Robot Monster

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For the album by Don Ross, see Robot Monster (album).
Not to be confused with Robot and Monster.
Robot Monster
Robotmonster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Phil Tucker
Produced by Phil Tucker
Al Zimbalist
Written by Wyott Ordung
Starring George Nader
Claudia Barrett
George Barrows
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Jack Greenhalgh
Edited by Bruce Schoengarth
Merrill White
Distributed by Astor Pictures
Release dates 24 June 1953[1]
Running time 62 min.
Country US
Language English
Budget $16,000 (estimated)
Box office $1,000,000

Robot Monster is a 1953 independently made American black-and-white 3-D science fiction film, both produced and directed by Phil Tucker, written by Wyott Ordung, and starring George Nader, Claudia Barrett, and George Barrows. The film was then distributed by Astor Pictures.

Robot Monster tells the story of alien robot Ro-Man's mission to destroy all the humans on Earth. It manages to kill all but eight survivors, who have become immune to his death ray. But Ro-Man runs afoul of his leader, The Great Guidance, after he becomes attracted to Carla, the surviving scientist's eldest daughter, and refuses to harm her. The Great Guidance kills Ro-Man and must teleport to Earth to finish what has been started.

Plot[edit]

Evil alien Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 (George Barrows), referred to as just "Ro-Man," has seemingly destroyed all human life on Earth with a "Calcinator Death Ray," all except for eight humans still alive. The survivors are an older scientist, his wife, two daughters, his young son, his assistant, and two pilots that shortly take off in a spaceship for an orbiting space platform. All eight have now developed an immunity to the Calcinator death ray, having received an experimental antibiotic serum developed by the scientist.

Ro-Man must complete the destruction of all humans, even if it means his physically killing them one-by-one, before his mission to subjugate the Earth is complete. After fruitless negotiations, Ro-Man, with a laser in hand, destroys the spaceship headed for the orbiting platform, killing the two pilots aboard. He later strangles the youngest daughter, Carla (Pamela Paulson), off-screen and tosses the assistant scientist, Roy (George Nader), to his death over a cliff.

Ro-Man's mission is waylaid, though, when he develops an illogical attraction to Alice (Claudia Barrett), the scientist's eldest daughter. He refuses to eliminate her, forcing the alien leader, "The Great Guidance," to teleport to Earth after killing the disobedient Ro-Man, who then attempts to finish the genocide by releasing prehistoric dinosaurs and a massive earthquake on the remaining survivors. This kills Johnny (Gregory Moffett), the scientist's young son, but leaves the scientist, his wife, and daughter Alice still alive...

But Johnny is alive, having just awoken from a concussion-induced fever dream. Up to now, all that's happened has just been his nightmare. Ro-Man, his hands and arms raised in a threatening manner, rushes out of his cave directly toward the audience; this action is repeated three times in a row, back-to back for dramatic effect. It turns out that Johnny's fever dream was just foreshadowing of real events now happening!

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Twenty-five-year-old writer/director Phil Tucker made Robot Monster in four days for an estimated $16,000. Except for a few scenes at a house, most footage was filmed outdoors in Bronson Canyon, the site of innumerable motion pictures and TV settings,[2] and a building site near Dodger Stadium.[3]

Night club comic Slick Slavin reportedly filmed an opening prologue for the movie.[4]

Robot Monster '​s very low budget did not allow for a robot costume as first intended, so Tucker hired his friend George Barrows, who had made his own gorilla suit, to play Ro-Man; Tucker then added the space helmet.[5]

The film is similar in its plot to Invaders from Mars, released a month earlier by 20th Century Fox. Both films contain a young boy stumbling upon an alien invasion who is captured as he struggles to save his family and himself. As the alien commences the final destruction of Earth, the boy awakens to find it was all a dream. Claudia Barrett recalled in an interview that the film's original screenplay was designed as reality, but director Tucker changed his mind and then shot a new twist ending that shows the film's story has been a boy's dream that is about to come true.[6]

In Robot Monster '​s opening credits "N. A. Fischer Chemical Products" is given prominent credit for the "Billion Bubble Machine," used as part of Ro-Man's communication device for reporting to his superior, the Great Guidance.[7]

3-D[edit]

Robot Monster was shot and projected in dual-strip, polarized 3-D. The stereoscopic photography in the film is considered by many critics to be of a high quality, especially by a crew who had no experience with the newly developed camera rig.[8]

Producer Al Zimbalist later told the New York Times that shooting the film in 3D (which involved using another camera( added an extra $4,510.54 to the budget. [9]

Special effects[edit]

Robot Monster '​s special effects include stock footage used from 1940's One Million B.C., 1951's Lost Continent, and Flight to Mars[10] Also spliced into the film is view screen footage with a brief appearance of the Rocketship X-M (1950) spaceship boarding; a matte painting of the ruins of New York City was also included from Captive Women (1952).[5]

Film score[edit]

The film's music score was composed by Elmer Bernstein, who also composed Cat Women of the Moon the same year, and, much more prestigiously The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments and Michael Jackson's Thriller.[11]

Bernstein recalled he was stuck in a period where he was "greylisted" because of his left wing politics and only offered minor films,[12] but said he enjoyed the challenge of trying to help a film.[13] Wyatt Ordung stated that Bernstein scored the film with an eight-piece orchestra, and Capitol Records expressed interest in producing an album.[14]

Reception[edit]

Robot Monster was originally released with the 3 Dimensional Pictures short Stardust in Your Eyes, starring nightclub comedian Trustin Howard as Slick Slaven.[8]

In December 1953 it was reported that "theatre men" considered the film "one of the top turkeys of the year".[15]

