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Robot Monster (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1953 / Director: Phil Tucker / Actors: George Nader, Claudia Barrett, Selena Royle, John Mylong, Gregory Moffett ... / DVD released 2000-10-10 at Image Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Black & White, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC

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    4 Reviews
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      11.07.2009 10:50
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      Fun contender for the worst film ever made

      Starring:
      George Nader as Roy
      John Mylong as The Professor
      Gregory Moffett as Johnny
      George Barrows as Ro-Man the Monster
      John Brown as Great Guidance

      No collection of so-bad-it's-good film reviews is complete without this one. This piece of magnificence won the honour of a Golden Turkey Award for being one of the very worst films ever made.

      Robot Monster is an early Science Fiction film from 1953. It's impossible to imagine now, but it scared the beejeezis out of me when I saw it on TV when I was very little - I found 'Ro-Man' and his chum 'Great Guidance', Ro-Man's leader from back on his home planet whom he talked to via 2-way video, absolutely terrifying. When this film was originally released in cinemas, it was shown in 3D - it's probably just as well that it was before my time, as seeing it in 3D may well have been too much for me.

      The film begins with little Johnny and his family enjoying a picnic in a scenic mountainside area. We see Johnny dressed in a kid's space suit, shooting his little sister with a toy laser gun and blowing soap bubbles at her with one of those bubble-blowing wand thingies (the latter being a bit of foreboding of things to come, you'll see). Johnny and sis go wandering and encounter The Professor and Roy, who are archaeologists taking rock samples from the entrance to a nearby cave. Johnny's family catch up with the two youngsters and have them come back to the campsite for an after-lunch nap.

      But, Johnny wakes from his nap to what seems to be a series of electrical explosions in the sky, and takes refuge at the entrance to the cave. We are then for some reason, treated to gratuitous spliced-in old film clips of various lizards, dinosaurs and an alligator with a big fin stuck to its back, wrestling each other - I really have no idea what this has to do with ANYthing in the film. Johnny finds that the entrance to the cave has been furnished with a big video screen and a strange machine that produces copious amounts of large soap bubbles. He runs and hides in a nearby crevice, and then to the accompaniment of some dramatic and scary music, a large figure emerges from the cave. It's...some great big geezer in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on his head. Er.

      This strange individual lumbers over to the video screen, which begins transmitting a video phone call from some other furry guy who is also wearing a diving helmet. 'Extension Ro-Man XJ2 reporting to Guidance Ro-Man, I salute you,' our gorilla-suit-wearing guy says into the screen. Ro-Man and Great Guidance have a lengthy chat about Ro-Man's having apparently just destroyed all life on Earth with his bubble machine (which they refer to as The Energiser). Great Guidance informs Ro-Man that he did not in fact get them all and that there are precisely eight people left alive. 'Find and destroy them!' Great Guidance declares and signs off. Ro-Man goes and attends to his bubble machine for a moment, and then disappears back into the cave.

      Johnny rushes back to his family to tell them of what he saw. It turns out they are already aware of Ro-Man's having destroyed all other life on Earth, and together with The Professor and Roy they are hiding out in a small barbed-wire-fringed compound. They are frightened of Ro-Man discovering their location now that he knows of their existence as the last eight humans left alive. And indeed, a transmission from Ro-Man appears on their own video screen that they have now somehow acquired: 'Hu-Mans, listen to me. Due to an error in our calculations, there are still a few of you left. Show yourselves, and I promise you a painless death.'

      Right...like they're going to want to show themselves after being told that. So, can the few remaining Hu-Mans escape the murderous intent of Ro-Man?

      I really really love this film and have given it 5 stars just for sheer excellence in its so-bad-it's-good-ness and ultra-super-cheesiness. The unique concept of thinking that putting a guy in a gorilla suit and diving helmet would make a convincing and frightening space alien, is as puzzlingly hilarious as thinking a bubble machine would look like a device capable of killing all life on Earth.

      The acting is also a source of unintentional hilarity but in a good and entertaining way. George Barrows, the Ro-Man, has a good deep, booming 'I am an ac-TOR' type of voice that sounds suitably menacing for his role as our big furry villainous alien. He would have done well in Pantomime. Everyone else is just really lame and gormless in an endearingly naïve sort of way.

