10 Sci-Fi VHS Boxes that Blew My Mind: 'R.O.T.O.R.'


Growing up, I spent a lot of time walking the aisles of various video stores, enraptured by all the flashy and trashy VHS box art.

Last time I focused on the horror movie covers and how they affected the young me. But it wasn't all "Slumber Part Massacre II" and "Ghoulies." The pinewood shelves of that mom-and-pop video rental store also offered some amazing sci-fi visions. Like their horror counterparts, the sci-fi boxes tended to advertise far more than they delivered. I wouldn't see most of them till years later, but the box art alone filled me with futuristic dreams.

So in this series, I'm running down the 10 films I remember the most, starting in 1980 and following the boxes up through 1992.

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)

The Sell: Incredible box art unloads an apocalyptic vision of gun-slinging cyborg shenanigans in a Hellish, war-torn wasteland. Plus, the similarities to the "Mad Max" poster are far from subtle.

The Reality: As you might expect, this hybrid Robocop/Terminator rip-off fails to deliver anything close to that. While the image may well represent how R.O.T.O.R. (Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research/Reserve Unit) looks with its skin blasted off, we never see such things in the film. Instead, R.O.T.O.R. always just looks like a white motorcycle cop - like the T-1000 without all the liquid metal FX or Maniac Cop without Robert Z'Dar's chin.

Hey, but at least you get great lines like, "You fire me and I'll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin, brother."

Enjoy the trailer:

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.