The Bad Movie Report

Robot Monster!

At last, I fulfill the promise made on the Philosophy page. It still should not be that hard to find a copy of Robot Monster; both the major chains stock it in their Cult or Drive-In Movies section.

If you've only ever heard about it before, trust me: Robot Monster is The Cheese. It occupies that rarifed atmosphere, that lofty plateau occupied by only a few, those happy few: the completely and utterly inept."It is MY turn to tie her up, Hu-Man!"


Plot? Pfeh! Okay, the fearsome Ro-Man Extension XJ12 has come to Earth and wiped out everybody with his Calcinator Death Ray except for 6 survivors who had been injected with some wide-spectrum anitbiotic that renders them immune to the C-ray. Ro-man must then kill these holdouts with his bare hands, but our plucky humans befuddle him with emotions and a voluptuous babe. XJ12 of course falls for the girl, disobeys his orders, and gets killed by the Guidance Ro-man, who unleashes a "devastating U-ray" which toasts the Earth with massive stock footage and for some reason, brings back the dinosaurs. The End.

Okay, okay, I was trying to forget the lame framing device. It's all a dream our young (and dreadful) boy child/protagonist, Johnny (Gregory Moffett) has while unconcious from the World's Worst Stage Fall. Although the Guidance Ro-man does stalk forth from the cave at the end. Three times. All that is missing is a title card reading "THE END....????"

A lot of this will recall for you the masterworks of the great Ed Wood. There are indeed parallels:

A COMPLETE AND UTTER DISREGARD FOR LINEAR TIME. Ro-man is given "one Earth Revolution" to complete his deadly mission. To me, this would seem, oh, perhaps 24 hours? The heroine, Alice (the rather likable Claudia Barrett) then spends two days rewiring a telescreen (to no avail, as it turns out) and then completely rewiring it in a matter of minutes. Then they parley with Ro-man, then heroine and hero (the sorta likable George Nader) spend the night together. Professor Pop (an unlikable John Wycliffe, with a Slavic accent) "marries" them, and Ro-man is informed his "revolution" is half up. I give up.

GLARING CONTINUITY ERRORS. I am the world's worst at spotting these things, but in Robot Monster they reach out of the screen and slap you across the face. Most seem to involve Wycliffe's character. What, was Lugosi not available that week? At least Bela knew to do the same thing take after take, to minimize this sort of editing nightmare. However, the most glaring (and hilarious) involves the Ro-man. After kidnapping Alice, XJ12 makes a half-hearted attempt to tie her up, only to have that meddling Guidance Ro-man ring in. Frustrated, XJ12 knocks her unconcious, then goes to make his excuses to Boss Ro-man. Upon returning to his prisoner, we find her magically and thoroughly bound,hand and foot. Irving Klaw would be proud.

UNGAINLY DIALOGUE. Ed has writer Wyott Ordung beat on a line-per-line awfulness basis. A lot of the dialogue tries to be philosophical, of the sort done so well in Corman's later It Conquered the World. It doesn't fly, but the truly awful dialogue is left to the Ro-men, who engage in more technobabble than ever dreamed of in Star Trek: Voyager. XJ12 himself has the most quotable lines, such as "Is there a choice between a painless surrender death and the horror of resistance death?" and the famous "To be like the hu-man! To laugh, feel, want... why are these things not in The Plan?"Looks like another NASA budget cut...

"PEOPLE IGNORE THE LITTLE THINGS!" - Starting with Ro-man: a diving helmet on a gorilla suit. But there have been worse robots, so let's move on. Ro-man's diabolical apparatus has a distinct WWII surplus radio feel to it, and it rests upon a high-tech wooden dining table. It is apparently turned on by moving the rabbit-ears antenna on the top. When the telescreen is not on, observe the wrinkles in the screen's fabric. When it's on, notice that you can see the wood grain in its frame. And oh yes, that WWII radio? It blows bubbles. Don't ask me why. But I suspect it looked pretty cool in 3-D (oh yeah...the movie was shot in 3-D. *moan.*)

THOSE SPECIAL LITTLE MOMENTS. Alice is apparently disabled in some way, since she is constantly getting picked up and carried by every male in the cast, with the exception of the irksome Johnny. In fact, while Ro-man is carrying her to his cave, they pause for a spot of dialogue. Something about his energy source. Never mind. It has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Pop brandishes a common revolver and is asked, "What if the atomic guns don't stop him?" And Earth's last best hope, the "Space Platform", is represented by a model rocket with a sparkler hanging out its ass zizzing endlessly around in a wobbly circle.

Did I mention that Alice gets tied up? Twice? This, my friends, is Art.

The real heartbreak in all this is that you can tell director Phil Tucker actually thought he was making Art. Discussing Deep Questions. Making Statements. And much like Eddy postulated UFO government cover-ups long before Duchovny ever pooped a diaper, Tucker violates a few Hollywood conventions by offing not only the Hero but a little girl. Try that today. Shortly after the film was released to predictably disastrous reviews, Tucker attempted suicide.

In the face of Robot Monster, we can only stand in awe, that for $20,000 this film was made, it was made in 3-D, and it was released to movie theaters. Giants walked the earth in those days.


It's an icon. Show some respect.

- October 26, 1997