CYBORG COP series proved to be a moneymaker for the direct-to-video company Nu Image, filling their coffers with enough dough to keep the company running. Running tandem to that series was another cyborg-driven series with the PROJECT SHADOWCHASER films. Produced alongside director John Eyres’ company EGM Films International, the PROJECT SHADOWCHASER series seemed to pop up on video shelves every other year with another box featuring the blonde crew cut sporting Frank Zagarino staring at me. I’m not sure why I never rented these back in the day, but, like the CYBORG COP films, I’m glad I waited nearly 20 years as they are just the kind of stuff I dig now. And I got to see them all back-to-back this year, which really allows you to appreciate the “what the hell” directions in which the filmmakers took the series. Yes, my directive is to cover the PROJECT SHADOWCHASER series.
PROJECT: SHADOWCHASER (1992)
PROJECT SHADOWCHASER II (1994)
Well, the first PROJECT SHADOWCHASER must have done some direct-to-video business as director John Eyres – after helming the sci-fi flick MONOLITH (1993) for Shapiro Glickenhaus – soon found himself staring through the viewfinder at Frank Zagarino’s bleach blonde crew cut again. Thankfully, Eyres adhered to the “sequels should be bigger and better” policy and delivered the best entry in the series. You know he means business as the colon is now missing. Why does that sound weird?
film. But Eyres ain’t joking around with his follow up. He’s not only going back to the same old DIE HARD rip off routine, but he is kicking it up a few notches. If you do end up seeing this film, make sure to get the DVD (on a double feature with part 3) because it presents the uncut version of the film. Like most early 90s action filmmakers, Eyres was getting his John Woo on big time and fills the plethora of shootouts with some bloody squibs. Even a guy dressed at Santa gets blasted! Oh, and he seems to have a newfound HUGE explosion fetish. Matching Eyres upping of his game is Zagarino as the renegade robot. This time around this dude is totally unhinged. Seriously, for an emotionless robot, he seems to be having a mental breakdown as he goes from serious to cackling in a heart byte (ah, boo yourself). Sadly, once again we get no actual robot stuff from our film about a robot. Genesse gets the everyman John McClane duties this go around and he is just as good, if not better, as Martin Kove in the first film. You have to love his delivery of some of his quips, like when Laurie tells the authorities outside she is trapped in the building with the janitor and he grumbles, “Head of maintenance.” If you ever find yourself accosted on the street by someone who randomly asks you “what is the best PROJECT SHADOWCHASER film” just tell them this one.
PROJECT SHADOWCHASER 3000 (1995)
I know what you’re thinking – “How on Earth did I missed PROJECT SHADOWCHASER parts 3 through 2999?” Well, don’t worry. It is just that the producers got a little creative with the title in this third entry in the series. The money must have been flowing after the second one, but weren’t not sure if it was from video sales or some money laundering. Either way, the third PROJECT SHADOWCHASER debuted just over a year after the last one.
PROJECT SHADOWCHASER IV (1996)
Hey, are you still reading? I’m sorry. Anyway, remember a few paragraphs back when I reminded you that a few paragraphs back that this series isn’t one for continuity? Well, hold onto your hats. PROJECT SHADOWCHASER IV was actually announced with that title in a full page ad in Variety on March 1, 1995, months before the third part debuted. Yup, EGM Films International and Nu Image were confident fans would keep coming back for more Zagarino that they could just keep pumping these films out like a factory. It would take an act of the Movie Gods to make them stop. So, yeah, about that…
craft is struck by lightning and explodes, leaving some Zagarinos on Earth in some glass cases. Cut to the present day where Michael Cavanaugh (Todd Jensen) and his wife Corinne (Jennifer MacDonald), two archaeologists, are working on a dig in Africa. They bicker endlessly, thanks mostly to the fact that they are running out of money and their son Joey is comatose in the hospital. Is this PROJECT SHADOWCHASER the soap opera version? Anyway, they discover half of this amulet and this thrills their boss Professor Morton (Brian O’Shaughnessy), who asks to have it scanned and sent over via email. Somehow this process awakens alien Sirius (Zagarino) buried deep in the ground and he becomes an alien-man on a mission. Yes, he is awakened by an email sent via dial up. AOHell! This is bad news for the Cavanaughs as he starts stalking them and shouting, “I want Orion’s Key!” Even worse, Morton turns out to not be a nice guy and has some goons after them as well because this key allows the owner to create some kind of “fountain of youth” elixir. Will they survive and what will happen to poor Joey?