At the end of the 80's, cult studio Cannon had the ambitious plan to produce a sequel to Masters of the Universe and a Spider Man movie simultaneously. Albert Pyun was supposed to direct both features at the same time.
The deals with Mattel and Marvel were practically negotiated but unfortunately, Cannon's cheques bounced. They had no money left and none of the films could be finalized. Sadly, $2 million were already spent on sets and costumes and that shouldn't go to waste unused. There had to be something cheaper than He Man and Spider Man (which probably would have cost more than $10 million) that could be made with the stuff they had. So Albert Pyun sat down one weekend and wrote the story to Cyborg/Slinger. The film's costs revolved around approx. $500.000 incl. the fee for Jean-Claude van Damme (who was Cannon's suggestion although Pyun preferred Chuck Norris at the time). It was produced with the already existing set design and costumes.
If what the IMDb says is accurate, Pyun initially envisioned the film as a heavy metal opera without dialogue and in a rugged black and white look. Sounds interesting for sure and Pyun's films are often appealing visually (although badly edited) and the soundtrack in the Director's Cut (which is totally different to the music in the Theatrical Version) is good, as well. Still, Cannon needed money badly and this wasn't a valid option for them to acquire that. The only thing that reminds of the unusual concept are the character names: Gibson Rickenbacker, Fender Tremolo, Marshall Strat, Les, Pearl Prohet and Nady Simmons.
While Pyun eventually accepted to work in a more conventional way, the first test screenings revealed that the work still wasn't mainstream enough. In October 1988, Jean-Claude van Damme then took a shot at editing the movie himself.
In 2011, the news arrived that a copy of Albert Pyun's latest cut was found by the original composer. Interested fans were able to purchase it from Pyun directly.
However, not all of these promises could be kept, especially since many violent scenes were either missing compared to the Theatrical Version or identical although they seemed censored.
The fan site VanDammeFanz.com went on to publish further statements by Pyun that shed some more light on the situation. He took scenes out of the Director's Cut he found. Mostly, it appears to have technical reasons (digitalizing the VHS) and artistic considerations that led him to assembling his personally perceived ideal cut. The intially announced 88 minutes runtime turned out to be 82 minutes eventually.
The editing differences are tremendous. In microcosm, it begins with the fact that practically no shots or sequences are identical even for a medium amount of time throughout the whole film. They differ either in length, position or both. There are some passages where that is the case but that is more due to chance than actual intent. Looking at scenes as a whole, there are even more obvious alterations. Some things were changed in their order, fully scrapped, replaced by something else or are fully new.
The music soundtrack is also much different in the Director's Cut. Instead of having mostly synthie music, the quite unknown DC has more of a rock soundtrack. Also, the DC often works with off commentaries by Fender, Gibson and others.
Contentwise, the biggest difference is of course the alternate background story. While the Theatrical Version has the protagonists searching for a cure that fights the plague, the Director's Cut doesn't mention that at all. Here, the main goal is to restore the postapocalyptic world's electricity supply and bring back "technology". While the story doesn't make the impression to be overly thought through in either version, the Theatrical Version at least tries to give everything a sense and a purpose by using the plague as a driving factor. The DC offers too little by simply referring to "technology" all the time without actually explaining what and what for that is exactly. You could almost understand Fender's motivation to prevent it because he perceives the primitive status quo as more appealing. Furthermore, the religious references made by Fender, Gibson and Co. are much more penetrating in the DC. Fender regularly prays to Satan. This is much less obvious in the Theatrical Version, which makes the crucifixion scene especially noticeable.
The Cyborg part is quite unimportant but is a better fit as a film title, of course. We see the cyborg briefly with the robot head and as an eye is installed. At least the DC adds a robot voice which is missing in the Theatrical Version. The cyborg component and the title are pure marketing tools. Albert Pyun would have liked to name the movie Slingers which is the job description of Jean-Claude van Damme's character. Slingers help refugees to escape the city into the rural areas.
Picture, editing, sound, music, story. Everything is different. The only remaining aspect is the action and violence since Cyborg was quite heavily censored for the "R" rating. Fortunately, Albert Pyun mentioned above that the DC features the X-rated violence. Unfortunately, one has to conclude that all this is not overly spectacular.
