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5 Stars just for its 'So-Bad-It's-Good'-nes s (Film only)
Robot Monster (DVD)
Member Name: thereddragon
Robot Monster (DVD)
Date: 11/07/09, updated on 11/07/09 (73 review reads)
Advantages: Plot, costumes, 'space-age' devices and acting are all wonderfully ridiculous
Disadvantages: None if you like a prime example of so-bad-it's-good moviemaking at its best
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 na´ve 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.
Summary: Fun contender for the worst film ever made