Times Staff Writer

"Hands of Steel" (citywide) features a Six Million Dollar Man but looks like it cost $1.98. Yet, in its exceedingly primitive fashion, it delivers the goods for action fans.

We're 10 years into the future. An industrial tycoon (John Saxon) has turned an unsuspecting young man named Paco (Daniel Greene) into a cyborg, which means that 70% of his body parts have been replaced with machinery. The evil tycoon then has the muscular Paco programmed to become an assassin but forgets the guy still has a human heart.

In confusion, Paco flees to his native Arizona, stopping at a seedy desert roadhouse run by a lonely, pretty blonde (Janet Agren), who proves to him that the other 30% of him is enough to qualify him as a man rather than a robot.

"Hands of Steel" is an Italian production, which means that the roadhouse interiors were probably shot at Cinecitta--which also explains why the dialogue occasionally slips out of sync. The film seems to have been edited in a meat grinder, but director Martin Dolman and a raft of writers follow through on their premise, developing a certain Frankenstein's Monster poignance out of Paco's predicament, pursued as he eventually is by the FBI as well as the bad guys. At the same time they don't stint on the expected superman heroics. (Believe me, you don't want to arm-wrestle with Paco.)

Greene, who has the profile and build of a younger Vince Edwards, brings a certain sweet sadness to Paco, and Agren is equally likable. Saxon is a fine heavy, as always. The cheesy-looking "Hands of Steel" (rated R for considerable bone-crunching) has, in fact, enough going for it to have deserved a bigger budget than it got.

'HANDS OF STEEL' An Almi Pictures release of a National Cinematografica-Dania Film-Medusa Distribuzione co-production. Director Martin Dolman. Screenplay Elisabeth Parker, Martin Dolman, Saul Saska, John Crowther; based on a story by Dolman. Camera John McFerrand. Music Claudio Simonetti. Art director Audrey Bellows. Costumes Valentina De Palma. Film editor Alan Beugen. With Daniel Greene, John Saxon, Janet Agren, George Eastman.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

MPAA rating: R (Under 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian.)

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