is definitely obvious, and this would probably be good too if it was a well-made kaiju/tokusatsu production.

Many are going to look at this and think it's the worst piece of anything under the sun among the several hundred other films they probably haven't seen yet (the easiest way to say you've seen the worst film ever is of course to just watch Twilight), I still find I have to applaud Tony Luke and his team for getting something as outrageous as this done without much help or without much money, the man may have turned out something really good if he actually did have the proper facilities. It's risible in more ways than one to many, understandably so, but it's a fascinating little hybrid of things, even if it is slightly difficult to watch at a few instances. The highlight of the whole thing are Yasushi Nirasawa's monster designs, which are fantastic as always. Their detailed stop-motion models are very cool, I only wonder where they are now. Also, it's not like Renga acted like they had made something incredible, which is good. I feel pretty mean ripping on such an innocent one-off, one that is not entirely scarce on imagination at all, it's really not all that bad, and if you love cheesy then you might find this is right for you.

I wish I could really extend this article, something like this just feels like it needs more coverage. Like Dominator, there's nothing else like this, and it's been extremely rare up to now, it demands to be watched just for the sheer insanity and novelty that such a thing was ever made.
  • Being made on dirt: 4/5
  • Insanity: 5/5
  • Obscurity: 6/5
-James, 05 November 2009 (original date)

Review source: Original recording
Screenshout source: Original recording

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