Robot Monster (1953)

Robot Monster title

Directed by Phil Tucker

Written by Wyott Ordung

Tagline: “Moon monsters launch attack against Earth! How can science meet the menace of astral assassins? New Science Fiction Thrills!”

Run Time: 66 min

“I cannot. Yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do ‘must’ and ‘cannot’ meet? Yet I must. But I cannot.”
– Ro-Man


Robot Monster is certainly a legendary ‘bad movie’ that is undoubtedly a must-see for any sci-fi film fan. Starring one of the, if not THE, worst movie "monster" to ever shame the silver screen: ‘Ro-Man’. George Barrows, a well known ‘gorilla’ actor, wears a gorilla suit and a diving helmet with two TV antennae on top. This is the terror known as Ro-Man. (George also wore a woman’s stocking over his head in order to obscure his face when seen through the diving helmet’s visor.) The first sight of Ro-Man coming out of his cave is breathtaking in its ludicrousness.

The film was originally filmed in 3-D, in fact it’s filmed in the "Tru-Stereo Three Dimension Process" as the opening credits inform us. Thus we are subjecting to not a few scenes of objects coming towards the screen, in addition to the ‘3-dimensional’ opening credits. To be honest, I didn’t spot an over abundance of ‘effects’ throughout the film, so I can only assume that the lack of 3-D effects only added to the viewers’ disappointment.

After Robot Monster opened to the public, the film was met by so much derision and scorn that director Phil Tucker found it impossible to find other work in Hollywood. He believed that he had been blackballed by the film’s producers and spiraled deeper and deeper into depression, resulting in a suicide attempt. Phil survived and resurfaced in Hollywood to direct a couple other films, including Broadway Jungle (1955), and The Cape Canaveral Monsters (1960). Phil inevitably faded into obscurity, passing away in 1985 at the age of 58.

In an interesting side note, the writer of Robot Monster, Wyott Ordung, went on to direct Roger Corman’s first film production in 1954, Monster from the Ocean Floor. (Wyott even appeared in the film as ‘Pablo’. So there you go.)

This film is truly and completely low-budget. Phil admitted to using approximately $16,000 in making Robot Monster…a microscopic sum. Every facet of this movie screams ‘cheap’: from the gorilla-suit ‘monster’, to the card-board view-screens, to the sparkler used to simulate a space ship (you can even see the arm of the man waving the sparkler in front of the camera…incredible!). The editing is abominable and the story is absurd. Robot Monster is a true ‘bad movie’! I will say, however, that there are some wonderfully obtuse bits of dialog in the movie, that I will joyfully point out as they occur.

One more interesting bit of trivia: The score for the film was composed by Elmer Bernstein, one of nearly 300 films for which he created the musical scores in a career spanning 55 years. (Elmer even went on to compose the score for Cat Women of the Moon that same year. Wow! What a year that was!) Unfortunately for Robot Monster, Elmer’s superior music only serves to draw attention to the inferiority of the film itself.

To be fair, there is a ‘reason’ for the bizarre ‘Ro-Man’ and the various odd occurrences in the movie. But the explanation comes too late and Phil Tucker just couldn’t sew the story together seamlessly enough to succeed. What is this ‘reason’? Well, you’ll just have to read on and see, won’t you?

The Cast:

George Nader Roy (George Nader)

Good old Roy. The Professor’s assistant who helps to find the Cure For Everything serum. Great guy who likes to show off his abs. George’s career survived this film and he went on to eventually appear in 45 films (mostly European productions…I guess he was forced to flee the country after ‘Robot Monster’ after all…)

Claudia Barrett Alice (Claudia Barrett)

Johnny’s cute older sister. Ro-Man eventually gets the hots for her and hauls her off to his cave for a little Ro-Man lovin’.

John Mylong The Professor (John Mylong)

Mr. Mylong (God, I love that name!) plays the good Professor, inventor of the Cure For Everything. John Mylong appeared in nearly 100 films in a career spanning nearly 4 decades. See! There is life after ‘Robot Monster’.

Gregory Moffett Johnny (Gregory Moffett)

A typical kid who loves space ships, robots, and ray guns. He also is a disrespectful little brat who almost brings about the downfall of the human race.

