Dollman (1991)
By: Paul Ryan on April 1, 2010  | 
Big Sky Video | All Regions, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 78 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Albert Pyun
Starring: Tim Thomerson, Jackie Earle Hayley, Kamala Lopez, Frank Collison
Screenplay: Chris Roghair
Country: USA
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On the distant planet of Arturos, the toughest cop around is one Brick Bardo (Tim Thomerson). Owner of the Protoblaster - a handgun so powerful its bullets make people explode – Bardo's rule-breaking approach to law enforcement puts him on the outs with his superiors, not to mention an ungrateful media. A confrontation with a gang led by floating head crime lord Sprug (Frank Collison) results in much splatter and a pursuit into space. Drawn into an "energy band", both Bardo and Sprug crash land on a planet 10,000 light years away, and several times larger in all respects: Earth. On our world, Bardo is only 13 inches tall, and has to survive in another vice-infested hellhole: The Bronx. Dominated by whiteboy gangbanger Braxton Red (Jackie Earle Hayley), drugs and crime are everywhere, but strong willed single mother Debi (Kamala Lopez) does her best to shield her son Kevin (Humberto Ortiz) from all the grimness of the neighbourhood. When Bardo saves her life from Red's thugs, he emerges as the best chance to clean up the town, but Red has Sprug on his side, and more to the point, Sprug has a very powerful – as in rip-a-hole-in-the-universe - bomb on board his ship…

An oddball hybrid of urban grit, stray western conventions (lone gunslinger defending embattled widow) and executive producer Charles Band's ongoing fixation with miniature creatures, Dollman is compulsively watchable, even if the mix of elements is as unwieldy as it sounds. There's a lot here that works surprisingly well, but the central conceit is precisely what falls flat, because the idea is pretty much beyond the resources of an early nineties direct-to-video production. That's not to say that some of the forced perspective photography isn't effective, but shots of a miniature Thomerson interacting with other characters are few and far between, and done with inconsistent greenscreen and split-screen. Frank Collison's highly entertaining bug-eyed turn as the disembodied Sprug is hampered by the obvious disconnect between his physical performance (shot mostly in closeup) and a frozen-faced model. The scale and scope of the futuristic Arturos is conveyed by a couple of effects shots lifted from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and they're the best special effects in the film. Also, having used up the film's pyrotechnics budget in an earlier shoot-out, the climax is a real fizzer.

On the other hand, the cast approaches things with the right balance of seriousness and absurdity. Thomerson is as dryly amusing as ever, and while he's not physically interacting with most of the other actors, he's skillful enough of a performer that you rarely sense it (that's a ball for the effects team to drop). Hayley (in a career dip into b-movies that preceded a 13 year break from acting) is a lot of fun as the main villain, and it's especially interesting to revisit his performance here in the light of his remarkable latter-day comeback in the likes of Watchmen and Little Children. Lopez's tough Latino mother is also a stronger character than you'd expect to find in this sort of film.

Better than average for oft-maligned director Albert Pyun, Dollman is eccentric and enjoyable enough to make ideal beer-and-mates viewing. At a fittingly short 78 minutes (seven of which are just the end credits), it certainly can't be accused of outstaying its welcome.
Looking somewhat over-compressed in places (at least on my screener copy), there's occasional pixilation and some odd dot patterning in places, though none of it is as bad as it sounds. The print itself is actually pretty good though, and presented in its original 4x3 aspect ratio.
The 2.0 track is better than you'd expect for such a low-budget film, with some especially good stereo effects in Tony Riparetti's score.
Extra Features
Videozone (7.40m): Thomerson draws a rather odd comparison between Brick Bardo and Leone's Man With No Name, while Hayley pays lip service to the film's attempt at social commentary. Somehow, Lopez manages to be funnier than either actor while earnestly overstating the significance of her role. The look at the production side is interesting enough, though the narration unintentionally underlines the cheap effects work by calling the split-screen work part of a tradition dating back to the original King Kong (as in 1933-era effects) and, um, The Patty Duke Show. You'll also learn that this was Albert Pyun's 14th film in just nine years, which goes some way to explaining his terrible 1990 adaptation of Captain America, but I digress… There's a spoiler in here, so y'know, don't go watching beforehand if you want your Dollman experience to be completely unsullied.
The Verdict
Reliably cheese-tastic Full Moon silliness, Dollman is both better and worse than you'd expect. As anyone who's seen its sequel (Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys) will know, it is still the single greatest 13-inch-tall-alien-cop-marooned-on-Earth film ever made.
Movie Score
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