Robot Monster is frequently considered one of the worst films ever made. The film was included as one of the selections in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way) (1978).[5][5] [16] [17]

Despite rumors to the contrary, the film received some decent reviews, and it grossed $1,000,000 in its initial release, over 62 times its original investment.[10]

The film was soon sold to television, where its infamy slowly spread to new generations of cult movie fans.[5]

Critical[edit]

The Los Angeles Times called it "a crazy mixed up movie... even children may be a little bored by it all."[18]

Aftermath[edit]

In December 1953 it was reported that Phil Tucker tried to commit suicide at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. He was only saved because he had written a suicide letter and sent it to a newspaper, who sent a reporter and some detectives to the hotel. He was discovered with a pass in his pocket from the psychopathic ward of the Veterans Affairs Hospital.[19]

In the letter, Tucker said he had not been paid for Robot Monster and was unable to get a job. "When I was refused a job - even as an usher," Tucker wrote, "I finally realised my future in the film industry was bleak."[19]

It came out that Tucker and the producer had quarrelled, and movie exhibitors had instructions not to let Tucker see the film unless he paid admission.[19]

According to Keep Watching the Skies!, a comprehensive history of 1950s and early 1960s American science fiction films, author Bill Warren claims that Tucker's attempted suicide was due to depression and a dispute with the film's distributor, who had allegedly refused to pay Tucker his contracted percentage of the film's profits.[20]

George Nader won the Golden Globe award in 1954 as "Most Promising Male Newcomer of the Year" (although his award was not tied to his Robot Monster performance). He signed with Universal Studios where he starred only in secondary features; other new male stars, like Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson, were assigned to major film roles.[21]

Selena Royle, an MGM stock player, had a durable film career beginning in 1941, but it ended in 1951 when she was branded a Communist sympathizer. She refused to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and eventually cleared her name. By then the damage to her reputation had already been done; she made only two additional films, Robot Monster being her last.[22]

The film was later featured on the B-movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Canned Film Festival, which continued to spread its cult reputation.

Television ads for Google Nexus show a little girl playing in a replica of the Robot Monster space helmet worn by Ro-Man.

Robot Monster currently holds a low 31% approval rating on the aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ MOVIELAND BRIEFS Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 June 1953: A7.
  2. ^ "Bronson Canyon." Moviesites.org. Retrieved: November 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Parla and Mitchell 20009, p. 18.
  4. ^ MOVIELAND BRIEFS Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Apr 1953: B8.
  5. ^ a b c d e Warren 1982[page needed]
  6. ^ Mitchell 2001, pp. 191–192.
  7. ^ Erickson, Glenn. "Robot Monster." The DVD Savant, October 23, 2000. Retrieved: November 7, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Hayes 1998[page needed]
  9. ^ HOLLYWOOD DIGEST: Warners and Metro Announce Their Own Wide Screen Processes -- Other Items By THOMAS M. PRYORHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 10 May 1953: X5.
  10. ^ a b "How to Make a Monster." Everything2.com. Retrieved: January 8, 2007.
  11. ^ "Filmography." Elmer Bernstein - the official site.. Retrieved: November 7, 2014.
  12. ^ Elmer Bernstein Finds Himself in Tune With Movies: Twelve tomes an Oscar nominee, the composer works on the new movie from the makers of "My Left Foot.' Elmer Bernstein, In Tune With Films By PINT AN O'TOOLE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 28 Oct 1990: H18.
  13. ^ Spencer 2008, p. 171.
  14. ^ Zone 2012, p. 59.
  15. ^ MOVIE DIRECTOR'S DEATH TRY BALKED: Letter Sent to Newspaper Results in His Being Found Unconscious in Room at Hotel Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Dec 1953: 18.
  16. ^ Hall, Roger, ed. "80th Birthday Tribute to Elmer Bernstein." Elmer Bernstein.com, 2012. Retrieved: November 7, 2014.
  17. ^ NEW YORK HOSTS GOLDEN TURKEYS Gubernick, Lisa. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 Apr 1980: h8.
  18. ^ Robot Eerie Film Figure Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 26 June 1953: B7.
  19. ^ a b c MOVIE DIRECTOR'S DEATH TRY BALKED: Letter Sent to Newspaper Results in His Being Found Unconscious in Room at Hotel Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Dec 1953: 18.
  20. ^ "Robot Monster." Craptastic Movies Review.[dead link]
  21. ^ Wood. Peter. "Robot Monster." National Review On Line.[dead link]
  22. ^ Sinnott, John. "Robot Monster." DVD talk, October 10, 2000. Retrieved: November 7, 2014.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hayes, R. M. 3-D Movies: "A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Classics, 1998. ISBN 978-0-78640-578-7.
  • Mitchell, Charles P. A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. ISBN 978-0-31331-527-5.
  • Parla, Paul and Charles P. Mitchell. "Claudia Barrett interview". Screen Sirens Scream!: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Science Fiction, Horror, Film Noir and Mystery Movies, 1930s to 1960s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-4587-5.
  • Rux, Bruce. Hollywood Vs. the Aliens: The Motion Picture Industry's Participation in UFO Disinformation. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books/Frog, Ltd., 1997. ISBN 978-1-88331-961-8.
  • Spencer, Kristopher. Film And Television Scores, 1950-1979: A Critical Survey by Genre. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2008. ISBN 978=0=78643=682=8.
  • Strick, Philip. Science Fiction Movies. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1976. ISBN 978-0-70640-470-8.
  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies, Vol I: 1950–1957. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & COmpany, 1982. ISBN 978-0-89950-032-4.
  • Zone, Ray. 3-D Revolution: The History of Modern Stereoscopic Cinema. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8131-3611-0.

External links[edit]

Mystery Science Theater 3000[edit]