- Robot Monster
Directed by Phil Tucker Produced by Producer:
Written by Wyott Ordung Starring George Nader
Music by Elmer Bernstein Cinematography Jack Greenhalgh Editing by Bruce Schoengarth
Distributed by Astor Pictures Release date(s) June 10, 1953 Running time 66 min. Country US Language English Budget $16,000 (estimated) Box office $1,000,000
The evil alien Ro-Man Extension XJ-9 (who is simply called "Ro-Man" by the humans) has destroyed all but eight humans on Earth with his "calcinator death ray." The survivors consist of a family of five, a scientist, and two unseen assistants to the scientist in a spacecraft bound for an orbiting space platform carrying an also-unseen garrison of human soldiers. All eight have developed an immunity to the death ray as a side effect of an antibiotic serum developed by the scientist.
Ro-Man must destroy the earthbound survivors, albeit by physical means, before his subjugation of Earth is complete. After fruitless negotiations he destroys the rocket ship headed for the garrison in orbit with the Calcinator, and later strangles the youngest daughter off-screen and tosses the younger scientist off a cliff. He is waylaid in his mission, however, after developing an illogical attraction towards Alice, the eldest daughter of the family. He refuses to eliminate her, forcing "The Great Guidance", leader of the aliens, to personally finish the task of genocide by killing Ro-Man (who has just killed the young boy) and unleashing prehistoric dinosaurs upon the Earth, by which time only the elder scientist and his wife of twenty years are the only humans on the planet. Ultimately the youngest member of the family, a boy, apparently wakes up after suffering a mild concussion, revealing that the bulk of the film had presumably been a dream. However, Ro-Man appears coming out of a cave (three times in a row).
Twenty-five-year-old writer/director Phil Tucker made Robot Monster in four days for an estimated $16,000. The film is similar in plot to Invaders from Mars, released a month earlier by Fox. Both pictures 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. Despite rumors to the contrary, the film did receive some decent reviews and grossed $1,000,000 in its initial release, more than sixty times its original investment. It was filmed in Bronson Canyon, the site of innumerable motion pictures and TV settings.
The soundtrack was composed by Elmer Bernstein, who also composed the music for 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. The film's special effects include stock footage from the 1940 picture One Million B.C., 1951's Lost Continent, and Flight to Mars spliced into the film. Within the first viewscreen footage is a brief appearance of the 'Rocketship XM' ship during its initial boarding.
The film 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, and is an extra honor in favor to the crew, who had no experience with the previously unused camera rig.
In the film's opening credits, "N. A. Fischer Chemical Products" is given prominent credit for the "Billion Bubble Machine", used in the film as part of Ro-Man's communication device for reporting to his superior.
The poor quality of the movie gave rise to a long-lived rumor within the film industry that the poor reception from audiences caused director Phil Tucker to attempt suicide, with a gun, but missed. According to Keep Watching the Skies!, a comprehensive history of 1950s American science fiction films, author Bill Warren claims Tucker's attempted suicide was actually 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.
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 in secondary features while other male stars like Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson were assigned the major film roles.
Selena Royle, MGM stock player, had a durable film career starting 1941 until 1951 when she was branded a Communist sympathizer. She refused to appear before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and eventually cleared her name but the damage had already been done. She made only two additional films, Robot Monster being her last.
The film was later featured on the B-movie-mocking television show Mystery Science Theater 3000.
The budget did not allow for a robot costume as intended so director Phil Tucker used his friend George Barrows who had his own gorilla suit to play Ro-Man. Phil Tucker added the helmet.
- ^ Elmer Bernstein and Robot Monster
- ^ a b How to Make a Monster "How to Make a Monster" Retrieved on 2007-01-08
- ^ Films made at Bronson Canyon "Bronson Canyon - facts and information". Retrieved on 2007-01-08.
- ^ Elmer Bernstein - the official site. "Elmer Bernstein - The official site". Retrieved on 2007-01-04.
- ^ a b 3-D Movies: "A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema" by R. M. Hayes, McFarland Classics, Paperback
- ^ Glenn Erickson of The DVD Savant
- ^ Craptastic Movies Review
- ^ Peter Wood of the National Review On Line
- ^ John Sinnott of DVD talk
Mystery Science Theater 3000
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