George Barrows Ro-Man / Great Guidance (George Barrows)

Ro-Man, the conqueror of the world, and wanna be boyfriend to Alice. For single-handedly destroying the world with his "calcinator ray", Ro-Man actually turns out to be a bit of a lunk head.

The film opens ‘3-D’ credits overlaid on a background of comic books. (Including the ‘Robot Monster’ comic book in the upper-right corner.) I’m uncertain as to the authenticity of the comics since my interests lie in watching crappy movies, not reading comics…but I’d be interested to hear.

As the credits continue we note a special credit for the Automatic Billion Bubble Machine…by N.A. Fisher Chemical Products. Said bubble machine is used to its fullest in the movie generating large quantities of bubbles. (Billions?…doubtful…but certainly a bunch.)

JohnnyThe credits end and we see Johnny walking along a grassy field, decked out in a ‘spaceman’ helmet and shooting a toy ray-gun at his sister, Carla. (Bernstein’s twinkling-piano "Kids…dontcha love ’em" music sure grabs one’s attention.) After being disintegrated, Carla asks Johnny to play house. Johnny ignores her and blows some bubbles into the wind. And before you get too excited…no…this is not "N.A. Fisher Chemical Product’s Automated Billion Bubble Machine" as noted in the credits.

Carla follows Johnny from wherever it is they were (not too clear) and they suddenly appear walking in a desolate, barren, wasteland…yes, none other than sci-fi mainstay location Bronson Canyon. After scampering about the rocky canyon, they come upon a cave where archeologists Roy and the, *ahem*, Professor are busy chiseling away at a rock painting.

After being ‘zapped’, The Professor takes Johnny on his lap (you just don’t see that anymore, do you) and jokingly appeals for interplanetary peace. (Carla wants to play house.) The Professor explains (over the strangely loud sounds of wind blowing on the soundtrack) that he and Roy are trying to figure out what people were like way back when. Roy points to a (bogus) cave painting and adds that they have to "chip it out" and take it back where it can be studied. How Roy is going to ‘chip out’ a 7-foot high cave-drawing from solid rock with his tiny hammer and chisel is not explained.

Carla sees the (ridiculous) cave painting and asks if it’s a space man. No, no…"As far as we know," says the Professor, "there were no spacemen at those times. Robots either." (I guess he skipped English class at Archeology school.)

Taking a picnicFrom out of nowhere, literally, in stroll Johnny and Carla’s mother and older sister, Alice. I’m not too sure what the hell those two are doing in the middle of Bronson Canyon, but there they are, and they’ve set up a picnic lunch for the kids. Alice mentions to the kids that they will have to take a nap after lunch, an idea that Johnny meets with resistance. Roy steps in and says, "Johnny, at the camp that I used to go to, we used to have to take a nap after lunch right up until we were fourteen." (Fourteen!!?? What freakin’ camp was that?)

Alice and Mother (love those names) take the kids out of the cave and to the picnic site. It appears they’ve chosen a sun-baked open area next to a pile of spider-and-snake infested boulders. But hey, to each his own, eh? The ‘twinkly-twinkly-happy-happy’ score certainly adds a surrealist tone to this Dantean picnic spot.

In a bit of exposition, Johnny asks Mother if they’ll ever get a new father around the house. There is a reason for all this, well, sort of, as you shall see.

The next scene shows the entire family laying in the sun sleeping. Johnny is somehow sleeping sitting up (!), leaning over his crossed legs like an exhausted Buddha. To say that this shot of Mother, Alice, Carla, and Johnny sleeping on a blanket in the scorching sun next to a pile of boulders is strange wouldn’t quite capture the mood. It’s just freakin’ weird! It looks like they all died from eating bad mayonnaise or something.

Anyway, Johnny wakes up and makes his way to the cave. Upon reaching the cave entrance, an "Ed Wood-esque" bolt of lightning streaks across the sky and Johnny falls limp to the ground. (Oh yeah, and the scene flashes from normal to "negative" exposure accompanied with a scratchy ‘electric’ sound.)

