By Steve D. Stones
Just how bad is Robot Monster (aka Monster From Mars - 1953)? If you consider that the entire story of the film is mostly from the point of view of a child's dream, it's really not that bad of a movie. Reviews of the film were so bad that director Phil Tucker is said to have attempted suicide. The Elmer Bernstein score eventually gets as annoying and redundant as the score by Hoyt Curtain for Ed Wood's "Jail Bait (1953)" - another great "bad movie."
Little Johnny enters a cave to play spaceman with his younger sister when he encounters two archaeologists looking for evidence of a past civilization. The two archaeologists are invited to a picnic by Johnny's mother and sister.
After waking from a short sleep during the picnic, Johnny discovers that one of the archaeologists is now his father - a man old enough to be his great-grandfather, and that the world has been wiped out by a Ro-Man - an alien in a silly gorilla suit with a diver's helmet and TV antenna on top. Ro-Man hides in the same cave where the two archaeologists were conducting their search at the beginning of the film. He keeps communication with his leader from another planet on a cheap looking television transmission set.
It turns out that Johnny and his family are the only survivors of Ro-man's annihilation - which is a total of six people. Ro-man's leader orders him to destroy the remaining six with a "calcinator ray," but he can't seem to get it right. He constantly fiddles with his communication device in the cave as he threatens the family. He even watches stock footage of dinosaurs fighting - a scene likely appropriated from the 1925 silent film - The Lost World.
The family discovers a serum that protects them from Ro-man's death ray. Little Johnny is the first to survive with the serum after he encounters Ro-man and calls him a "pooped out pin wheel." This has to be one of the funniest scenes in the film, next to Ro-man trying to make a date with Johnny's older sister - Alice.
Rhino Video issued a VHS 3-D print of Robot Monster with two 3-D glasses in the early 1990s. This print is difficult to watch because the 3-D treatment of the film actually does not work. A 3-D print of Cat Women of The Moon (1953) was also issued by Rhino Video with just as poor results.
Wearing the 3-D glasses for either film simply does not work. However, for the serious collector of B-movies, like myself, it is still fun to have the VHS copy of both Robot Monster and Cat Women of The Moon with the glasses. The artwork on the box of both videos is worth the price of admission. Happy viewing!