Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Robot Monster (1953)

Not exactly an imaginative title for a movie is it, kinda sounds like they went with the first thing that sprung to mind. To top that it doesn't even mean anything really, the title monster in the movie isn't a robot as far as I'm aware, but who knows. This movie was made for a paltry sum by a young director of 25 years of age (Phil Tucker), virtually everything was shot in one location, and the actual alien suit was in fact an actual gorilla suit that the directors friend (George Barrows) had made for himself.

The plot to this science fiction extravaganza is quite literally surreal frankly. Apparently the human race has been wiped out completely by this alien race, an alien race that have gorilla -esque bodies and wear a humanoid space helmet on their heads, I think. I'm not sure because its quite possible that the space helmet is their actual heads, either that or they do in fact have a head of some kinds beneath the helmet, a gorilla-esque head?? If they do have a head beneath the helmet, why aren't they wearing a full space suit? seeing as they clearly need the helmet to survive. Surely the rest of their body needs protection too? Or its entirely possible I'm just looking into this way too much. It seems their reason for wiping out mankind is because they were afraid that the human race was becoming too powerful, the usual reason. Although its completely hypocritical because their powers seem to be pretty bloody powerful too and they aren't afraid to wipe out entire civilisations it seems.

Anyway, no clue where these aliens come from, outer space, don't question it. They have some kind of super powerful death ray at their dispersal called a Calcinator death ray which, somehow, is able to kill any human, anywhere, at any point, at any time, with the flick of the wrist. That's right, no buttons, no switches, no nothing it seems, the alien leader (The Great Guidance) merely controls this death ray by the power of his hand, which kinda leads you to question what powers these creatures actually have, There also only seems to be two of these aliens, the leader who barks out orders, and the alien on the ground doing all the killing named Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 (sounds like a Japanese Manga hero), although I'm too sure if he has control of the death ray or its just the leader. Not that Ro-Man needs the death ray because he can kill humans quite easily on his own, including kids! (but the death ray is much quicker and easier). His only issue is he's very heavy and slow...and unable to turn his head apparently (oy!). Oh, the death ray is also completely able to destroy spaceships leaving the Earth or flying through space too, its pretty darn powerful that old death ray, no distance too great, no target to big or small, its takes it out in a literal flash (every time its deployed the screen flashes in an epileptic fit inducing way).

Yep so what you essentially have here is almost an early vision of 'The Terminator', accept you swap out roaming killer robots and stick in gorillas with space helmets on. The gorilla suit in question doesn't actually look as bad as you might think. Sure it doesn't really look like a realistic gorilla suit, but more like a large, lumbering, fat, furry Wookie, Bigfoot or Yeti. Due to its size it does have a nice threatening look to it, the helmet sat upon the hefty body also gives off a reasonably eerie vibe. Why? because its faceless, all you see is the space helmet and its porthole-esque opening, but beneath that is nothing, its just a blank space which at times seems to have a ghostly face glowing through. Whether or not that ghostly face was a deliberate effect or just the actors face showing through I don't know, I suspect it was just the actors face. Nevertheless that quirk was clearly picked up on because on the movies posters it clearly shows a humanoid skull as the aliens face beneath the helmet, bit disappointing you don't actually see a skull though.

There aren't any other effects in the entire movie and that's the truth. What you do see is actually snippets from other movies that have been crowbarred into this one. For example, when the leader gets annoyed with Ro-Man because he has fallen in love with the human girl (of course), and won't kill her, he kills Ro-Man and unleashes dinosaurs and an earthquake to kill the remaining humans. Yes that's right, dinosaurs, no fecking clue how or where these prehistoric creatures come from, or how the aliens are able to summon them from where ever, just accept the situation. Anyway all these dinosaurs and the earthquake are in fact special effects from other movies such as 'One Million B.C.' and 'Lost Continent'.

There is so much absurdity in this movie its insane, halfway through the movie two of the main leads fall in love and get married! Nothing wrong with that but when its in the middle of an apocalyptic extermination scenario, you'd think having a wedding ceremony would be the last thing on your mind. There's also lots of spiel about the last humans being protected by some kind of electrical field that stops Ro-Man from finding them, plus the stereotypical professor character who's able to create a serum that stops the death ray from killing them (how would a serum stop you from being killed by a death ray? that's like having a serum that stops bullets or lasers from killing you), and what the hell was the bubble machine for? Ro-Man, for some reason, seems to hide out in a cave (no idea why he would do this), and he has all this equipment set up at the mouth of the cave (for anyone to see and attack), most of which simply looks like standard radio gear...and a bubble machine?

Its very clear this had a small small budget, and its also clear the young director loved the genre but had no real clue about creating a solid original story. There are only three things that make this movie worth while, firstly the alien Ro-Man who is actually quite intimidating and his name is cool. Secondly the end twist, which is actually on one hand a complete cop out, but at the same time, a further neat and fresh little turn of events which was predictable but sweet. Thirdly, the movie does actually have a decent atmosphere about it, there is a nice sense of pending doom and eventual submission, that the humans simply can't win. Everything else is a total muddle truth be told, a blur of ideas that aren't fully expanded upon from lack of money and writing. That's not to say this film is bad, its certainly in the 'so bad its good' camp for sure.