As Johnny lies unconscious on the ground, we see a sparkler, er I mean a rocket ship, approaching the Earth. Then cut to some recycled "dinosaur" footage from the 1940 film One Million B.C.. As the, *ahem*, dinosaurs (a baby alligator with a fin glued to its back and some sort of lizard) battle to the death we flash back and forth to Johnny, occasionally in ‘negative’ mode and occasionally ‘normal’ exposure. If you can tie all this together, then congratulations…you’ve done more than I could. (The colossal battle between the baby alligator and the lizard, oops, I mean dinosaurs, is occasionally intercut with a lame stop-motion battle between 2 triceratops. I mean, this is some really bad stuff here…and not to point out the obvious, but: what the hell do dinosaurs have to do with anything?!)

OK, a few more flashes of negative exposure and Johnny regains consciousness in front of the cave entrance. Somehow, he now is wearing shorts and is laying in front of some sort of radio precariously perched atop a wobbly wooden table. From behind the radio spews a cloud of, yes, billions of bubbles! It’s the Automatic Billion Bubble Machine! Rejoice!

Johnny stands up and walks over to some sort of (cardboard) ‘viewscreen’. Atop the viewscreen is a can of paint and a paint brush (?) which Johnny picks up and begins painting on the cave wall. If you’re now thinking "What the hell is going on here?", then I am doing an accurate job of describing this scene.

RomanA few more ‘negative’ flashes (man, they loved that effect, didn’t they?), and Johnny runs out of the cave and hides behind some boulders just outside the entrance. Out from the depths of the cave, accompanied by Elmer Bernstein’s triumphal majestic score, shambles Earth’s conqueror: Ro-Man!

Ro-Man turns on his viewscreen and watches as chunks of styrofoam twist on wires in front of a black background. Sorry, I meant a storm of meteorites flying through outer space. Hmmm. OK, maybe he just likes to watch that sort of thing because it has absolutely nothing to do with the film. OK, OK, of course…this was filmed in 3-D, so the meteors probably looked (sort of) like they were flying out of the screen. Man, that must have been really exciting.

Ro-Man eventually changes channels and we see his boss at his desk…The Great Guidance. (Give yourself 2 points if you guessed that The Great Guidance and Ro-Man are the same actor.) The Guidance, surrounded by bubbles and an electric arc gadget, sets down his violin bow (!!!) and prepares to hear Ro-Man’s report.

Ro-Man Extension Ro-Man XJ2, reporting to Guidance Ro-Man. I salute you.
Guidance You are late! Fourteen minutes!
Ro-Man The gravitational pull is stronger than reported. Point seven-six-five-two higher than our planet.
Guidance Accepted

(This film is a treasure trove of scientific jabber. A treasure trove, I tell ye!)

Great GuidanceRo-Man reports that all life on Earth has been destroyed via the "Calcinator Beam". (His boast are confirmed with stock-footage shots of bombed cities from World War 2.) "At first the fools thought it came from one among their many nations..they begin destroying each other with hydrogen bombs," gloats Ro-Man over a stock-footage atom bomb explosion.

Ro-Man continues, "I announced myself in order to keep them from wiping out cities which will give our people much amusement." (Why Ro-Man is living in a cave in Bronson Canyon instead of a penthouse in one of these cities is not discussed.)

I just have to mention that the dubbed voices of Ro-Man and Great Guidance in no way whatsoever match the gesticulations of their arms and heads. Ro-Man will typically stand still, spout out some nonsense, then upon completion of his sentence madly wave his arms in the air. Just another little diamond for bad movie fans.

Ro-Man finished up by stating that although our "resistance patterns showed some intelligence," the Earth’s entire population was wiped out. (Ro-Man’s status as a ‘conqueror of worlds’ is somewhat jeopardized by the fact that he can’t detect 9-year old Billy listening into his whole conversation from just 5 feet behind him.)

