Sunday, July 18, 2010

“Yes! To be like the hu-man! To laugh! Feel! Want! Why are these things not in the plan?”

Hooboy. There’s bad movies, and then there’s epically bad, head scratching, WTF inducing piles of offal that make you wonder how they ever got released. Years ago, I saw a pseudo-documentary compiling clips from old, bad movies called It Came From Hollywood, and the few seconds of screen time from our next feature were lodged in my brain. Thanks, brain. For that I’m going to increase my alcohol consumption to punish you. It’s time to take a look at one of the most infamously bad movies of all time, 1953’s Robot Monster IN 3-D!! Well, in 2-D at least.

So we’ve got a kid who’s big into science fiction playing around in a “space helmet” with his sister and they run into some archeologists looking around in a cave, then their mother and older sister find them and have a picnic. Riveting. Then the kid wanders off back to the cave and the lightweight falls down when there’s a flash of lightning (or something), then we cut to incredibly random shots of reptiles from other movies, both real and stop motion, fighting with each other. Then the kid wakes up and is almost spotted by the monster of the film, who emerges from the cave (which is his base apparently, since there’s a bubble making machine at the entrance) and has a conversation with his overlord, where the audience finds out that all but eight human beings have been wiped out by the Robot Monster (DUN DUN DUN). The kid runs back to his family, who are holed up in a ruined building and we learn that his older sister, his dad and his dad’s assistant are scientists trying to find a way to beat the monster. Oh, and since the dad & assistant were the archeologists from the beginning, it’s not really a spoiler to say that this entire movie is a dream sequence when the movie lays it out for you.

Johnny: Gregory Moffett plays our young kid hero. In the beginning section, he’s just a sci-fi obsessed kid, but in the dream he’s a really dumb protagonist who keeps wandering off into danger and at one point, decides to confront the monster and ends up spilling all of the beans about how his family survived the death ray that killed 99% of the population. Way to hand the bad guy the nails for the coffin, kid.

The Professor: John Mylong is an archeologist in the framing sequence and the kid’s father in the dream, where he developed a serum that would’ve granted humanity immunity to pretty much all diseases but only had time to test it on 8 people. Hmmm… 8 test cases, 8 survivors… Also, he’s got a German accent for no story reason whatsoever (other than perhaps the actor himself being Austrian).

Mother: Selena Royle (misspelled Royale in the credits), is Johnny’s mother and…that’s about it.

Carla: Pamela Paulson plays Johnny’s annoying little sister. The best thing I can say about the character is that she gets strangled by the villain late in the picture.

Alice: Claudia Barrett plays the attractive older sister who’s also a scientist. She ends up being really important since she catches the villain’s eye, if you know what I mean (only if you’re also picturing a guy in a gorilla costume carrying her around the hills which YOU SHOULD).

Roy: George Nader plays the young male scientist assistant who, in the dream sequence, is Alice’s boyfriend/fiancée/only viable mate.

Ro-Man: Played by George Barrows and voiced by John Brown, this, I’m afraid, is our badass. A man in a gorilla costume with a plastic diving helmet & antennae. With the help of a bubble machine and some stock footage, this is the creature that wiped out humanity. And he gets to work on finishing the job until he discovers Alice, and his Ro-Man heart starts to question his mission to wipe out all the hu-mans. He takes orders from the Great Guidance, which is the same costume (and voice) with a slight variation.

Man, low budget doesn’t even begin to describe this movie. Supposedly shot in a matter of days, they didn’t even have the money to afford a full space monster costume, so director Phil Tucker got his friend George Barrows to wear his gorilla costume with a different headpiece. Then there’s the sequences of dinosaurs and lizards fighting, which is just old footage from One Million B.C. and Flight To Mars and makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE IN THE CONTEXT OF THE FILM. NONE!!!

Although apparently the 3-D effects were quite decent back in the day, so, uh, hooray?

Let's see Ro-Man again...

The screenplay by Wyott Ordung is pretty bad, but I can see what they were going for; a post apocalyptic tale of humanity’s struggle to survive against a race that unreasonably hates it (there’s probably a Cold War metaphor in there somewhere), and I have to give that plot some credit for guts. After all, it kills off a defenseless (and really stupid) girl and then kills the young hero type guy with the strong implication that the Ro-Man finally does wipe out humanity. But of course the framing device lets us know that it’s only a dream right from the start, so they kind of backpedal on that apocalypse pretty quick.

Or do they???

Well, yeah, they do. It’s the kind of story that would make sense as a short story, but not as a 66 minute piece of schlock.

Oh man, Elmer Bernstein, what were you doing slumming it here? Oh well, at least the music for this pile was good.

Well, it’s short, I’ll give it that, but honestly, Robot Monster is easily one of the worst movie’s I’ve ever seen. This is definitely Z grade cinema, right here. It just stumbles right into "so bad it's good" territory. This is one of the big ones, right up there with Ed Wood's stuff & Manos the Hands of Fate.

Boy, that trailer text sure does sell you a bill of fare.

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