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Hands of Steel (1986): A Fistful of Cyborgs, A Splash of Synth, and a Whole Lot of Cult Classic Charm

In the year 1986, a cinematic landscape ravaged by post-apocalyptic chic and cyborg swagger birthed a glorious, trashy gem known as Hands of Steel, also known by its equally dramatic Italian moniker, Vendetta dal futuro (Revenge from the Future). Directed by the delightfully gonzo auteur Sergio Martino, whose filmography ranges from spaghetti westerns to giallo thrillers, Hands of Steel throws everything but the kitchen sink –– well, maybe it throws the kitchen sink too –– into a blender and hits puree.

The result? A gloriously nonsensical, action-packed B-movie that wears its heart on its ripped sleeves and its budget on, well, duct tape and enthusiasm.

A Cyborg with a Conscience (and a Mean Right Hook)

We open on Paco Queruak (played by the charmingly wooden Daniel Greene), a cyborg with more chrome than a Detroit showroom and about as much emotional range as a toaster. Paco, programmed to be a ruthless assassin, is tasked with eliminating a brilliant scientist, Dr. Stein (played with scenery-chewing gusto by George Eastman). But in a shocking turn of events, Paco malfunctions (or perhaps, as some would say, develops a conscience) and only manages to mangle poor Dr. Stein’s hand instead of, you know, the whole eliminating business.

On the run from both the authorities and the film’s real villain, the deliciously corrupt Senator Turner (a delightfully slimy John Saxon), Paco stumbles into a desert diner run by the sassy and resourceful Linda (Janet Agren). Here, amidst the greasy spoon charm and questionable clientele, Paco begins to shed his metallic shell and discover a surprising amount of humanity –– or at least, a fondness for greasy spoon food and arm wrestling.

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Yes, arm wrestling. This, my friends, is where Hands of Steel takes a glorious detour into the absurd. Apparently, in this desolate wasteland, the preferred method of settling disputes –– be it romantic rivalries, bar brawls, or existential angst –– is a good old-fashioned arm wrestle. And Paco, with his titular hands of steel, becomes the reluctant champion of this bizarre desert pastime.

B-Movie Brilliance: Acting, Effects, and Influences

The acting in Hands of Steel is, well, let’s just say it possesses a certain endearing theatricality. Greene delivers his lines with the sincerity of a man reading a grocery list, but somehow, it works. His stoic cyborg struggles with newfound emotions are strangely endearing, and his chemistry with the fiery Agren is a highlight of the film. Saxon, meanwhile, revels in his role as the epitome of 80s sleaze, and Eastman brings a touch of Shakespearean madness to the unfortunate Dr. Stein.

The special effects, shall we say, are reminiscent of a child’s feverish dream. Explosions look like firecrackers gone rogue, and cyborg parts resemble bits and bobs scavenged from a hardware store. But in the context of the film’s gleefully low-budget charm, these effects become a source of amusement rather than disappointment.

Hands of Steel’s true influence lies in its gleeful embrace of B-movie tropes. Released a year before RoboCop, it throws its cyborg hero into a world teetering on the brink of environmental collapse, mirroring the anxieties of the Cold War era. But unlike its more serious counterparts, Hands of Steel injects a healthy dose of absurdity into the mix, paving the way for future films like Demolition Man that would blend action, satire, and social commentary.

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More Than Just a B-Movie Punchline

Hands of Steel isn’t a film for everyone. Those seeking highbrow cinema or groundbreaking special effects will likely be left scratching their heads. But for those who appreciate a good dose of cheese alongside their sci-fi action, this film is a treasure trove.

The synth-heavy soundtrack by Goblin is pure 80s gold, perfectly capturing the film’s offbeat energy. The action sequences, while low-budget, are surprisingly entertaining, and the arm wrestling scenes are so gloriously ridiculous, they become strangely compelling.

The Final Verdict: A Must-Watch for Cult Film Enthusiasts

Hands of Steel is a film that defies categorization. It’s a sci-fi action flick, a post-apocalyptic romance, an arm wrestling championship all rolled into one glorious mess. But beneath the cheesy dialogue and questionable effects lies a film with a surprising amount of heart. It’s a love letter to B-movie schlock, a testament to the power of human connection (even in a cyborg body), and a reminder that sometimes, the most

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