On the one hand, the most cuts were probably made during Fender's attack on the colony. The problem here is that this sequence is completely missing in the DC. Did Pyun really not want this in the film at all? On the other hand, there are several violent scenes that cannot be found in the DC. But there are still some additional violent moments in the DC which were probably censored for the "R" rating. However, it cannot be considered a "full-on" uncensored movie experience.
How do we have to rate the Director's Cut in comparison to the Theatrical Version?
First of all, the image quality of the cut that is currently available is only something for true fans. It is bad VHS material with steadily changing aspect ratios, washed-out colors, many spots of contamination and other visual shortcomings. It's also not really a rough cut which means that many scenes are bumpily edited together. This version is definitely not finished. Even though Albert Pyun calls this his Director's Cut, it can't possibly be the final version he wanted to release in cinemas (juding from the editing). If it was, the studio was right to take it away from him.
Looking at the content, both versions have advantages and disadvantages. The Theatrical Version makes more sense than the DC but is the more generic movie. The DC is more ambitious but fails to meet its own standards or due to the lacking abilities of those involved. The DC's music is considerably better.
The upcoming German Blu-ray
In December 2013, the DC will be released by the German label Platinum Cult on Blu-ray and DVD in normal retail for the first time. Thus, you don't need to email Alber Pyun in the future.
This new DC will most likely not be the version that is compared here. Instead, it will integrate new elements from the DC into the basic Theatrical Version. It remains to be seen to what extent that will happen, how the dialogues will be changed, whether scenes will be scrapped from the Theatrical Version which don't fit to the DC, how the soundtrack will turn out and whether there might be changes that are unforeseeable as of now. Things will come to light and we are very curious.
As mentioned in the text above, a common comparison that lists all new or deleted scenes doesn't make sense and is impossible to make. The overwhelming part of the film is different in most cases. Similar to the comparison for American History X, we divided Cyborg into several chapters and described and depicted all relevant differences. Hereby, the emphasis was put on readability while making sure that the story differences become clear. The action scenes differ from each other severely, both in terms of editing and duration. We only go into detail here when censorship could have played a role. When there is a brawl between two people for a few minutes and this is filmed a little differently, we won't depict it or describe it in much detail. When single details stand out, we will document that very precisely, though.
Comparison between the German DVD by MGM (FSK "Keine Jugendfreigabe" / 18) (82:34 min. PAL) and the US DVD by Curnan Pictures (82:05 min. NTSC).
Theatrical Cut: 0:54 minutes / Director's Cut: 2:49 minutes
Logos and credits are different in both versions. The DC is much longer and it's noticeable that the title "Cyborg" is featured here, as well.
The Theatrical Cut (TC from now on) already shows the destroyed Brooklyn Bridge with the lettering "New York City" and "In the Future" while featuring an off-commentary by Fender.
The DC shows the Booklyn Bridge later (at the end of the next chapter) and has a text between the credits:
Preview of Gibson's Crucifixion
Director's Cut: 1:02 minutes
This scene is exclusive in the DC. Before the film starts, we see Gibson hanging from the cross on a stranded ship, accompanied by an off-dialogue between Fender and Gibson. These scenes also appear within the film when the story comes to that point.
After that, the shot of the destroyed bridge and the overlays "New York" and "In the Future" follow.
In the ruins of New York
Theatrical Cut: 3:09 minutes / Director's Cut: 3:21 minutes
Strat and Pearl escape from Fender and his pirates. They run through the ruins of New York. Strat sends Pearl further away as he tries to stop Fender's people. However, he can only win a little time because he's hopelessly inferior to the pirates. The TC shows Strat being thrashed longer than the DC.
Fender approaches Strat as he lies defenseless on the ground. Only the DC has Fender talking to Strat as he walks towards him.
Two grave differences between the TC and DC become apparent. Firstly, the TC has Strat and Pearl collection information in order to find a cure for the pest while that sickness doesn't exist at all in the DC. Here, it's just about bringing back technolog into the postapocalyptic world and to restore the electricity supply. Also, Fender's motivation is different. In the TC, he wants the cure for himself because he could reign over the world like God. The DC has him uninterested in the reinstating of the undescribed technology or electricity since he just loves the chaotic world as it is right now. Accordingly, the request by Strat and Pearl to let them pass to Atlanta unharmed is different, as well.