Great Guidance seems to tire of Ro-Man’s bragging, paving the way for some more great (incomprehensible) dialog:

Guidance I want facts not words!
Ro-Man Fact A: my pulse has been reduced to plus zero-zero.
Guidance Reject! Error!
Ro-Man Error? But Great Guidance, I have proved it! My energizer has scan-checked by square feet! No life above lepidoptera level exists!
Guidance My calculator is more accurate! In the twenty-second category there is an error of sixteen-billionths!
Ro-Man The Great One is never wrong. Then there are perhaps eight people left on Earth?
Guidance “Not perhaps! Precisely! Find and destroy them! Then report back!”

After that pleasant conversation, The Great Guidance hangs up leaving Ro-Man to ponder his miscalculations. (Just like the viewer pondering why they chose to watch this film.)

Robot MonsterOK, Johnny flees from the cave and returns home, which is simply an open basement of a destroyed house. Johnny’s father, the Professor (plot point!), happily takes Johnny in his arms as his mother scolds him for going "outside the wires." It turns out that the human survivors have created an electronic field around their ‘home’ that Ro-Man’s instruments are unable to penetrate. This "field" is generated via four strands of wire hung on the bare walls. I guess we just have to take it all with a grain of salt and just assume that it all makes sense.

When Mother threatens to tan his hide for leaving the barrier, Papa (I’m just going to call the Professor "Papa" from now on) explains (via a chunk of exposition) that he and Alice have created a field which can "reflect [Ro-Man’s] deadly beams away from the house." In order to make things perfectly clear for little Johnny, Papa says, "He can’t see us. He can’t hear us. But one word spoken outside the barrier and [Ro-Man] will be down on us!" (Don’t worry too much about this one rule, people say pretty much anything that comes to mind while "outside the barrier" without the mighty Ro-Man doing squat about it.)

Johnny confesses that he was down at Ro-Man’s cave and see the evil destroyer himself. In fact, it appears to Johnny that Ro-Man is making the cave into his home. (Once again, why not make his home of one of our ‘amusing’ cities? Furthermore, what are the odds that Ro-Man would make his headquarters within walking distance of the only group of humans left alive on the face of the planet?)

Robot MonsterJohnny heads off screen for "some water" while Papa bangs his hand on the wall in frustration, "Why here? Why here?" he asks. Alice suggests, "Perhaps we’re the last people on Earth…he senses our presence…he keeps calculating, closer and closer…" (I guess this might explain how Ro-Man got within such a close distance to their home. But still, Ro-Man didn’t even know about the humans until Great Guidance told him, so it looks like it was just coincidence Ro-Man wound up so close. And why a cave? My head hurts.)

Papa wrings his hands in frustration, "If we only could find a way…to communicate with each other…", he laments. "Do you think we still have a garrison on the space platform?", queries Alice. (Space platform? Where the heck did that come from?) Anyway, Papa is not too optimistic, "Why should we succeed where others have failed?" Boy…don’t try to cheer anybody up or anything.

Robot MonsterAt that moment their viewscreen comes to life. Everybody rushes over to see who it is that’s trying to contact them. Hoping that it’s the garrison on the space platform, the picture finally clears, only to reveal Ro-Man’s hilarious, I mean horrible, visage.

Upon seeing Ro-Man, the humans amazingly avoid laughing, and somehow manage to keep a straight face as the evil robot overlord delivers his ultimatum. "Hu-Mans, listen to me," Ro-Man begins, "due to an error in calculation there are still a few of you left. You escaped destruction because I did not know you existed. Now I know you are watching. I see five of you who have not been destroyed." Ro-Man shakes his fists in the air and continues, "Show yourselves and I promise you a painless death."

"This is incredible!" exclaims the professor, "This means that Roy is gone too!" Johnny insensitively suggests that Alice is probably pretty happy about that since they used to fight so much. "Don’t say that Johnny," Alice manages to say between sobs, "Roy was a great scientist…" (I love how these guys have no special field of study, just an all around ‘great’ scientist, probably a ‘great’ guy too.)

"I would have never developed my serum without him" says Papa. (More on this ridiculous serum later.)

"The trouble was he wouldn’t admit I was good in my field," sobs Alice. (Man, this is some greeaattt dialog.) Mama steps in to console Alice, reassuring her that she is in fact "better than good" by noting that it was Alice that fixed the viewscreen after "the blast." I’m sure she feels much better now.

