“We Ro-Mans obtain our strength from the planet Ro-Man, relayed from individual energizers.” – Ro-Man
I love bad movies…. and by “bad” movies i mean “bad movies that are still fun to watch”, not “White Chicks”, or “Batman and Robin”. you know the ones i mean… “plan 9 from outer space”, “the room”, “dolemite”, “revenge of the cheerleaders”, etc…
well, the other day i found myself watching one of my favorites in this genre, the classic “Robot Monster”(1953). if you haven’t seen it, i’m sure you’ve at least seen the image of the monster “Ro-Man”..which since has become an icon that simply means “bad sci-fi movie ahead”
it’s a guy in a gorilla suit, with kind of an old-timey diving helmet on, that has some antennae attached to it. silly eh? well he’s the bad guy, sent to earth to wipe out the entire human race. by himself. sounds like a big job doesn’t it?.. well for such a big job, you’d need a pretty big base with lots of high tech equipment and stuff. below is a pic of Ro-Man in his office:
strangely, all you really need to destroy the human race is a box with a mirror on it (left), and a small wooden table with a reel to reel recorder and a bubble machine on it. as you can see this set was created by the wonderful folks at Industrial Light & Magic. the “mirror” is really a Skype type thing that Ro-Man uses to communicate with his Ro-Boss back on the home planet….oh, and Ro-Man sounds alot like Darth Vader. seriously. you’d think he spoke in some crazy monkey yolps, or some alien dialect, but no, he is a very educated and articulate Ro-Man, who again, sounds like James Earl Jones.
anyway, here’s a rundown of the story: Ro-Man is a Ro-Man from the planet Ro-Man (“hi, i’m eric…an eric from the planet eric”). he is sent to destroy the human race with his gamma death rays that he emits or something. and he succeeds, except for a small band of survivors led by a scientist that invented some sort of serum that makes them immune to the “death ray”. so the Ro-Boss tells Ro-Man pretty much “hey, do what ya gotta do, take ’em out by hand i guess”. there are some really bad special effects, lots of weird scenes of Ro-Man simply walking, and the dialog of the survivors , as well as Ro-Man is often laughable. oh, and there’s dinosaurs. the dinosaurs are a mix of claymation, and actual lizards with dinosaur-like fins glued to their backs ( go PETA go!) and shot with forced perspective. sounds like a big ol’ bag of crap, huh?
well, this film ALWAYS makes lists of “worst movies of all time”, and has won a “golden turkey award”..an award given to shitty movies. but you know what?, i don’t think that’s fair at all. this film really has some things going for it (yes, i’m serious). first, some specifics… like the score. the score is awesome classic sci-fi/monster movie stuff, written and conducted by the great Elmer Bernstien, who has done all kinds of great scores. also, there ARE some rough scenes… a 7 year old girl gets strangled, and the hot chick in the film, “Alice”, almost gets raped by the Ro-Man. pretty shocking stuff for 1953 sci-fi. but i think the main thing that everyone misses is that this film takes place in the dream of an 8 year old kid. yup, it’s one of those. so maybe in that 8 year old’s mind, the gorilla suit /space helmet combo IS scary… and in his limited 1953 , 8 year old life, the mirror and the bubble machine and the tape recorder ARE what you need to destroy life… maybe that IS high-tech to him. when you look at this film through the filter of a young boy’s fever dream, it takes on a surrealistic quality…. as well as explains some of the “simpleness” of a lot of its parts…..
a stretch?… maybe. yeah, maybe the director was just trying to slam out a film in the shortest time possible, and spending as little as possible, as was the case a lot of the time back then. the effects suffered, the script/story suffered, the film as a whole suffered… “but what the hell, draw up a cool movie poster, and we’ll get butts in the seats “
…but i don’t want to believe that. i’m going to continue to believe that this was a labor of love for writer/directer Phil Tucker. i’m going to continue to think that this guy had an idea for a picture, and although things didn’t go perfectly, he did the best he could. i’m glad he made it. i hope HE doesn’t think it was a failure, despite everyone calling it “one of the worst films ever”. because it’s surely not. it’s a lot better than anything that Jennifer Lopez has been in. I’ll take Ro-Man over J-Lo’s B-Hind any day. but beyond that, and more importantly, it is an icon now. it has a place in film history. that gorilla suit with the robot head is the “golden arches” of the genre. i suggest you see it if you haven’t… it’s a lot of fun… and sometimes, that’s all a film is supposed to be. thanks for the fun Mr. Tucker.
They say that Plan 9 from Outer Space is the “Citizen Kane” of B-movies, and i agree…. but then Robot Monster is definitely “The Wizard of Oz”.