A top secret CIA operation, known as Operation Lycanthropus, leads two agents to a Hungarian castle where they must retrieve a sample of werewolf blood in order to create the prototypical ultimate super soldier. With his partner’s throat ripped out during the initial werewolf attack, agent Butler manages to retrieve a sample after plugging the werewolf with metal bullets, but upon returning to the secret operation headquarters in the States, his supervisor, Agent Miller, and a team of scientists pursue a more subdued approach in synthesizing an advantageous killing machine. The unhinged and impatient Butler injects himself with the remaining blood sample, transforming him into a blood thirsty werewolf. After attacking and killing a scientist, Agent Miller neutralizes the beast and places him in cryogenic suspension, hidden away in the secured basement, for future sinister endeavors. Twenty years later, a new secret operation headquarters building is erected after the first burns down, clearing the way for a new team of scientist developing game changing medical technology for burn and cancer victims by creating artificial skin out of metal, but when the project is suddenly taken charge by Agent Miller, the bewildered and upset scientists are impelled to work on human cadaver trials, placing Agent Butler’s inanimate body on the operating table for a metal skin transplant. When he suddenly awakes, the base of unsuspecting scientists and military personnel come under attack by a formidable and blood hungry beast now armored plated with a metal exterior and virtually no way in stopping it’s vicious wrath.
Talk about an archetypical blend of classic and tech horror, “Project Metalbeast” exemplifies the age-old theme of scientific research being usurped for control and power and the end result is fatally catastrophic. Also known as “Proect Metalbeast: DNA Overload” and just plain ole “Metalbeast,” the film was written and directed by Alessandro De Gaetano (“Bloodbath in Psycho Town”) who spun a 1995 unorthodox werewolf feature that presaged playing God in more ways than one and added a fresh and new elemental armament to an iconic, and already super, beast on the prowl. Tom Irvin, Brad Hardin, David Barrett and Wesley Wofford, who makeup (no pun intended) the special effects team of Magical Media Industries, have credits that include the “Carnosaur” killer dinosaurs and a couple of the “Halloween” franchise sequels and have applied their combined tapestry of creative talents to bring a practical, larger-than-life metalbeast to the screen that’s not only monolithic in size, but also fearsomely primal with a glint of “Terminator” characteristics in its glowing red eyes. “Project Metalbeast” was one of the last semi-cult releases of Prism Entertainment Corporation, a company that chugged out some great B-horror films mainly in the 70s and 80s with titles such as “Eaten Alive” and “Body Melt,” and one of only a few films from the associated production company, Blue Ridge Entertainment.
Before taking Jason Voorhees to space to metalize the already the indestructible carnage incarnate, Kane Hodder did a test run stepping inside the augmented paws of a gnarled werewolf. Instead of space, Hodder grounds his performance by barely able to walk on two hind legs in the fabricated prosthetic suit, but the veteran stuntman and character actor is the dynamo practical effects horror version compared to today’s CGI-guru, Andy Sirkis, thriving tangibly polar opposite on the character effect sake, but Hodder captures the metalbeast’s utmost power gait and stance despite the extremely limited range of motion. Another symbol success in his own right is Barry Bostwick as Agent Miller. Bostwick is best known for his hero role in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but to me, he’ll always be the aloof mayor in Spin City opposite Michael J. Fox so it was challenging to accept Bostwick as a conniving cutthroat intelligence agent. Yet, the longtime actor has perfected the knack of being haughty in not only his performance, but in all his mannerisms, making Agent Miller a completely loathsome character undeterred by the sensitives of others. Opposite Agent Miller is the more rational and sensitive head scientist, Dr. Anna de Carlo, played by Kim Delaney who appeared in “Darkman II: The Return of Durant” that was released the same year. Delaney didn’t excel as the strong heroine one might expect her character to be thrust into a situation that calls for her to protect not only her life, but all the lives outside the base if the creature escapes and the scientist is more-or-less part of a splinter group derived from a team effort against the metalbeast. Costars include Musetta Vander (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”), Dean Scofield, Tim Duquette, Lance Slaughter, William G. Clark, and John Marzilli as the unhinged Agent Butler.
“Metalbeast” sounds like a metal title, but Gaetano works the orchestrated talents of Conrad Pope into the soundtrack and “Project Metalbeast,” at the time, was Pope’s scored feature as a composer, the classically trained musician has been the orchestrator on a variety of films, such as the films of “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” and “Harry Potter.” Yet, Pope’s score is akin to Harry Manfredini, a character of the story, that maneuvers coincidingly with the metalbeast while simultaneously triumphantly denotes specific scenes of dread, victory, and intense suspense with the latter being reminiscent of Mandfredini’s “Friday the 13th” brashly intrinsic cello and violin composition when Jason Voorhees would startle victims on the screen and chase them down a moonlit forest path. While Pope’s score is invigorating, the story leans more toward less so with a tediously uninspired quality regarding the film’s semblance of a comprehensive secret operations base that has corridors stunk of a standard hospital setting and story structure that fortunes little against the beast’s point of view in which Gaetano merely removes a few frames and adds a distortion effect to the picture that peers out of the eyes of a drunkard’s discombobulated staggering as well as leaving some plot holes with the bit characters, such as the other military police who simply just vanish though the character pool has been whittled down near the climax. Plus, Bostwick’s Agent Miller doesn’t age in the 20-year gap in the story, leaving any tidbits of truth versus a metallic werewolf as dust in the wind. Even with the faults, “Project Metalbeast” without a doubt is a product of it’s decade with a touch of lycanthropy campiness illuminating a sardonically augmented military killing machine.
Resurrected from the video graveyard and for the first time on a home video release in the States, or at least officially, Alessandro De Gaetano’s “Project Metalbeast” lands onto DVD from independent entertainment distributor, Invincible Entertainment, and partnered with MVDVisual. Presented in a full frame, 1.33:1, the transfer looks like either a VHS rip or a scan from an unofficial DVD release with heavily lossy details amongst a washed hue overlay. There’s some transfer imperfection, such as slight scratches, but is less intrusive than the soft image. The English language mono audio is bombastic, but there’s no strength behind the explosions, beast growls, and such to emphasis the impactful scenes. Dialogue remains in the forefront behind the ambience and, even, Conrad Pope’s powerful, but non-subversive score. Depth and range are acceptable as the camera and sound relation viably work hand-in-hand. The Invincible Entertainment release is nearly bare bones without an significant transfer upgrade, no bonus features, and barely a static menu. “Project Metalbeast” lives and breathes as a poster boy of a 1990’s revamped creature feature genre that transforms a classic monster into a man’s weaponized wet dream, but the film stutters as a reserved case of conservative metal monster mayhem.