Back at Billion Bubble Central, Ro-Man breaks up this touching scene by continuing with his discourse. (It was nice of Ro-Man to sit and wait while everybody got a chance to spew out their wads of exposition, wasn’t it?) "Do you wonder what has happened to your fellows?" Ro-Man snidely asks. "Watch them!" he gloats as he shows more of the same World War 2 stock footage. (Most of it flashing between negative and positive exposure for some reason.)

Later that day, the family is laying on mattresses scattered about the exposed floor of their ‘home’. For some reason Alice is sleeping very close to Papa while Mother is curled up in the corner…and I’m not nit-picking here…watch the movie and see for yourself. Anyway, Papa hears a noise and grabs his pistol. Figuring that invincible Ro-Man has come for them, the Professor puts the pistol aside as he and his family await their fate at the hands of the furry mechanoid.

But wait! It’s Roy! Roy hops into the basement (wearing a torn t-shirt in order to convey that the Earth has in fact been destroyed.) Overcome with joy, Alice and the others race over to greet him. Roy exclaims that he too has been within a few feet of Ro-Man at his lair. (Which even further jeopardized Ro-Man’s "Conqueror of the World" status…Maybe he should order a diving helmet that has windows in the side so he can see people sneaking up on him. Hell, both Johnny and Roy have managed to get within arm’s length of this so called ‘invincible’ killer robot without Ro-Man even knowing they were there.)

Robot MonsterRoy and Alice exchange some light-hearted banter, as she is unwilling to admit so easily that she is happy to see him alive. (Whatever.) Papa asks Roy if there are any other people alive to which Roy informs them that their are indeed 2 others, Jason and McCloud. In a round about way, this all leads to another dump of exposition, this time it’s Roy’s turn. He informs them (i.e., the viewer) that Papa has created a serum which makes people immune to all manners of sickness, "even the common cold." (Whew! That’s a relief!) To make a long story short, Roy concludes that it was this very serum (that the Professor injected into his family, Roy, Jason, and McCloud) that has immunized them all against Ro-Man’s "death ray." (How a serum against disease could render a person immune to a ‘calcinator’ ray is not completely clear to me.)

If this all seems a wee bit far fetched, just go with the flow.

OK, moving right along. Roy excitedly notes that he, Jason, and McCloud have scrounged up enough fuel to launch a rocket laden with the serum up to the garrison on the space platform. The garrison can then be immunized against the calcinator ray, thus giving the humans a fighting chance against Ro-Man.

The only hitch in the plan is that they can’t inform the garrison that the rocket is on the way without also letting Ro-Man find out. Thus, the garrison will probably think that the rocket is Ro-Man’s rocket and blast it out of the sky.

Yup…that’s quite a fly in the ointment, eh?

Roy apparently didn’t consider this eventuality and notes that they have 2 days to either call off the launch or contact the space platform. Since it will take longer than 2 days to get back to the launch pad, Alice suggests that she could "rewire the circuits on the viewscreen" so that they could broadcast this information to the space platform without Ro-Man being able to intercept the transmission. (Once again, just go with the flow.)

Robot MonsterTo simulate 2 solid days of "rewiring" of the viewscreen, we see a montage of shots showing Alice and Roy’s hands soldering wires in some sort of contraption. Their voices play over the background, lightheartedly teasing each other, as the work progresses. "You’re either too beautiful to be so smart, or too smart to be so beautiful!", jests Roy as Alice slaves away on the circuit board. "I guess we do get along all right at that," replies Alice in a manner that suggests she really didn’t understand what he meant. (Neither did I.)

Eventually Alice asks Roy what time it is. Roy tells her the time but Alice wants to know what day it is. You see, this clever ploy indicates the passage of time. So clever. However, since they have been working less than 2 days, I find it odd that Alice would lose track of what day it was on the same day she started working. "I’m so tired!", says Alice. Me too, baby, me too.

With the rewiring complete, we cut away from the fascinating ‘Hands-Soldering-A-Circuit-Board’ montage. Alice, thoroughly exhausted, wearily states that she can’t control her hands anymore. Roy suggests taking a break. From behind a wall appears the Papa who also suggests that they get some rest.

