Another nostalgia filled trip back to the days of your Favorite Catgirl’s misspent youth and the Saturday morning movies that warped my lil’ mind, gives us a look this time out at 1953’s utterly “craptastic” “Robot Monster”.
Even if you haven’t seen this one you probably know it…. it’s that one with an alien gorilla/ robot wearing a space helmet with TV rabbit ears on top. Yep… that silly alien!!
Our synopsis? Well this one goes sorta like this: “While on an afternoon picnic excursion with his mother and two sisters, a young boy named Johnny meets a pair of archeologists who are recording the primitive paintings a nearby cave.
After having a rather nasty fall, he is knocked unconscious and has a weird dream in which the Earth has been totally conquered and most of humanity killed by a freaky alien “gorilla-bot” called the Ro-Man, using the deadly “calcinator death ray”. Apparently he and his family and the two scientists are the only survivors thanks to a secret inoculation serum. They try to survive and avoid capture and horrible death at the hands of Ro-Man, who, despite his alien origins, falls for Johnny’s sexy scientist sister Alice. Will humanity somehow defeat the unfathomably unstoppable Ro-man in his clumsy monkey suit and space helmet, or are we all…. doomed?”
Hehehe!! This one completely redefines the idea of low budget film making and the very idea that the ludicrous alien Ro-man is still so well known while many other characters, better imagined and better realized, have faded from memory, speaks volumes about it’s charm. Little Miyuki was never fooled by Ro-man…. but boy, did she ever eat this one up as a wee impressionable girl. Certainly it’s a guilty pleasure for many of you gentle visitors as well…. so let’s all get nostalgic together and take another look at this unabashedly “craptacular” 50’s classic!!
If there was ever a film that said “To hell with making sense… I just wanna tell a story!”, then this one is it. Haven’t got money for a budget? No problem…. Haven’t even got money for a good alien costume? Heck, we got us a gorilla suit, and a space helmet…. what the hell more do we need? Locations? Hell…. Bronson Canyon is free, let’s go for it! What do you mean you want the alien to use giant dinosaurs to destroy Earth? That’s what stock footage is for….. silly. Stop your complaining…. we’ve got Elmer Bernstein doing the music, and he’s good, right? And hey!! We’re gonna shoot our effects budget to heck and do this puppy right… in 3-D!!
Producer Phil Tucker’s “Robot Monster” is notorious for it’s unbelievable levels of utter cinematic garbage all somehow crammed into one 62 minute film. This lil’ Catgirl would argue that it even surpasses Ed Wood’s infamous “Plan Nine From Outer Space” to wrestle away the title of “Worst Scifi Movie Ever”. After all, what other film is reputedly credited with sending it’s producer away for “hospital confinement’? Answer me that….
There is a plot to this one of course…. and unlike many other reviewers, I can’t say it’s incomprehensible…. just really, really stupid. In fact, the narrative is actually very easy to follow… it just doesn’t make all that much sense most of the time. But, then you have to realize the premise is that this is all just the hallucinatory dream of a young boy who just smacked himself in the head… really hard. Once you realize that… it’s all smooth sailing.
Anyway…. in his dream, Johnny’s Mom is somehow married to super smart scientist guy from the cave, while his older sister is sort of sweet on his hunky assistant… when they’re not fighting over who’s smarter or in charge. Ah… young love! About the only character pretty much the same is his dull as dishwater younger sister Carla…. who just wants to play house with Johnny, hallucination or not. So… how did they survive Ro-man’s one man, errr…. monkey?… errrr….. robot?… attack on the planet Earth? I mean he’s got a Death Ray!! Not just any ol’ Death Ray… but a “Calcinator” Death Ray….. (Whatever the heck that means… Maybe it turns folk to stone, but as we don’t see a whole lot of statues everywhere I sorts doubt it..) Ooooohhh!!! Isn’t that just the height of silly 50’s super-science mumbo jumbo?
All of Earth’s combined military might was powerless to stop one overweight robot gorilla, but luckily our super smart scientist figured out how to shield his bombed out basement by stringing a couple of sparking electrified wires around the walls…. probably explaining why this typical American family of the 1950’s didn’t seem to have a dog. Poor little guy probably went up like a french fry the first week…!
Not that Ro-man’s secret lair… conveniently located in the same cave from earlier… is any better equipped by his robo-monkey leader the “Great Guidance”. He does possess the sweetest soap bubble machine this side of a Lawrence Welk TV episode, all the left over army surplus radio gear a monkey could want, and a sweet wooden table to put it all on. Ohhhhh!!… and his cave even gets decent TV reception, a shame he seems to have destroyed all the TV stations on Earth though, all he gets is his lame boss on the line so he can get really bitched at for failing to kill all the humans on Earth, or our little rag tag group of survivors so he can threaten them with horrible, terrible death (if he can ever find them… d’ohh!!). Hmmmm? Wait a darn second here…. I guess it still does suck being a one robo-monkey invasion force.
Worse… despite being all robotic, advanced, and supposedly emotionless, he falls big time for Alice, Johnny’s sexy older sister. This leads to his downfall of course in the end, but not before we get the good ol’ “gorilla abduction” bit naturally.
To top everything off, Great Guidance just blasts everybody to bits for annoying him at the film’s climax…. That should do the trick, but why pass up the chance to unleash dinosaurs to eat up everything still living on the planet? Sounds like a plan. (To be certain, a pretty goofy plan, but a plan nonetheless…) Luckily… this is all just a dream.
As we wrap this up… Johnny wakes up with a bandaged noggin, a little sore but no worse for wear. Everybody goes back to the picnic to get cozy and all is well. But…. waaaay deep in the cave, shrouded by flashes of electricity, Ro-man lurches forward… squeezing the last bit of 3-D goodness out of this one and leaving us mercifully happy that it’s finally over.
You might get the feeling that your Favorite Catgirl didn’t like this one…. Nothing could be farther from the truth. “Robot Monster”, for all it’s flaws is a charming lil’ film that captivated and amused me in my days as lil’ Miyuki, Magical Kitten Princess. My older self can more readily see the gaping flaws in filmaking that are so obvious that they can’t be missed. However, if there’s a child in your life that needs entertaining, they would probably love this one to pieces, flaws and all. It’ll be a memory that will stick with them till they grow up and have kids of their own. Ahhh…. and if some day, a loved one buys them the DVD as a gift, it”ll bring back those treasured youthful days for a nostalgic visit once more. Always a welcome thing.
Given this, Neko can give “Robot Monster” a reasonable 3 “Meows” out of 5, saving it from the ignominious taint of a lower rating due mostly to the charm and downright silly feelings it still awakens in me (and the loving gesture my sweetie Carolyn made in buying it especially for lil’ ol’ me….). It’s not a good film, but it’s a fun one and somehow it survives even as more worthy films are lost forever…. and that’s got to be worth something, right?
Trailer? Boy oh, boy is there a Trailer…. hold on to your hats, ’cause here comes “Robot Monster”!! Be afraid…. be very afraid!!