ROBOT MONSTER

(1953)
With George Barrows (as Ro-Man and Great Guidance), George Nader, Claudia Barrett, Gregory Moffett, John Mylong, Selena Royale
Directed by Phil Tucker
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

     He must, but he cannot!  How do you calculate that?

     The trailer for ROBOT MONSTER describes it as "Overwhelming!  Electrifying!  Baffling!".  Well, one out of three isn't bad.

     The basic story - an alien race's plan to take over the Earth goes awry when their lead warrior falls in love with an Earth girl.  Happens ever day, especially in sci-fi movies of the fifties, but rarely this ridiculously.  ROBOT MONSTER lacks the ambition to be as bad as Ed Wood's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, so it is not the worst movie ever made, but in its own way, it is sillier.

"Oh, Al-LYSS, what fine nipples you have!"    How can it possibly be sillier than PLAN 9?  One word: Ro-Man. This supposedly frightening alien from another planet is actually just a guy in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on his head.  Although in his quest for conquest he has purposely left many buildings standing, he still lives in a cave. This despite having multiple pieces of electrical equipment including one device that looks like a tape recorder that inexplicably blows bubbles.  Every five minutes he is on the interplanetary video phone (aka the "view screen") to ask the Head Ro-Man "Great Guidance" for further instructions on how to kill the last eight people (aka "Hu-mans") who have somehow eluded him by hiding out in the open a hundred feet away from the cave.  Great Guidance, who looks exactly like Ro-Man (gorilla suit, diving helmet), shows little patience for his dopey underling and his replies inevitably boil down to "Just do it and stop pestering me, bonehead!".  But Ro-Man never does get around to killing all those pesky Hu-Mans, though, at one point he has the chance to kill an annoying little boy.  Unfortunately, that would require physical exertion, so instead, Ro-Man just shakes his fist at the kid the way an old man does when he gets egged on Halloween.

     When not not chasing down victims, Ro-Man endlessly fiddles around with his electrical stuff - an obsessive compulsive trait of this particular half-simian, half-deep sea diver race, as we see Great Guidance doing plenty of fiddling of his own.  In fact, Great Guidance even has something (a fluorescent bulb?) that looks like a violin bow to do his fiddling, which is either one of cinema's subtlest visual puns or just another dumbfounding detail that is never explained in this movie. 

     Then there is the fixation Ro-Man has on an attractive Hu-Man Wo-Man named Alice.  Whilst viewing the only family left on Earth, he spots Alice, who obviously buys her dresses at Nipples 'R' Us.  You can practically hear the "schwiiingg!" on the soundtrack as Ro-Man starts babbling about how he wants to meet her alone to discuss things (and possibly show off his cave etchings).  He gets off on the wrong foot right away, as he keeps calling her "ah-LYSS" (accent grah-ve on the "lyss") because, you know, "Alice" is such a difficult name.  This doesn't seem to bother the girl, who knows exactly what Ro-Man has on his mind, and is obviously willing to show him a good time.  Sick and wrong, Ah-LYSS, sick and wrong!  There's got to be a better way to save your family then sexually pleasuring a masked gorilla, like moving far enough way where the lumbering old fatty will never have the energy to chase you.  I'd say another fifty to a hundred feet would do the trick.

     Anyway, the courtship of Ro-Man and Alice leads to some good old-fashioned interspecies bondage fun.  You don't really know how disturbing movies can get until you have seen one featuring a gorilla in a diving helmet ripping at a woman's dress, trying to get a gander at her Wo-Manly goods.  Whilst preparing to have his way with her, he is interrupted by a call from Alice's family, who are now willing to surrender and die, thus allowing Ro-Man to achieve his goal.  But the poor stupe is so blood-engorged with hot monkey lust, he turns them down with a curt "Call me again at another time!".  As he once again prepares to "romance" Alice, Great Guidance calls in!  Any minute, you expect Mr. Furley from THREE'S COMPANY to walk in the door, only there's no door,  just a cave.  With all the wonderful devices these Ro-Men have come up with, you think they could also have invented an answering machine, presumably one that also blew bubbles. "Hi - this is Ro-man... I'm not in my cave right now.  If you are calling for an explanation of the Bubble Machine, calculate 1.  To ask 'why a diving helmet?', calculate 2...".

      Anyhoo, any time Ro-Man finishes playing with the bubble machine and getting chewed out by Great Guidance for failing to achieve anything remotely close to his rather simple objective (kill a handful of helpless people a hundred feet away), he shows he is a ro-Man of action by wandering way back into his cave and out of our sight for reasons that are thankfully left unexplained.  Great GuidanceJust as inevitably, he comes out again a few minutes later (again, I don't want to think about it) and gets on the blower again to pester the Hu-Mans into surrendering or just test Great Guidance's patience once more by boasting of his incredible feats, such as strangling a helpless little girl he ran into completely by happenstance.  Eventually, Great Guidance realizes he has hired the biggest schmendrick in space to do his bidding and decides to forgo the whole "taking over the world" plan and just blow the Earth out of existence, starting with starting with Ro-Man himself.  This Great Guidance does via a death ray that shoots from his fingers millions of miles away from the planet Ro-Man (these guys get stuck on one word and run it into the ground).  For good measure, Double-G throws in stock footage from old dinosaur movies.  Ro-Man, who, along with Great Guidance, has been the whole movie, doesn't even get a big death scene.  He just flops over on his back like a water bug and dies, possibly from the death ray, but more likely from heat exhaustion and lack of oxygen.  Oh, the Ro-Manity! Then there is a twist ending, followed by another twist ending, repeated three times for effect.  And, finally ROBOT MONSTER is over, except for the fifteen minutes of stunned silence from the viewer. 

     This movie got such a bad reception in its time that it drove its director, Phil Tucker, to attempted suicide.  Unlike his movie, he got better.  The great Elmer Bernstein composed the music, proving one thing - we all have to start someplace.  One final note on ROBOT MONSTER, my favorite bad sci-fi flick of all time:  it was originally shown in 3D.  Ooh, all those bubbles coming rrright at you...Verry scary, kids! - JB

Science Fiction     The Secret Vortex


IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES

"Do you question The Plan?"
"No, Great One.  I only postulate."