In a truly inexplicable moment, Papa then says that the rocket must have taken off at dawn and "they’re either there by now or…." Since it is obviously midday, his statement can only mean that they have could have told the exhausted Alice to stop working at dawn since the ship had left. However, they obviously let her work for at least another 7 or 8 hours for no reason whatsoever! Alice’s response to this seemingly cruel joke is to apologize (!),

"I’ve failed you…", Alice wearily remarks.

"Failed?", says Roy,"You realized what you tried to do was impossible, yet you almost did it!"

"But I didn’t," says Alice.

Back in his cave, Ro-Man calls the Hu-Mans on the viewscreen. "Yesterday I calculated five of you…now there are six," he correctly notes. Alice gives a sly look to the others around her and says, "He still doesn’t know about Jason and McCloud!" Well, I guess he does now, you moron.

It doesn’t really matter, Ro-Man tells Alice and the others that he detected the rocket launch and now shows the Hu-Mans the footage of the rocket ship’s destruction. (Boy, talk about rubbing it in!)

Robot MonsterThe first thing Ro-Man shows them is stock-footage of a V-2 (!) rocket taking off from a launch pad. (Ro-Man sure loves WW2 footage.) We then see a shot of the so called "Space Platform." This platform is realized by a model plane (!) mounted on a stick with a sparkler shoved into its rear end. Somebody is obviously swinging the, *ahem*, platform, around in circles because you can see the sparks go behind his arm as the platform makes its revolutions. You can even see the guy’s hand holding the stick! Incredible!

Robot MonsterAnyway, Ro-Man brags that the Great One himself is going to send the cosmic blast to blow up the rocket ship and the platform. Ro-Man begins his countdown, "Ten…nine…eight…", then apparently tires and just cuts to the Great One. The Great One sticks his hand towards the screen (3-D!!!) and we flash into negative exposure a couple of times for the hell of it. As expected, the space ship and the space platform explode into flames and pieces of plastic.

Seeing their only hope for salvation has been destroyed, the humans embrace each other in hopeless desperation. Ro-Man, always one to point out the obvious, chimes in, "Now, of the two billion…there are six. Calculate your chances…Negative. Negative. Negative."

Sensing that he finally has the humans where he wants them, Ro-Man shows a glint of compassion, offering the humans a choice between "a painless surrender-death and the horror of resistance-death." Faced with a no-win situation, the humans can only stare into the viewscreen. Ro-Man signs off by saying, "By your clock-time, in one hour I will seek you out."

Mother notes that something has to be done. Furthermore, since their food has almost run out, they can’t keep hiding forever. She suggests that Papa talk to Ro-Man. "Make him see that we won’t harm him…he can let us live…", she says in a near hysteria. I would suspect that after decimating the other 2 billion people of Earth, Ro-Man probably isn’t the type who will just ‘talk things out’ over coffee.

Papa agrees to give it a try. "As soon as Alice has had her sleep [!]…I will try," says Papa. You would think that seeing as they have only a 1-hour time limit to choose between "surrender-death" and "resistance-death" they might be in more of a hurry to get the ball rolling, but there you have it.

More scenes of Roy and Alice’s hands soldering wires and what not.

Eventually the viewscreen is fixed. Papa manages to call Ro-Man and asks, "Ro-Man! Do you scan us on your viewscreen?"

Ro-Man affirms that he indeed scans them, and that he assumes the humans have decided "on the easy way out."

"No, Ro-Man," answers Papa, "We have fought you to a stand-still, and we will go on doing it as long as necessary!" (Seeing that Ro-Man has the entire world at his feet, including our ‘amusing’ cities, while the humans live in a hole in the ground, I don’t see how Papa could consider this a stalemate, but anyway…)

To aid him in his plea for mercy, Papa decides to introduce his family over the viewscreen. He figures that once Ro-Man sees what a pathetic bunch the humans really are (I agree), he’ll change his mind (after already killing 2 billion people) and allow them to live.

