The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got.



Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Automatic (1994)


This movie comes up often on people's lists of best Gruner films. I saw it way back when it came out on video in the mid-90s, and I must confess, I don't remember it as well as I should. My brain is all a blur with myriad futuristic cyborg action thrillers, more often than not starring Olivier Gruner. It's a trend that went out in 90s, and maybe it'll come back in the 2010s.

Automatic takes place in the future, where a man has invented the pinnacle in home security: the Automatic. A bunch of androids that look like Olivier Gruner and kick ass like him too. Anyway, one of them working at the factory sees a major executive trying to rape a woman, and he steps in to prevent it. Problem is he accidentally kills the guy. Automatics aren't supposed to kill, but this one knows something's up when the inventor sends a hit squad headed by Jeff Kober to exterminate him. Now we've got Die Hard meets Blade Runner with a taste of Small Wonder and Cyborg 2 thrown in.


This wasn't too bad. It was what it was: a low-budget sci-fi actioner with Olivier Gruner. It was fairly action packed, and Gruner got to flex his martial arts muscles, so that was good. The story was pretty run-of-the-mill, and it was hard to see what kind of obstacles Gruner was overcoming when every time he was shot he seemed to be able to heal himself. It's not like seeing Seagal as omnipotent and knowing no one can take him; with this film, they were trying to create tension with Kober's extermination squad, but what kind of tension is it if he can take a bullet and get up five minutes later. I guess the difference is a set of defined rules: in the Seagal film, the rules are simple, he kicks ass. Even if the rules are simple, I just want some.

Gruner was good. He's especially great at the beginning kicking ass in the advertisement for the Automatic. I didn't like this as much as The Circuits and Nemesis; nor Savate or Crooked either. That doesn't leave anything else as far as his films I've reviewed, but don't take that as an indictment of this picture. It was very entertaining. If anything, it says that Gruner had stellar resume to pick from, which is always a bonus.


DTVC favorite Jeff Kober is here, but this is the first time he's had more than just a secondary baddie role (the other two we've covered with him are Desert Heat and One Man's Justice). For my money, he's a quintessential baddie who tends to get overlooked by film makers that stick him in the lesser baddie role. Even here he was the head baddie's hatchet man-- but that actually worked better than if he was the head baddie, just on how the movie worked out. Kober tends to live mostly on the TV drama and action series, and you'd probably recognize him more as That Guy from Buffy or Falcon Crest, depending on how old or young you are.

Speaking of TV, Marjean Holden, star of the hit syndicated series Beastmaster is in this as Kober's military cohort. If you remember, if I even mentioned it, and I don't remember if I did, she was supposedly in Nemesis, and I didn't spot her. Well I spotted her in this Gruner flick. If I had the time to do a blog on old syndicated TV shows, Beastmaster would feature prominently. It was no Highlander or Hercules-- in fact, it was utter ridiculous crap-- but it got me to the church on time when I was trying to sober up at 3AM so I could sleep without that bed spinning feeling. Remember when hit TV shows were syndicated, like Star Trek: The Next Generation? Now stupid broadcast TV shows like Navy NCIS and CSI: Des Moines are aired in their spots in this new trend of early weekly syndication. No good.


Despite the low budget nature of this film, it had one thing a movie like it made today wouldn't have, namely a realistic look to it. There were no CGIs in this at all. Sure, a lot of it looked fake, but it looks fake when it's made by a computer too. Which looked more realistic, Star Wars IV or Star Wars I? That's why I like a lot of movies from the 90s more than today. Sometimes I think the computer generated images have removed a lot of the creativity from directing.

This isn't a bad deal. If you see it in a bargain bin, give it a whirl. It's only available on VHS, so if you're going to go out of your way to get it on Amazon, make sure you've seen Nemesis first, because it's a better use of your money.

For more info:


  1. If you like Jeff Kober, you gotta see "The First Power". He plays the main bad guy....and the always awesome Lou Diamond Phillips plays the lead.

  2. I remember The First Power. I missed it when it was in the theater, but rented it right after. Boy, those were the days: LDP as a big name actor, and guys like Kober getting roles in first run theatricall flicks as a lead baddie. I can't believe that came out like 20 years ago. Time flies...