Additionally, the DC also has a hint that Pearl is a cyborg. The TC has that two chapters later on when Pearl meets Gibson.
Both versions have Fender cutting Strat's throat at the end (offscreen). Only the TC shows how he cleans the bloody knife by wiping it against a pirate's arm. The DC has another comment by Fender:
Theatrical Cut: 1:07 minutes
The TC only has a short title and credit sequence.
Gibson and Pearl meet
Theatrical Cut: 3:50 minutes / Director's Cut: 5:39 minutes
The pirates chase Pearl through the ruins since Strat could stop them only for a short time. However, Gibson is nearby and kills most of the pirates. The DC has an additional scene in which Gibson breaks a pirate's neck with a kick. A loud crack can be heard. Also, there's a small flashback to Mary (Gibson's "wife", more on this later).
As Pearl is cornered and shortly before she's saved by Gibson, the DC has an off-commentary of a pirate which normally belongs to the flashbacks in which the pirates threaten Mary. Here, it was used for the similar scene in which Pearl is threatened and there are also more flashbacks to Mary in the DC.
Both versions are different as Pearl asks Gibson to help her and reveals to him that she's a cyborg. In the TC, it's about the cure while the DC's conversation is longer and revolves around technology and electricity. Pearl's cyborg computer analyzes Gibson longer and gives advice on how she should use Gibson.
In both versions, Gibson is buried under the wreckage and Fender approaches. The previous attacks by the pirates are a little longer in the DC, though. Fender offers in both cuts to bring them to Atlanta himself - with different reason per version. In order to scare them off, he shows them the severed head of Strat. This view is more explicit in the DC.
The TC has Pearl talking offscreen about the cure, Atlanta and the scientists while Gibson gets out of the wreckage and thinks about what he's going to do next. As he hears Pearl's words, he's motivated enough. The DC has a different voice originating offscreen (probably Mary). It is considerably more taunting. Gibson has to find something that's worth living and fighting for, otherwise he couldn't win anything.
Fender gets himself a boat
Theatrical Cut: 1:21 minutes
Only the TC features the scene in which Fender and his pirates massacre a fishing camp which is celebrating a marriage. Fender and his guys want to steal a boat since they don't want to swim to Atlanta.
This scene contains many moments that sparked internet speculation about censorship for the "R" rating. This scene is missing completely in the DC.
The DC shows (before Gibson and Nady meet in the next chapter) how Gibson talks to Maze in the bar and then helps the kid with the basketball. Since we generally follow the TC's structure, this scene will be dealt with later.
Gibson and Nady
Theatrical Cut: 8:55 minutes / Director's Cut: 7:24 minutes
The TC begins this passage with Gibson who knocks Nady out but then sits down next to her and watches over her while sharpening his knife. Obviously, Gibson stands on the ruins of the camp that was previously attacked by Fender. We see one building still burning. During all that we see flashbacks to an earlier mission for Gibson where he is supposed to bring his wife (Mary) and her children (Haley, among others) out of the city. Her husband died. The DC has a different order with additions. We firstly see a flashback of how he accepts the mission, followed by him standing in the ruins of the camp, knocking out Nady and watching over her and finally more flashbacks to Mary and the family. Since the DC didn't feature the attack on the camp before, we don't know the location and we also don't see the burning building.
The amount of flashbacks is different in both versions. In general, they show all flashbacks throughout the film but at varying positions, which complicates each cut in its own way. The DC already teases that Gibson settles down with Mary and the children in an abandoned house and Haley already gets his necklace. Both scenes are missing in the TC at this point. In contrast, this cut already shows fragments of how Fender attacks the family.
As Nady wakes up, she wants to follow Gibson for different reasons. Her backstory is a different one, as well.In the TC, Nady is one of the survivors of Fender's attack on the camp in the previous chapter. And since she has no family and friends left, she'd like to help Gibson to find Pearl so that she can develop a cure for the pest with the scientists. In the DC, Nady is already a part of the expedition of Pearl and Strat. She was supposed to scout the area and wait for the others but Strat got killed and Pearl is Fender's captive, so they never show up.
