The 1950’s was the Atomic Age, a period in cinema where we were afraid the governments were going to blow the shit out of each other and the fear of nuclear war. Since people didn’t know much about nuclear power, the shit could manifest itself in any way possible, including the arrival of an alien race that has a power that is superior to nuclear power. That superior power came on film, in 1953, thanks to one particular movie by a young eccentric named Phil Tucker. That monster is the Ro-Man, and that film is Robot Monster.
The story is simple: the Ro-Man wipes out most of the earth’s population, with the exception of a small group of people. Hiding out in Bronson Canyons with his television/interstellar phone, and a bubble machine, this creature terrorizes the family until he realizes he has the hots for the young woman in the group (played by Claudia Barrett, who looks a lot like Lynn Carlin from Cassavettes’ Faces). Why do all the monsters get the hots for women? Oh well. This movie gets a lot of flack as being one of the worst science fiction films of all time, and if you judge it as a sci-fi film, then yes I agree, this movie is terrible. But as a monster movie, this is really damn fun. The acting isn’t that bad, and the music score, by Elmer Bernstein, is really impressive. Bernstein would go on to make the soundtracks for The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. Technically speaking, the film has a lot of bizarre elements, particularly with it’s editing and use of special effects. You can see the black-gloved hand in the plane sequences, and the inter-cutting with dinosaur movie footage really makes you say ‘what the fuck’. I guess the bad reputation this movie has comes from the titular monster, the Ro-Man. Besides having a ridiculous name, he has a ridiculous look, akin to a gorilla with a diving helmet on. John Brown performed as the beast, and most of the time the film features the guy either coming in and out of the cave, or going up and down a mountain, cut in between his bizarre ravings (“Fool humans! There is no escape!”) and occasional murders. Poor John really seems to have been very tired on this thing, as once in a while he looks like he’s about to fall on his face. But to it’s credit, the monster is very memorable and I doubt that the movie would be this entertaining without it. So stop with the Ro-Man hate, discover this little monster movie gem and you’ll find yourself laughing and having fun at something really unique. Phil Tucker, there was no reason to try to kill yourself.