Stuart Gordon originally shot Robot Jox in 1986 under the title Robotjox. At the time he made it, Gordon was attempting to exploit the mid-1980s craze for Transformer toys, inspired by tvs Transformers (1984-7). However, the film was caught up by the financial collapse of Albert and Charles Bands Empire Studios in the late 1980s. By the time the film was eventually released directly to video, the Transformers craze was over.
Characteristically, Gordon appears to have wanted to make a comic-book out of the film. Due to the fortuitous recruitment on script of Joe Haldeman, the hard science-fiction author known for the acclaimed and Award-winning likes of The Forever War (1975), Mindbridge (1976), All My Sins Remembered (1977) and the Worlds series, Robot Jox emerges as considerably better than it appears to have been conceived. Joe Haldeman is interested in creating a credible social milieu for the Transformers to take place in. The set-up owes much to Peter Watkins The Peace Game (1969), of which Haldeman may or may not have been aware. Haldeman sketches the story with interestingly economical strokes and is particularly good when it comes to characterisation. The scenes between Achilles and Athena where she tries to discern the meaning of luck, or even where the traitor is revealed, are well written. All play competently, although Paul Koslos Russian accent is unconvincing. The ending, which comes abruptly on a handshake and agreement of international cooperation between the East and West, is vaguely unsatisfying not to mention, by the time that Robot Jox eventually came out, a redundant one.
The special effects work by David Allen, usually responsible for the cheap effects on sundry films for the Bands, is stunning. These belie the budget on which the film was made. Particularly amazing is the climactic battle. The full size of the fighting machines is conveyed and it is fantastic to watch them in battle buzzsaw blade chains that cut arms off, chainsaws emerging from the belly of the machines, Alexanders transformer scuttling along on six claws like a crab, and he toying with the downed Anne-Marie Johnson with the end of one giant fingertip.
Stuart Gordons other genre films include the splatter black comedy Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987), the vampire tv movie Daughter of Darkness (1990), the Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), the future prison film Fortress (1993), Castle Freak (1995), Space Truckers (1996), the Ray Bradbury adaptation The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998), Dagon (2001) and the true-crime based Stuck (2007).