After introducing his wife and daughter, Papa brings Johnny in front of the viewscreen at which time the little brat sticks out his tongue and razzes Ro-Man. (Gee, thanks for making things easier for the human race, Johnny!) He finally introduces Roy, his assistant in helping him develop the Anti-Everything serum. (Wasn’t that suppose to be a secret? Maybe it’s not such a smart idea to actually tell Ro-Man how you survive the calcinating ray…but what do I know?)

Ro-Man is suddenly overcome by a new emotion. He shakes his fists in the air and demands to see Alice one more time. Alice takes her place and says, "We want peace, Ro-Man, but peace with honor." Um, Alice, honey, it doesn’t look like you’re in any position to demand armistice terms. Just take the surrender-death and get it over with.

Taking a liking to the Hu-Man girl, Ro-Man demands to speak with Alice face-to-diving-helmet. Papa refuses: "No! I’m the head of this family unit!"

"Calculate, Hu-Man," suggests Ro-Man, "If I meet with the girl, I might find a way to integrate you into the plan." Alice shoves Papa out of the way and accepts Ro-Man’s terms: They will meet in 1 hour at some ruins by a dry river. (Oh! Those ruins by the dry river! That clears things up.) As soon as Ro-Man signs off, Roy and Papa refuse to allow Alice to meet with Ro-Man, resulting in the binding of Alice and tossing her onto one of the mattresses. Johnny takes advantage of the familial crisis and sneaks out of their ‘home’ to face Ro-Man alone.

Robot MonsterMeanwhile, assuming that their date is still on, Ro-Man trudges across the countryside to the rendezvousspot. I can only imagine how freakin’ hot it was for George Barrows to tramp around the desert while wearing a full-body ape suit and diving helmet. Considering the film’s entire budget was only $16,000, I can’t believe Phil Tucker was able to pay Barrows much at all, so boy, I guess Tucker sure owed Barrows a couple cold brewskis after this one!

Boy, there is a lot of footage showing Ro-Man stomping through the brush.

Anyway, back home, Johnny’s absence is finally discovered, which seems like something they would have noticed right away since they live in a 10-foot by 10-foot hole. Roy unties Alice and they run off to find Johnny under the assumption that he is going to the ruins in order to confront Ro-Man himself.

At the ruins, Johnny positions himself on a ledge approximately 3 feet above Ro-Man’s head. (For some reason, Ro-Man can’t seem to reach Johnny, even though it looks like he could just lift up his arms and grab him. And this guy conquered the world?) Expecting to meet the attractive Alice, Ro-Man is a bit disappointed at seeing Johnny at the ruins. Johnny asks why Ro-Man wants to kill everybody to which he replies that the Hu-Mans were getting too intelligent and thus, had to be destroyed. (Didn’t Ro-Man tell us all this before? Somebody should tell Johnny to pay attention when the Conqueror of the World is speaking on the viewscreen.)

"I think you’re just a big bully…", says Johnny.

"Now I will kill you!", replies Ro-Man, confirming Johnny’s accusations of him being a big bully.

A few flashes of negative exposure, er, I mean the calcinator ray, have no effect on the boy. "You look like a pooped-out pin-wheel!", needles the unharmed Hu-Man boy after Ro-Man ceases with his death ray.

"Your father must be a super scientist!", says Ro-Man.

"He’s got a super-serum to keep people from ever getting sick!", says Johnny.

Thanks to Johnny’s big mouth, Ro-Man puts 2 and 2 together and comes to the conclusion that the Professor’s serum is the reason that the surviving humans have not been killed by the calcinator ray. "You told me all I need to know!", says Ro-Man, "I will calculate the spectrum dust in the calcinator death ray to counteract this antibiotic!" (Not sure how an antibiotic would help somebody against a death ray…but moving right along…) Realizing his mistake, Johnny gasps and runs back home with Ro-Man shaking his fists in elation. (Ro-Man pretty much shakes his fists no matter what he feels. Then again, he’s supposed to be an emotionless robot, so go figure.)

But wait, didn’t Papa already tell Ro-Man about the serum after he introduced his family on the viewscreen? What the….?

