The story behind the making of cult films is often more extraordinary than the final product itself, such is the case with The Guyver series of sci-fi action creature features from the early 90’s. Budget Biomorphs: The Making of The Guyver Films by Dom O’Brien finds the author transforming his personal passion for this unique pair of genre films into a well-crafted, engaging narrative filled with insight and photos from all the major players that brought this Japanese manga/anime property to live action for American audiences.
My passion for The Guyver is very close to that of O’Brien (though it did not drive me to write a book), in that I discovered the first film on the video rental store shelf in the early 90’s and was mesmerized by its unique blend of horror, comedy and choreographed violence. I had never seen anything like it and found myself renting it multiple times to share with friends.
I soon bought my own copy on VHS and tracked down the sequel as well. I then saved up my allowance for many months in order to acquire all of the of the English dubbed anime series on video. Eventually I tracked down the translated manga, so I could experience the action of The Guyver through the medium in which the character originated. I’ve since bought every subsequent home media release of the first film in upgraded formats and even the limited edition soundtrack for the film on vinyl and audio cassette. The Guyver is a hero that captures my imagination in all its forms, but is likely not a household name to most Americans, even those who make manga and anime a regular part of their media viewing.
For the unfamiliar, The Guyver story in all its forms involves a young man who finds himself accidentally becoming host to an alien suit of armor, The Guyver. The armor is being pursued by a corporation that is secretly run by vicious alien monsters called Zoanoids, who can take on human form. When confronted by these Zoanoids, The Guyver suit protects it’s host by the use of razor sharp elbow blades, lasers and even an energy cannon hidden within the chest plate. It’s blood-spurting, high-octane monster violence that makes for a very entertaining ride.
Now lest you think that my giving the book rave reviews was a foregone conclusion based on my fandom for the property, think again. While I had my fingers crossed that Budget Biomorphs: The Making of The Guyver Films would provide answers to all the questions that had been in my mind for decades regarding how these films were made, I was also very aware that obsessive fans don’t always have the ability to translate their boundless enthusiasm effectively to the written word. Luckily, Dom O’Brien had the goods to make Budget Biomorphs: The Making of the Guyver Films an absolute pleasure to read.
Beginning with the absolutely charming Foreword by David Hayter (who is himself an accomplished screenwriter of some of the most popular comic book films of the last 20 years), about how his first role in a Hollywood film was as the hero in The Guyver II: Dark Hero, the book quickly erased any cynicism I had about the potential quality of the this journey I was about to embark on.
Organized into two halves, devoting roughly 200 pages to the making of each of The Guyver films, the book is filled with stories from the cast and crew, all who profess to have had a genuinely good time in making the films. Though neither Guyver feature was a huge moneymaker, hence their cult status, it’s obvious that everyone on the crew as led by the co-directors, Steve Wang and “Screaming Mad” George were all in on this passion project. The stories gathered by O’Brien through more than 40 interviews are heartwarming, as well as informative.
If you’ve made it this far into the review, you may be asking, “But I know nothing about The Guyver. In fact, it’s not even on my radar. Why would I read this book?” Even if you have no affinity for American adaptations of gory anime action series, Budget Biomorphs: The Making of The Guyver Films captures an important moment in film history that deserved to be documented.
Practical special effects are a lost art in this day and age, with most visual effects being achieved via computer graphics. In the case of The Guyver films however, these creatures were being created by some of the top rated special effects make-up artists of the 80’s. Between the two directors, notable work on such iconic films as The Predator, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Child, Gremlins 2: the New Batch, The Monster Squad and many more, led to some of the most dazzling creatures ever seen on screen. This book documents their journey from monster obsessed kids making their own masks and models, to masters of their craft, admired by the community of artists that surrounded them.
Budget Biomorphs is also filled with a mountain of never released, behind the scenes photos from the making of both films. This photographic addition takes the reader on a visual journey through the accounts by the crew of the work that went into getting these films completed with some unforgettable sequences. Over 200 behind the scenes photos of miniatures, full size creature suits and sets built inside of warehouses are evidence of the skills of these artists, which deserve to be celebrated. Additionally, O’Brien assembles promotional materials from around the world, as well as home video releases and provides commentary regarding the differences in various regions of the world where the films found an audience.
Bottom line, Budget Biomorphs: The Making of The Guyver Films is a success on every level. Engaging behind the scenes stories of low budget genre filmmaking? Check. Exclusive photos that support and expand appreciation for the narrative? Check. Enthusiastic writing style that informs as well as entertains? Check. Dom O’Brien rises above the role of obsessive fan, to talented author with a clear handle on how to tell this fascinating story of latex and late night filmmaking.
As if it wasn’t obvious, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Budget Biomorphs: The Making of The Guyver Films for your reading pleasure. If this review inspires you to check out The Guyver films in addition to reading the book, all the better. Maybe we can chat online about them one of these days. If you’re already a fan, I’d love to hear what has made these films stand out to you over the years. So feel free to comment below.