      But surprisingly, there are some elements of the film that are actually a bit compelling - without giving too much away, Ro-Man at a later stage begins to experience some compassion for these puny 'Hu-Mans', a feeling that he and his alien race have not experienced before, and he then finds he has another battle to fight, this time with his own new unfamiliar emotions.

      It also has a pretty good quality musical score, which adds a degree of drama and spookiness. But it goes without saying that the cinematography and special effects are not only laughable by today's standards, they're laughable by 1953 standards, and maybe even by 1923 standards.

      This is another of those daft 50s Sci-Fi bad-good films that I can watch time and again. As well as its Golden Turkey Award, this film has also been given the honour of being placed on the 100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made list of the Golden Raspberry Awards. So you can actually say that it's an award-winning movie.

      Recommended as a great 'bad-movie-party' item and/or for fun viewing on a rainy afternoon with a big bowl of popcorn. Available on some of the public domain movie websites, though I am not sure whether this is really in public domain. As usual, best seen as a DVD for the best print clarity, available from Amazon cheaply as of the date of this review. My print is from an old VHS tape but the quality is quite acceptable.

      It's also available as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Episode 107, but it's already so funny on its own that you hardly even notice the presence of the MST3K guys.

      Also on Ciao as thereddragon.

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        10.04.2009 20:38
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        So Bad , It's Good

        Robot Monster
        ========
        Well you have heard of a 'B' movie wel now you can watch a 'z' movie.
        Pretty much the oddest and weirdst and most awful film I have ever watched, fantastic!

        Shot on a shoe string, half a shoe string would be more accurate and along the lines of 'Plan 9 from outer space' it is truly awful and brilliant at the same time.

        Humanity has been at war with a superior and unseen alien enemy. We have been all but wiped out, except for a small pocket of survivours.
        The aliens send down their killer robot monster to finish us off but with unforseeable consequences.

        Enter the stereo typical clan of humans, the obligatory newspaper hack, the clever brain box and of course the scantily clad beauty.
        The robot falls inlove with the semi naked woman and soon is taught all about humanity and decides to fight for us!

        It has an impressive arsenal, HA!, no, lets be fair the special effects budget was so low that the weapons could have been made from some loo roles and sticky back plastic.

        The robot monster looks like a cross between a gorilla and a deep sea diver, wonderful. And grunts and squeeks something awful.

        The ending is predictable and sad for a particular member of the cast. The actors walk around looking bemused for the best part of the film and the lines they deliver are done so with incredible straight faces. The background and general location is more sticky back plastic scenery. Whilst the 'special effects' (a term used very loosely) are jaw droppingly terrible.

        All in all, a great film.

        DVD Info: No extras to spek of just chapters selections.
        Format: Black & White
        Language English
        Region: All Regions
        Number of discs: 1
        Classification: Unrated
        Run Time: 66 minutes
        ASIN: B00004Y7GR
        Current Amazon Pric: £1.99

        Greg

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        • More +
          01.02.2009 04:26

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          Truly bad 'b' movie

          Robot Monster.
          =============

          I recently watched Plan 9 from outer space and called it the worst movie ever, I now stand corrected this is a shockingly awful film. The most unbelievably bad film in existence.
          The robot monster looks like a gorilla in a deep sea diving helmet and it has been sent to clear a way for the Earth invasion by its masters. Then the robot deep sea diving gorilla falls for the leading lady and becomes confused! He decides that humans are not all that bad and starts to fight for us with his 'weapons' and his masters are hoisted on their own petard.
          And that is the good side of the plot!
          We are treated to such blunders as hands in shot, very poor space ship models and the worst acting I have ever witnessed.

          Watch this film if you really want a laugh out loud time. It will leave you shaken but not stirred.
          Not sure whether to recommend this film or not?

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          25.06.2008 08:51
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          A famously bad 50s sci fi film.

          A review of just the film. This is probably in the public domain, and cheap DVDs are readily available.

          Made in 1953, Robot Monster is one of those iconic bad movies, like Plan 9 From Outer Space. A very cheap American science fiction film, it sets its sights high but hasn't the budget or directorial competence to amount to much. It is, however, loveable in a way that only bad films can be. While not as consistently hilarious as Ed Wood's movies, it should cheer most people up a bit.

