Robot Monster (1953)

Haven’t tuned into Mr Honeybone’s presentations for a few weeks, but this week he had the legendary Robot Monster so how could I not watch? As soon as I laid eyes on the dinosaur stock footage (I mean, what the fuck?????) I knew I was indeed in for something special, and the rest of the film didn’t exactly let me down. Let’s face it, when a film has lapses of continuity and narrative holes that even I notice, you know it’s got issues… and I’ve seen photos of Ro-Man (from the planet of the same name), the gorilla suit with the diving helmet and antennae, but somehow that doesn’t adequately prepare you for the actual sight of this… thing doing an awful lot of walking around this canyon. Nor did anything prepare me for the, er, wedding of the year, nor Ro-Man’s sudden burst of existential angst late in the game, nor some of the other dialogue, nor the fact that Irving Lerner was listed in the credits. Good Christ, did I not review one of his directorial efforts just recently? What on Earth was he doing with this? I know the truly incongruous-with-hindsight credit on Robot Monster belongs to Elmer Bernstein, but having seen Murder By Contract a couple of weeks back just made Lerner’s name really stand out for me. Of course, the really astonishing thing about the film is that despite a budget of just $20,000-odd, the fucking thing was shot in 3D, though I’m damned if I could pick out any points in the obviously flat screening that were supposed to be jump-out moments, unless the output of the Billion Bubble Machine (and yes, that’s its name in the credits) appears to float out at you… Really, it’s the sort of thing where you can only sit back and wonder what the hell they were thinking; El Santo’s review makes the good point that if you take it at face value Robot Monster really is the bleakest SF film of that period, and suggests that Tucker actually had some sort of ambition that his limited budget and ability couldn’t actually stretch to. Consequently, the end result was what can only be called “special”. I only regret it’s taken me this long to finally see it, and must now find it for the DVD collection…

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