Robot Monster – USA, 1953 – overview and reviews

‘Moon monsters launch attack against Earth!’

Robot Monster is a 1953 American science fiction feature film made in 3-D. It was produced by Al Zimbalist and directed by Phil Tucker from a screenplay by Wyott Ordung (Monster from the Ocean Floor, First Man into Space). The Three Dimension Pictures production stars George Nader and Claudia Barrett. It is frequently cited as one of the worst films ever made although this is always open to debate.

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The evil alien Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 – called “Ro-Man” by the humans – has destroyed all life on Earth, except for eight humans, using the “Calcinator Death Ray”.

The survivors include an elderly scientist, his wife, two daughters and son, his young assistant and two pilots taking a spacecraft to an orbiting space platform. All eight have developed an immunity to the death ray since receiving an experimental antibiotic serum developed by the scientist.

Ro-Man must complete the destruction of all humans, even if it means physically killing them one by one, before his mission to subjugate the Earth is complete. After fruitless negotiations, he destroys the rocket ship headed for the orbiting platform with a laser. He later strangles the youngest daughter, Carla, off-screen and tosses the assistant scientist Roy over a cliff.

His mission is waylaid, though, after he develops illogical attraction for Alice, the eldest daughter. He refuses to eliminate her, forcing the alien leader, “The Great Guidance”, to personally finish the genocide by killing Ro-Man right after he kills Johnny, the young son. He then releases prehistoric dinosaurs and a massive earthquake. After all of that the scientist, his wife and Alice are the only humans left. However…

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Review:

Neither as unremittingly terrible or as entertainingly trashy as its been made out to be, Robot Monster is a definite 1950’s curio, up there with ‘what were they thinking?’ flicks such as The Beast of Yucca Flats for sheer oddball outsider cinema appeal.

Robot Monster is certainly worth seeing, especially with a crowd and the assistance of alcohol. There are enough fun parts to make the slow pace acceptable, and while not the howlingly funny movie it’s been hyped as, it’s definitely unique!

David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“On the technical front— acting, continuity, sets, special effects, etc.— there is almost literally nothing about Robot Monster that does work. Elmer Bernstein’s score (that’s right, folks— Elmer F*cking Bernstein wrote the score to this turkey) is much, much better than the movie deserves, but it represents about the one little glimmer of quality that made it into the finished product intact.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“When you’ve only got $16,000 to make a movie and you’ve already spent the majority of it on dinosaur stock footage, it probably seems perfectly reasonable to hire an actor who already owns a gorilla costume (as Barrows did) and then put an old diving helmet on his head.  Robot Monster may not necessarily be a good movie but it certainly is a lot of fun!” Horror Critic

It is right up there in terms of ineptitude along with Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and has as much in terms of hilarious gaffes, bad acting, bad special effects and bad dialogue as Plan 9 does. It has not gained the same cult appeal, probably because its behind-the-scenes story and the lives of its creative personnel lack the same freakish fascination.” Moria

“Shot in only four days, this is pretty much the ultimate in zero-budget 1950s sci-fi. Don’t have a real monster costume? No problem, just slap a space helmet on a gorilla suit—that’s basically an alien, right? And yet, despite its cheapness, Robot Monster is a surprisingly coherent movie.” Paste magazine

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“Basically yet another guy in a monkey suit, but this time with the added touch of a silver-spray-painted diving helmet, topped with a sagging TV antenna, Ro-Man is a certainly a finalist in the Worst Movie Monster of All Time sweepstakes.” John Wilson, The Official Razzie Movie Guide

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“One of the genuine legends of Hollywood: embarrassingly, hilariously awful!” Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide

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Cast and characters:

  • George Nader … Roy
  • Claudia Barrett … Alice
  • Selena Royle … Mother (as Selena Royale)
  • John Mylong … The Professor
  • Gregory Moffett … Johnny
  • Pamela Paulson … Carla
  • George Barrows … Ro-Man the Monster / Great Guidance
  • John Brown … Ro-Man / Great Guidance (voice)

Technical details:

  • 66 minutes
  • Audio: Mono (Western Electric Recording)
  • Black and White
  • Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1

Budget:

$16,000 (estimated)

Trivia:

Includes stock footage from One Million B.C. (1940) and Flight to Mars (1951).

 

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