ROBOT MONSTER-1953-One of the best “bad” movies ever. ROBOT MONSTER seems have been forgotten in recent years. On viewing it recently I can say it's as crazy now as it was 25 years ago when I first saw it!
Anyone who cares already knows the whole story. Invading alien Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 (from the planet Ro-Man) destroys almost all of the inhabitants of Earth with a his strange (and annoying) C ray that turns everything negative when he uses it. Only 5 people are left. They are “The Professor (John Mylong with a distracting German accent), his wife (Selena Royale), grown daughter Alice (Claudia Barrett, still living at the time of this posting), two younger children Johnny (Gregory Moffet) and Carla (Pamela Paulson) and Alice's scientist/boyfriend Roy (George Nader). They are immune to the deadly “Ro-Ray” because of a serum Dad invented. The group hide out in a burned out bunker with some kind of electric barrier that keeps Ro-Man from finding them.
It's strange that since Ro-Man can't find them and the family are the only people left in the whole world he just happens to have his headquarters (a cave in the famous Bronson Canyon) a hop, skip and jump away from their hideout! But then that's the least strangest thing!
Take the terrifying Ro-Man! He's a guy (famous man in a gorilla suit actor George Barrows) in a ape costume but instead of an ape head he has some kind of modified diver's helmet! He threatens the family by a special view screen and occasionally talks to Ro-Man leader “The Great Guidance” (probably the same guy). Ro-Man's dialogue is funny stuff. “The great one is never wrong”. In fact all the dialogue is funny!
Anyway, his base is a cave that seems to be guarded by a bubble machine! Ro-Man is ordered by “the great one” (for all I know Jackie Gleason could have been in the costume...) to destroy everyone but it's obvious he has “feelings” for the comely Alice (he may look and act like a doofus but he's no fool apparently). When trying to reason with the alien diver helmeted hairy menace fails Alice and Roy have a toss in the grass. When they come back to the shelter they announce they want to get married! And The Professor does the job! And then the newlyweds leave the protected area to go on their honeymoon with Ro-Man still running around! Then Carla chases after them to give her big sister some flowers. On the way back she meets Ro-Man who proceeds to strangle her (off-screen). He then breaks up the honeymoon by throwing Roy off a cliff and kidnapping Alice. He takes her back to his place and tears off the top of her dress!
Just then The Great Guidance calls (Mr. perfect timing) and Ro-Man gets some rope to tie Alice up. He can't seem to do this so he clouts her with his hand. His boss is quite peeved to learn his henchman has yet to kill everyone. Ro-Man 'fesses up that he wants Alice and can't kill her. “I must but I cannot. Where do must and cannot meet on the graph?”. And I guess there are elves in the cave with Ro-Man because when next we see Alice she is bound tightly! Fairly pissed and completely through with letting XJ-2 ruin his plan “the great one” unleashes prehistoric animals and earthquakes to destroy the Earth (and Ro-Man). (Why didn't he just do this in the first place????)
But of course it was all a dream Johnny had after hitting his head! Yet after the seemingly happy ending The Great Guidance Ro-Man is seen emerging from the cave (3 times!).
RM was originally shot in 3-D. I always like the opening credits as they were shown over a backdrop of comic books. According to most sources director Phil Tucker shot the whole thing in 4 days for a budget of about $16,000 and grossed around $100,000 despite bad reviews. To some it's consider one of the worst movies ever made but to me it's one of the most enjoyable bad movies ever made!
There is also the story that Tucker tried to commit suicide after the movie opened when he realized how bad it was. Though he did try to kill himself, it was probably due more to depression over personal woes than bad reviews (they may have heightened his depression) because the film actually made money! The same year as RM Tucker also made DANCE HALL RACKET starring Lenny Bruce (who also wrote the script) and his wife Honey Harlow. He made the low budget Sci-Fi movie CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS in 1960 and was mostly an editor (and inventor) after that.
Shanghai born screenwriter Wyott Ordung also wrote TARGET EARTH, directed MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR and later was the assistant director on a film 10 times worst than RM, THE MUMMY AND THE CURSE OF THE JACKALS! He occasionally acted too. Executive producer Al Zimbalist was also behind CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON, KING DINOSAUR and THE MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL.
Leading man George Nader was signed to a contract with Universal Pictures the next year (but not on his RM performance). He became good friends with fellow contract player Rock Hudson and like Hudson was a gay man hiding his true nature. He was later the star of movies like THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS and AGENT FROM H.A.R.M. According to The Internet Movie Database after quitting movies Nader wrote a Science Fiction novel in 1978 called “Chrome” which featured gay robots!
Selena Royale was a popular character actor in the 1940's (THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS) before being blacklisted. Her role in RM was one of her last.
Final note: Near the beginning of RM when Ro-Man destroys the rocket heading for space, look closely the final time and you can see a hand operating the “burning rocket”....
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading!