Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Robot Monster (1953)

At this point, I have a hard time distinguishing the bad pictures from the good ones. To me the worst possible thing a movie can be is boring. I'm not a fan of the phrase "so bad, it's good". If a movie is bad then it's bad. If it's good, it's good. I like to keep it simple. Plan 9 From Outer Space is great. I enjoyed every second of that thing. Well, I'm here to tell you that Robot Monster is even better. Somehow the director, Phil Tucker, has made a picture that features scene after scene of an alien Robot, with the body of an ape and the head of a deep sea diver, lumbering across a desert canyon highly entertaining. It probably doesn't hurt that this thing clocks in at a brisk 62 minutes either.

What we got here is the story of Ro-Man (the ape/diver/alien/robot) who has come to earth on a mission to cure it of the virus known as man (also women and children). Why? Because if they don't kill us then we'll kill them. He's got a point. So, Ro-Man arrives and destroys most of humanity with a calcinator ray. This ray is so powerful that it also manages to bring back stock footage of fake dinosaurs that proceed to destroy one another for no reason other than it looks pretty "cool". Unfortunately, for Ro-Man, the ray fails to kill a scientist and his family; which includes a couple of children (Johnny and Sally or some shit), a pretty hot broad considering the alternatives (I think her name was Alice), etc. There's also an assistant to the old scientist (who has the hots for Alice). Also, the scientist's wife. Why are they alive? The scientist has developed some sort of serum or whatever that defrays the effects of the calcinator ray. Why doesn't the Ro-Man just kill them with his bare hands? Apparently, the scientist has found a way to cloak their home from his scanners. Their home consists of a rock wall which is apparently within short walking distance from Ro-Man's cave. This is the set up.

What follows is a series of video conferences set up between Ro-Man and his otherworldly supervisor, who happens to look and talk just like Ro-Man, and also between Ro-Man and the last surviving family on earth. During one such conference, Johnny sticks his tongue out at Ro-Man to which Ro-Man replies "that child is impertinent!" Ro-Man proposes a truce: He offers the humans a "painless surrender death" as opposed to "the horrible resistance death". Ro-Man falls in love with Alice and can't bring himself to kill her. He has no such problem in dealing with the little girl. The child's murder does result in one of the picture's most touching scenes when the scientist, in a heartrending eulogy, offers these words of comfort to his remaining brethren: "Well, we enjoyed Sally while she was alive...", rubbing hands together...."we'll just have to think of something else to enjoy now". Maybe I'm paraphrasing.

Anyway, Robot Monster is a classic alright. We got sub par acting, horrid special effects, some incredibly hamfisted acting, inept plotting, etc. And yet, all this shit comes together to create something breathtaking. I hope they rerelease this thing in 3D someday. Oh yeah, almost forgot about the score created by oscar winning composer Elmer Bernstein (Thoroughly Modern Millie). Um, it's not bad. Perhaps I wouldn't be as enthusiastic about Robot Monster if it had been longer. 62 minutes is the perfect length. It's 17 minutes shorter than Plan 9 From Outer Space. Shorter, in this case, equals better. Check it out.


elmo said...

Sally can be enjoyed dead, too.

brian said...

Nice, didn't think of that. I guess when there are only 5 people left in the world sometimes you have to think outside the box.