Cue the Atari-like font and synthesizer opening credits music because here comes The Vindicator aka Frankenstein '88! A B-grade action/horror movie shot in Montreal circa 1984 (according to the closing credits copyright) with Frankenstein themes and as is expected for its genre, has a very high body count. Our protagonist and title character, Carl, before he's turned into a walking, talking cyborg is a robotics engineer for NASA. He's living a pretty charmed life. His wife Lauren has just announced that she's pregnant. The only dark spot is that his NASA project budget is continually slashed and funneled into his superior's top secret project. Carl raises hell and is therefore "accidentally" locked inside a reactor as it reaches a critical point. It blows and gives him the worst facial this side of your local strip mall beauty salon. A funeral ensues, mourning begins and then the fun begins. Insert sarcasm here. Carl's brain is kept alive by his killers for use in the top secret project, which consists of creating a cyborg for Mars exploration. Carl manages to escape but forgets to take the remote control that keeps the emotion of rage in control. I hate it when that happens. The scientists pursue, Carl kills almost everything he encounters, tries to contact Lauren, mercenaries lead by Foxy Brown herself, Pam Grier, get called in to capture Carl, and more people die. End of story.
Catherine Disher plays Catherine, Lauren's kooky, new agey and primary color clad best friend. In short, she's awesome and if you ask me there should have been an entire movie based on her character. Yeah I'm biased but she was that awesome.
Lauren and Carl's best friend and fellow NASA scientist, Burt, arrive at Lauren and Carl's home after the funeral to find it ransaked. Our evil NASA scientists want to make sure that Carl didn't have anything incriminating at his home. Suddenly it becomes apparent that someone outside is trying to get in. Still shaken up, Lauren and Burt fear the people who ransaked the house were back. Burt moves towards the door, ready to apprehend the intruder. The door opens to reveal Catherine with a bag of groceries. Catherine walks into the dark room, Burt prepares to attack and both scream bloody murder at the sight of each other. Catherine drops her groceries and Burt drops his makeshift weapon.
Burt: Catherine! You scared to the shit out of me!
Catherine: What the hell do you think you did to me? You always greet people at the door like this Burt?
Apparently Catherine is in full best friend mode and she either offered or was invited to stay over with Lauren a few days. Lauren exits from a bath to find Catherine asleep in this rather comical way. Lauren laughed, I laughed, a friend who watched it with me laughed. Everyone laughed. It amused me greatly so thank you whoever was responsible. It also inspired a short and fluffy Nick/Nat Forever Knight friendship fic that I've been wrangling with for a while.
Anyway, shortly thereafter Lauren hears a disturbance downstairs. Carl, has evade capture and has made it to their home. He stays out of sight but he reveals to Lauren that his death was no accident.
Lauren spends the day trying to convince Burt of Carl's survival and his claim but he'll hear nothing of it. Burt tell her that she's grieving. Lauren returns home to find her living room awash in candles and Catherine sitting indian style on the floor chanting and waving her hand in the air.
Lauren: Catherine? What the hell are you doing?
Catherine: Shh, he's back.
Lauren: Who's back?
Catherine:You'll frighten his spirit. <chants>
Lauren: Stop it! Damn it, Catherine! I asked you not to do this.
Catherine: That's it! He's gone! You scared him away. Nice going Lauren and I was so close. I think I'll go take a shower.
Lauren: Cath, I spoke to Carl. Not a ghost.
Lauren's house is a real hot spot because once again she hears a disturbance outside. She calls Catherine and outside they spot a car undergoing surveillance.
The following day both Lauren and Catherine are holed up in the house. While playing with the audio equipment Lauren detects a hidden message from Carl, asking her to meet him. I've got no explanation. It's just there. Go with it. I never said this movie would make sense.
Catherine: Do you think they're still out there?
Lauren: They're out there.
Catherine: Then why don't we put a stop to this nonsense and call the police?
Lauren: No, I don't want to jeopardize Carl.