          It's certainly ambitious, dealing with the destruction of all life on earth by aliens. It lets itself down by revealing that it's all a dream right at the start of the film, though. That might *just about* be acceptable as a twist ending; here we know right from the get-go that we're just watching an excitable, space-obsessed boy's dream, so it's even harder to care than it would be otherwise.

          Anyway, in the dream a family of six (scientist dad, frumpy mom, hot daughter and her hunky beau, two brats) are the only human survivors of an attack on Earth by Ro-Man. Ro-Man, ordered to wipe out all human life, is trying to hunt them down, while they struggle for survival. But - what's this? Is Ro-Man starting to have impure thoughts about the human daughter? Thoughts that might make him question his programming? Well, I mustn't give too much away...

          There are many, many problems here. The most serious is Ro-Man. It's a guy in a gorilla costume with a deep-sea diver's helmet and TV aerial stuck on his head. To describe him as 'pathetic' just doesn't seem adequate. A hulking brute, we see him lumbering interminably around the cave entrance he lives in. (Oddly, though, he's surprisingly dainty when required to wander around the Californian quarry this was filmed in; there's something deliciously wrong with the sight of a large man in a gorilla suit tiptoeing gingerly up a hill.) His over-emphatic hand gestures rarely synch with what he's saying. His communicator device blows bubbles, and his home planet is imaginatively also called Ro-Man. Sadly we don't get to see it.

          What we do get to see is some footage of dinosaurs fighting that's obviously been taken from another film. It's not even remotely relevant, but, apropos of nothing, we get at least five minutes of badly realised dinosaur fights (given that the film is only an hour long anyway it seems downright perverse to pad it in this way). We also see ruined cities, atomic explosions and footage of a V-2 rocket, all from other films. This is probably the cheapest end-of-the-world movie ever made.

          Ro-Man lives in his cave about a minute's walk away from where the humans live, but he's never found them, the big idiot. The young lovers show the rudiments of acting ability (they have a very odd scene where they express their love for one another in mime) but the rest of the family are bog-standard wooden - with one exception. The father, a heavy-accented European, gives a Bela Lugosi-esque performance in which he mispronounces one word in every five. His dialogue is a steady stream of misplaced emphases; great if you like that kind of thing. "We humans will never give *up* dis *eart* of ourss."

          The dialogue throughout is simply awful, with the clunkiest exposition imaginable, and the lamest attempts at humour. (I was puzzled by the pretty daughter being told by her boyfriend that she was so bossy she "ought to be milked at night", a strange and faintly obscene image forming in my head). Ro-Man's dialogue does achieve a kind of bizarro poetry, though. Attempts to make him seem alien are clumsy ("By your clock-time, in one hour I seek you out.") His supposedly threatening dialogue is lame (Boy: "I think you're just a big bully picking on people smaller than yourself." Ro-Man: "Now I will kill you." Touché, Ro-Man). But the moral dilemmas when his feelings for the girl make him question his orders are wonderful. "Yes! To be like the hu-man! To laugh! Feel! Want! Why are these things not in the plan?" Go with it, fella - we've all been there.

          There's no sense of scale, no sense that we're even remotely witnessing the destruction of human civilisation - it simply can't be the kind of film it wants to be. We're offered seemingly endless shots of Ro-Man pottering around in his cave without any snappy editing to create the illusion of tension. The first half of the film consists of people standing around talking, but luckily one of them is wearing a diving helmet and a gorilla suit and keeps banging on about his calcinator death ray, so at least it keeps the viewer's interest.

          The one thing that is good is the music, which was composed by the great Elmer Bernstein (who at the time was accused of communist leanings and finding it hard to get work). It's an excitable, rather OTT soundtrack, as if Bernstein, seeing what he had to work with, realised that the only way he was walking away with reputation intact was to produce music that was very slightly too enthusiastic. This adds a bit of intentional camp to what is already, to modern eyes, a ridiculously camp film.

          It was originally made in 3-D, but the only copies I've seen have been black and white. It's bad - so, so bad - but in a wonderful, life-affirming way. It's great that films like this were made, and lovely that they still exist. For all its ineptness, I'd still rather watch it than, say, Independence Day.

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