Sunday, July 19, 2009

ROBOT MONSTER: Hu-Mans Rule the Earth!!

By Steve D. Stones

Despite the fact that most film critics place Robot Monster in the top
five “worst movies of all time,” I rather enjoy this film and find it to
be entertaining. I first bought a video copy of this film in the
mid-1990s released by Rhino Video, which came with two pairs of 3-D
glasses. My Rhino Video copy of Cat Women of The Moon also came with
the glasses. Apparently the film had been released in the 1950s in some
theaters as a 3-D film. This was a gimmick used by film producers to get
moviegoers away from their television sets at home and back into the
movie theaters. Don’t be fooled by the 3-D copy of the film. The effect
does not work and actually gives me a headache every time I put on the
glasses to watch the film. Nevertheless, as a collector, I treasure any
extra items that come with DVD and VHS copies of films I collect.

The plot of the film is told from the perspective of little Johnny,
played by Gregory Moffett. Johnny and his sister are playing spaceman
near the Bronson caves (a location that seems to appear in about 99
percent of all cult sci-fi films of the 1950s). Here they meet two
archeologists working in the caves. Johnny asks his mother and older
sister if the two archeologists can join them in a family picnic. After
the picnic, the group takes a nap on the picnic blanket.

Soon, Johnny wakes up from his nap and discovers that dopey looking
aliens resembling gorillas with a scuba helmet for a head have wiped out
the earth’s population. The leader is Ro-Man, played by George Barrows
in a gorilla suit, who communicates with his boss, The Great Guidance,
through mirror on a child’s dresser. Apparently The Great Guidance has
wiped out the human race with a “calcinator ray” from a distant planet.
The alternative title for this film is: Monster From Mars, so we have to
assume that Ro-Man and The Great Guidance are from Mars.

Although Ro-Man is supposed to be of a higher intelligence and possesses
greater technology than we Hu-Mans, his cave consists of a ridiculous
bubble machine that blows bubbles everywhere when he communicates with The Great Guidance. Some critics have suggested that the bubble machine used in this film is the same one used for the Lawrence Welk TV Show, but I don’t think anyone has officially confirmed this for certain. Some have also suggested that the co-producer-director, Phil Tucker, attempted suicide shortly after the premiere of the film.

The Rhino Video copy of this film contains some strange additions that
are not seen in other prints of the film. For example, when Ro-Man
kidnaps Alice, played by Claudia Barrett, he ties her up and rips her
blouse open. The Rhino print has a black censor bar that appears across
her chest as Ro-Man rips her blouse. The Image Entertainment and
Sinister Cinema prints of this film do not contain the black censor bar
across her chest. There is no reason to include the black censor bar
because nothing explicit is shown in the original print. Why it was
added by Rhino Video is anyone’s guess.

Another strange addition is when Ro-Man is communicating with Johnny’s
family through the mirror communicator. When Alice steps up to the
communicator to talk to Ro-Man, suddenly we can hear someone say in a
quiet voice: “Hmmm, perhaps I should try to make a date with the girl?”
This line of dialogue is not heard in the Sinister Cinema and Image
Entertainment prints of the film. Die-hard collectors like myself always
savor little details like this that vary from one print to another.

If you are able to find any Rhino Video copies of Robot Monster for sale
with the 3-D glasses, I would suggest that you purchase a copy,
especially if you are a serious collector. If not, the Image
Entertainment and Sinister Cinema copies are also worth having. These
two copies do not contain the 3-D effect and glasses, however. The
Image Entertainment DVD does have a theatrical trailer of the film. Happy viewing!!!

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