Lauren needs a decoy so that she can sneak out to meet Carl. Catherine obliges by hoping in the car and the man watching the house follows behind. Catherine even dresses in the same blouse and scarf Lauren wore in the previous scene.
All I have to say is look at those sunglasses. I love them because they're so crazy. They look like tinted, red lab goggles.
Catherine: I hope you're in the mood for a nice, long scenic drive.
Burt shows up at Lauren's and proceeds to profess his undying love to Lauren. He also offers to be the father her baby needs. It turns out Burt was complicit in Carl's murder. Lauren refuses and Burt gets violent. They fight and he attempts to rape her. It's rather long and gratuitous and pretty nasty. He's basically licking her face like she's an ice cream cone. Burt also wraps a phone cord around her neck, choking her.
Catherine walks in and finds Burt on top of Lauren. Awkwardness ensues. Catherine heads upstairs.
Catherine: Hey guys....whoop, whoop, whoop. Really, uh, sorry.
For a second there it's like "Whoa, worst friend ever" Not to mention the dumbest. Lauren is being raped and Catherine shrugs it off as a consensual sexual encounter. It was then that the wind got taken out of my Catherine Disher scene sails for this movie. Although the delivery of the line was great and very self-deprecating.
Catherine: Wait a minute, what am I apologizing for? If you want privacy, use the bedroom.
Burt waits for Catherine to make it upstairs and he then continues to choke Lauren. Then it's like "Yay! Catherine is the greatest friend ever!" because she yells and launches herself from the staircase onto Carl. They fight and he starts to choke her. Lauren distracts him long enough for Catherine to get up and further unleash her inner action star by kicking him into oblivion. It was great. She's so tiny and he's not but she clearly had the upper hand. Catherine stops once she's sure he's out cold, grabs Lauren and begins to usher out of the house towards safety.
However, Catherine doesn't get very far. She opens the front door to find Pam Grier in her mercenary finest. She grabs Catherine, flips her around, snaps her neck and throw her up against the wall. That was sad, very sad. An unnecessary death and it brought the movie's death toll to like 30. On the plus side we got a better glimpse of Catherine's earth child, all natural accessories.
Lauren turns to escape through the back but by then Burt has regained consciousness and he knocks her out. Pam Grier orders him to take Catherine's dead body and Lauren's unconscious one and dispose of them.
With both women in his car, Burt prepares to complete his assignment. Carl arrives and blocks the exit in all his Vindicator glory. Lauren regains consciousness long enough to open the door and fall out. Burt tries to run Carl over but he stops the car. Catherine's body falls over a screaming Burt. Carl crushes the car with a screaming Burt inside. We get a lingering shot of Catherine's dead body as this happens.
OK, so the end of the movie in short form, Lauren and Carl make it to NASA where our main bad guy is holed up. Pam Grier is there as well. She eventually commits suicide because she feel she's failed in her mission to capture Carl. Yep, too bad. She was a bad ass. Carl and our main baddie have a confrontation. Both of them die. Lauren lives. Flash forward a few years and Lauren with a young boy. Her and Carl's son, who's been named after his father.
Not the greatest movie by a long shot but Catherine Disher's character was a real treat. It's a late night, I can't sleep and it's 2 AM type movie. A scene with Carl in full blown Vindicator mode with a young boy in a junkyard almost made me cringe because I thought they were going to go with the Frankenstein parallels. If you've seen the 1931 Frank Whale version and remember the scene in which the monster comes across a little girl by lake and he tosses her in the water because he thinks she'll float then you might understand my apprehension. Granted the monster in Frankenstein and Carl in The Vindicator are different on an intellectual level, I really didn't want them to go that route. Thankfully, they didn't.
This movie was also filled with gratuitous nudity and violence scenes. Was a shot of a naked Lauren coming out of her bath really necessary? And the attempted rape scene between Lauren and Burt was unnecessarily long and disgusting. And lastly, when Burt is being crushed what's the point of showing a close up of Catherine's face as the car gets demolished around her body.