Elderly billionaire recluse Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice) has been a busy boy, keeping himself alive with skin grafts, and transfusions, as well as perfecting his time travel matter transfer device, and turning the body of a pilot pulled from crashed plane wreckage in Mexico into a half-human, half-robot "Mandroid" (Patrick Reynolds) in order to send him to and from Ancient Rome. When Reeves orders his assistant Dr. Takada to dismantle Mandroid, Takada refuses, and is killed as he and Mandroid escape. Mandroid teams up with Takada's colleague Colonel Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby of Star Trek TNG and Pet Semetary), Takada's Ninja son Kuji (Conan Lee of Gymakta fame) and mercenary Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine) to take out Reeves. As they get closer to their target, they realise Reeves isn't just time travelling in order to collect antiques - his plans could alter the history and fate of the whole world.
For the most part, the story zips by at a great pace, keeping the twists and turns coming, as long as you don’t stop to think too hard about some of them, peppering them with plenty of gun fights and chases. The star of the show is Mandroid, who has some pretty nifty interchangeable weapons, not to mention his “mobile unit”, a mini tank which he detaches his legs to climb into. The action is not too grim or gory, making the film fine for teenage viewers, and I did wonder at one point whether anyone had planned a toy line based on the characters.
With Mandroid being, by his nature, pretty stern and emotionless, it’s left to Hunter and Fontana to maintain the human interest, and during the riverboat scenes, while they are no Hepburn and Bogart, they keep the lulls in the action going with their bickering. Lee does his best with a limited role, but his character is brought in at just the right moment to give the story a lift and an extra dimension.
The final twist in the tale seems to come from nowhere, and provoked a laugh out loud response from the audience I saw the film with, but in the schlocky, good natured context of this film, it works.