ROBOT MONSTER (1953)
Notes: 84minutes. “In intriguing 2-D.”
Roy: George Nader
Alice: Claudia Barrett
Mother Marta: Selena Royale
The Professor: John Mylong
Moron Johnny: Gregory Moffett
Fat Brat Carla: Pamela Paulson
Ro-Man: George Barrows
Voice of Robot: John Brown
Produced: Al Zimbalist
Co-Produced and Directed: Phil Tucker
Screenplay: Wyatt Ordung
Special Effects: Jack Rabin, David Commons
Music: Elmer Bernstein (not Leonard’s brother).
Summary: Playingin a rocky wasteland, a behelmeted Johnny tells Carla, “You’redisintegrated.” She whines about wanting to play house asthey run into two archaeologists at a cave, Roy and an older man,who are far too tolerant. Mom and sis Alice (hubba hubba, thinksRoy) show up to cart off the brats to their nap. Johnny laments,”Say, are we ever gonna have a new father around our house?”
What doesn’t become clear until later, if ever,is that we seem to go into Johnny’s naptime dream at this point.Or does he get conked on the head? Or is that my wishful thinking?We see lightning and that same lizard footage from the 1940 film,One Million BC. Johnny sees bubbles at the cave and outcomes Ro-Man, an alien monster (a gorilla suit and diving helmetwith antennae) at “extension XJ2” who reports via tvto “The Great Guidance,” another similarly attired being.Earth was their only rival, so a cosmic ray has destroyed allbut eight humans on earth.
The older archaeologist is now the germanic”Dad” who has managed an invention to keep beams fromthe house and has immunized the group with an antibiotic. Theyspeculate about making it to a garrison on a space platform, butRo-Man appears on tv saying, “You escaped destruction becauseI did not know of your existence.” He shows footage of destruction,gloating that a “calcinator beam” wiped out the humanrace, almost. “Your death will be indescribably foul, humans.There is no escape.” We assume Roy is dead, but he actuallyis spying a few feet away on Ro-Man at the cave. Contacting “theGreat One” (Jackie Gleason?), he is scolded: “You soundlike a human, not a Ro-Man.” Ro-Man miscalculates that “threeelude me.” “Eliminate error; is this not the law?”
Roy reappears among the group and banters withAlice: “You’re so bossy you ought to be milked before youcome home at night.” Two unseen humans made it to a rocket,but tv shows them blown up, and Ro-Man sneers, “Now of thetwo billion, there are six…. By your clock time, in one hourI seek you out.”
Alice connects circuits, and in video confrontationand an attempt to reason with Ro-Man towards “peace withhonor,” Dad shows individually the fine people Ro-Man intendsto destroy. There’s a certain something about Alice, so Ro-Managrees to meet her alone. “Is Alice gonna have a date withRo-Man?” asks one of the brats. Alice talks herself intothis with an insane rhapsody on the wonder of humankind, “upfrom the sea, the slime … to stand erect….” But the othersstop Alice and tie her up. Johnny sneaks off instead. Ro-Man tellshim, “Your people were getting too intelligent” (anothermiscalculation clearly). Johnny notes, “You look like a pooped-outpinwheel” and spills about the protective serum, which willallow Ro-Man some kind of “calibration” to wipe therest out now. Dad forgives Johnny instead of kicking his ass in.
Roy and Alice are wander pointlessly aboutlooking for Johnny, run from Ro-Man, pantomime with each other,and get off on aggression. When back home, they ask Dad to marrythem: the “biggest social event of the year.” Roy wedsshirtlessly, and Dad yammers about following the ten commandments,the beatitudes, the golden rule, and hopes humanity still hasa chance.
The serum is familiar to the Ro-Man leader,similar to XZA in protection against the death ray, you see. BratCarla is kidnapped and strangled to death, and Mom seems upsetby this. At the funeral, Johnny, whose ass is still not kickedin, wishes he had played house more often with her.
Roy and Alice experience love-picnic interruptusand Alice is kidnapped. Johnny volunteers to be a decoy for anAlice rescue. Meanwhile, Ro-Man is making time with her: “SupposeI were human. Would you treat me like a man?” Don’t you hateit when the Great Guidance calls you in the middle of these things?”Why do you call me at this time? … Call me again at anothertime.” But Ro-Man is violating the plan by not killing herimmediately. “To be like the human. To laugh, feel, want.Why are these not in the plan?” Ro-Man searches his soullessness:”I cannot yet I must. How do you calculate that? At whatpoint on the graph do must and cannot meet? Yet I must what Icannot.”
Ro-Man tells the Great Guidance, “I cannotkill the girl but I will kill the boy.” GG is pissed: “Youwish to be a human? Good. You will die like a human.” Heunleashes lightning from his fingers and kills Ro-Man. “Prehistoricreptiles” appear again in world cataclysm.
Cut to Johnny with Roy. Hm. It was all a dream.The two archaeologists are invited to dinner. A vision of Ro-Manemerging from the cave again and again accompanies the final soundsof “zot zot zot.”
Commentary:Ro-Man is not the brightest of Robot Monsters. “I cannotyet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graphdo must and cannot meet? Yet I must what I cannot.” Thisis as baffling, convoluted, and yet vacuous as Troilus’ predestinationspeech in Troilus and Criseyde.
In any case, the “dinosaurs” arepointless. Ro-Man looks like a reject from the New Zoo Review.And in Johnny’s construct, incest is inevitable.