Robot Monster
U.S.A. | 1953
Directed by Phil Tucker
Starring
George Nader
Claudia Barrett
George Barrows
B&W | 62 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Image Entertainment
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6
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Rod Barnett
I first became aware of Robot Monster in the pages of the Medved Brothers' Golden Turkey Award books published in the 1970s. Although time has shown the authors to be a little loony, it's hard to fault their fingering of this until-then pretty obscure flick as one of the worst of all time. The film's reputation was only enhanced by being ripped apart on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 television show but even that group of pranksters barely scratched the surface. Happily this gloriously silly mess has become a true legend in bad film history second in reputation only to Plan 9 from Outer Space. Proving that bad filmmakers often think along the same lines, Robot Monster is also a tale of incompetent alien invasion that comes to naught. It tells the apocalyptic tale of a handful of human survivors of said alien invasion attempting to... uuuhh. Well, they really don't attempt much except to whine, repair a radio, get married and then die stupidly. Jeez! Even at 62 minutes this is a long movie!
   
It begins in Bronson Canyon, in the sunny hills of California, where a family is having an afternoon picnic. Young Johnny (Gregory Moffit), irritated by his little sister's constant requests to play house, wanders off to play 'kill the aliens' and meets The Professor (John Mylong) and Roy (The Human Duplicators' George Nader), two archeologists piddling around in a nearby cave. The men are amused by Johnny's childish antics but Roy is much more impressed by his older sister Alice (Claudia Barrett). The siblings' mother (Selena Royale) gathers her children away from the busy scientists and enforces a baffling afternoon nap on them. But Johnny fakes being comfortably asleep on the rough, rocky ground and runs back to the cave. Once there he falls down, bumping his head... and when he revives, everything is changed. Cue Twilight Zone style music and cheap negative image effects.
    When Johnny comes to he sees in the cave's mouth two sets of odd machinery. Sensing something is wrong, he hides just as a horrible monstrosity lumbers out of the depths of the cavern. Well, perhaps "horrible monstrosity" is stretching it a bit. What comes out is Ro-Man (George Barrows) an alien creature that has wiped out all of Earth's human population except for eight people. As a wielder of such frightful cosmic power you would expect a hideous thing, possibly tentacled with terrible eyes or a cruel inhuman mouth. But you'd be hoping for a movie with a budget. Ro-Man is a big guy in a poorly-fitting gorilla suit capped by a diving helmet. The diving helmet does have some antenna attached and the glass faceplate seems to have the vague outline of a small head behind it, but it's really about as terrifying as the old man down the street who's always screaming to stay out of his yard.
    Johnny runs back to the bombed-out house in which the other characters are hiding. Now, with nary an eye blink or explanation The Professor is the boy's father, married to his mom, and he and his two sisters are almost all that is left of humanity. The evil Ro-Man has destroyed everyone else and leveled the mighty cities of Earth, even going so far as to deploy stock footage uh, I mean giant lizards with fins glued to their backs uh, I mean dinosaurs to help scour the planet. If you think this makes no sense, you ain't seen nothing yet!
    Through some of the most ham-handed acting this side of grade school we learn of our world's sad fate and watch as the family is joined by brave Roy. He brings word of an attempt by the other two surviving humans to take a rocket to the orbiting "space platform" where a remnant of humanity still lives. But as they try to contact the platform Ro-Man intercepts their signal and blasts the rocket out of the sky and the space station to bits. Deep in despair, the group responds by contemplating suicide but instead Roy and Alice have a quick roll in the grass and decide to get married. By this time Ro-Man has seen Alice on his viewscreen and finds that there may be one Hu-Man that he doesn't wish to destroy. He attacks the honeymooning couple, carrying off the fiercely kicking girl to his cave base. But it is not to be. Ro-Man's leader, The Great Guidance (who looks a lot like Ro-Man with a slightly different helmet), is angered by this turn of events and unleashes his low budget fury. So as the earth shakes and cast members die, all looks bleak in Bronson Canyon. Until Johnny wakes up from his concussion-induced nightmare, of course. So the happy family and the two scientists walk off together, content that they are not the only people alive and that the film is only 62 minutes long.
    The measure of a good bad movie is how much fun you can have watching it. Robot Monster can be safely called one of the funniest accidental comedies of the 1950s. Inept on so many levels, it is simply amazing that a finished film got made with so little money and talent. Everything is either poorly thought out, badly shot, dumbly written or just plain silly. Ro-Man's advanced machinery includes a pair of TV rabbit ear antennas and spits out a constant stream of bubbles. Why? Who knows! It's alien stuff! Ro-Man destroys two billion people in a matter of weeks but six people about a mile from his base elude him for days. How? Who knows! Ro-Man twice confronts Johnny and calmly asks him what he's doing out here. What? Why doesn't he just zap the kid?
    Of course none of this stuff matters. The movie is nonsensical in a way that you have to see to believe. The creators obviously thought that since it all turns out to be a boy's nightmare the silly things wouldn't matter. In a way they were right, in that without all the juvenile touches the movie would be even worse! In the proper frame of mind it's a feast for fans of Le Bad Cinema but I suggest the use of your favorite intoxicant for maximum enjoyment. It certainly ain't good but it can be fun! For me the sight of a man in a gorilla suit and diving helmet fiddling with a bubble machine is timeless entertainment.

I can highly recommend Image's DVD release of Robot Monster. Part of the Wade Williams Collection, the disc features a very good print of the film giving the production a very sharp presentation. This film has usually looked pretty good on video but this is much better than my old tape; this copy even retains the Intermission card at about the 30 minute mark. Although the movie was supposedly shot in 3-D it is presented here flat or, as the DVD cover would have it, in "Intriguing 2-D". I'm unaware if there has ever been a release of RM in 3-D but I have to admit I'd shell out money for a copy. The disc sports no extras other than the movie's trailer and the trailers for five other DVDs under the Wade Williams imprimatur. Available very cheaply from most retailers, this is a must-own for fans of unintentionally funny movies. Invite over some friends and make a night of it. 7/13/07
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