The TC has Gibson not being really fond of having Nady with him and he's not that interested in Pearl either. He just wants revenge and kill Fender. Nady doesn't mind that and follows him around until they rest together and there's another flashback to his past and his new family (when they were still happily living in the abandoned house before Fender destroyed everything). Still, he stays distant towards Nady.
Investigations in the city / Maze
Theatrical Cut: 4:47 minutes / Director's Cut: 2:00 minutes
In the TC, Gibson and Nady walk through the city and we see merchants and citizens being busy. This is missing in the DC because the following scene that shows Gibson talking to Maze in the bar was shown earlier here, even before Gibson and Nady did even meet. The DC has a small flashback to Mary when Maze mentions that he thought that Gibson had retired and wasn't working as a slinger anymore. The TC has longer flashbacks that were shown in the DC earlier.
The TC has an exclusive scene with Nady and Gibson. We see a woman with plague-spot and Nady tells Gibson that this is why Pearl and the cure are so important.
The basketball scene in which Gibson helps a boy who is bothered by a rowdy is practically identical. But while it doesn't play a role in the TC later on, it is relevant for the DC's next chapter.
The TC shows Fender and his pirates on the boat. The DC does that, too, but it's fragmented and shorter.
Fight in the unfinished building
Theatrical Cut: 4:15 minutes / Director's Cut: 6:17 minutes
The fight in the unfinished building is different in both versions.The TC has Gibsonn noticing that he and Nady were pursued. Pirates run through the forest and Gibson begins to kill them while Nady runs through the ruins.
In the DC, Gibson notices a bloody basketball, hears screams and then chases away the pirates who were about to kill some civilians. One of them is the boy whom Gibson helped before to get the basketball back from a rowdy. Nady runs off into the ruins here, as well.
While Nady is cornered by the pirates in the ruins, the DC has a religious off-commentary by Fender. He says a prayer to Satan. In general, this scene is much longer here.
The scene in which Gibson kills an opponent with the machete comes a little later in the DC and is shorter, as well. We don't get to see how the machete exits the opponent's back.
As Gibson slits an enemy's throat with a knife in his shoe, the DC is a little longer and shows how a blood spurt splashes on the floor. The two exclusive screens from the TC only last for a few frames.
Apart from that, the DC and TC have two moments in which you just don't see how Gibson kills opponents even though they were alive just a second ago. There were always assumptions that these scenes were censored for the "R" rating.
After the fight, the DC has a few of the scenes of Nady's and Gibson's journey that the TC showed earlier (signpost to Charleston, Fender on the boat). A scene that shows a naked dead body is relevant because it is exclusive in the DC that in turn doesn't show the undertaker even though it has Gibson's weepy off-commentary about believing and killing.
At the beach and on Fender's boat
Theatrical Cut: 6:50 minutes / Director's Cut: 8:57 minutes
Nady and Gibson arrive at sea. Nady gets undressed and runs into the water. Later at the camp fire, she tries to seduce Gibson but he blocks her off. While the TC then proceeds with her asking Gibson what Fender did to him and why he chases him, we see a short flashback that shows Gibson's new family being put in the well. They're panicking. The DC has Nady trying longer to convince Gibson that she can stay with him and that she could help him fighting Fender.
Gibson falls asleep and the TC has a short flashback how he sleeps with Mary and is observed by Fender in the morning. Nothing more is happening. Gibson wakes up immediately and notices Fender's boat at sea.
The DC's flashback is much longer. It begins the same way but then there's a huge and continuous part showing how he hangs in the well with Mary and her son while the oldest daughter Haley has to prevent that they fall into the well. Unfortunately, she has to hold on to barbed wire and of course she can't do that. Her hands get torn open. Gibson, Mary and her son fall into the well and then he wakes up from his nightmare. These flashbacks have been shown in the TC earlier and as fragments (e.g. Haley's hands holding the barbed wire) and most of it follows in parts when Gibson is hanging on the cross.
The following scene on Fender's boat is longer in the TC. While the DC begins with the captured Pearl, the TC starts with further shots of the pirates and a naked woman.
The flashback showing how Pearl becomes a cyborg is similar in terms of the material but not in terms of dialogue, of course. Once more, the TC talks about the cure for the plague and the DC revolves around the new technologized future. For that, Pearl has to access all kinds of computers in the US and storage their information.