Robot MonsterMeanwhile, Alice and Roy are out looking for Johnny. (The desert heat provides Roy the opportunity to remove his shirt and show off his buff bod, if anybody is interested.) Alice struggles along behind him in her high-heels (!!). Suddenly, Roy hears Ro-Man approaching from the nearby scrub brush, sweeps Alice up in his arms and hides in a small ravine. Ro-Man looks around, flashes the screen negative a few times, then strolls off again. That was exciting.

In another well-known continuity error, Roy pulls Alice deeper into the brush and momentarily exposes his right ear where you can clearly see blood trickling down his cheek. This injury is to occur in a fight with Ro-Man that takes place in a couple minutes, yet they edited in this footage showing the injured Roy before the fight takes place! (Ahh…I love this job!)

More footage of Ro-Man straggling along through the desert. Damn, it looks hot out there! And in a monkey-suit for God’s sake!

Back home, Johnny confesses to what he has done. "It’s all right," consoles Papa, "You did right." (?!). (But like I mentioned before, Papa already mentioned the serum over the viewscreen, so what’s the big deal? Stupid movie.)

Back in the bush, Roy and Alice begin flirting and chatting. (Aren’t they suppose to be finding Johnny? Oh well, out of sight, out of mind.) This entire flirting scene is composed of Alice and Roy silently gesticulating with their hands. Yes, they are not talking at all, just signaling with their hands in some sort of bizarre pseudo sign-language. I mean, this is truly strange stuff here. Well, they end up smooching and implicitly make love as the camera fades out.

The next day, in the bunker, Mother is braiding Carla’s hair while Papa reads to Johnny from a book. Roy (still topless) and Alice come into the bunker with sly smiles on their face. "What has kept you two?", inquires Papa. "Now really, father, isn’t it obvious?", replies Mother while Alice and Roy exchange sheepish grins. (Sheesh! Just spell it out, will ya?)

"Professor, it may seem silly to you, but Alice and I want to get married," says Roy, who still hasn’t bothered to take on his t-shirt after shagging Alice. They would like Papa to perform the ceremony: a solemn duty which he joyfully accepts.

While the Hu-Mans prepare for the ceremony, Ro-Man contacts Great Guidance.

Robot Monster"Great Guidance, I have discovered the secret of our failure to destroy the remaining Hu-Mans," says Ro-Man, "Our C-Ray, the calcinator death-ray, [you would think the Great Guidance would know what the C-Ray was], can not penetrate them. They have been made immune through the antibiotic serum that I believe is the same as our formula XZA."

So Ro-Man already has the same serum that the Professor uses to protect the humans? What the hell? The Great Guidance is running out of patience. "Eliminate the error! Death to Hu-Mans!" he commands Ro-Man yet again before ending the conversation.

As Ro-Man is getting his ass chewed out, Roy and Alice are busy getting married. (In a classy touch, Roy is still shirtless. How romantic.) After a short and confusing service, Papa pronounces Roy and Alice man and wife. (Roy forgot the ring. No kidding. Buh-rother!)

Papa tells them to enjoy their honey-moon (!) and to be back first thing in the morning, "but don’t forget…there’s a war going on!", he adds with a chuckle. (Huh!?). Alice goes to "get her things" (what the hell kind of things can she possibly have living in a blasted basement?), and she and Roy head off into the desolated ruins of the world for their honeymoon.

As Roy and Alice make their way to…somewhere…Carla runs up with a bouquet of wild flowers which she gives to Alice. They tell Carla to hurry home, but Carla continues in the same direction, i.e., away from the bunker. (Stupid movie. And oh yeah, didn’t Papa say that if anybody spoke outside of the protective barrier that Ro-Man would know where to find them? Oh well, I guess we are suppose to just forget about all that for now.)

Oh no! Here comes Ro-Man! Carla obligingly stands still thus allowing the bulky robot a chance to actually catch up to her, at which time he asks, "What are you doing here alone, girl-child?"

"My daddy won’t let you hurt me!", replies Carla. (Wrong-o!)

Apparently not too concerned about Carla’s daddy, Ro-Man promptly picks her up and strangles her.

Feeling pretty good about himself, Ro-Man tosses the body aside and heads back to his cave to report his progress to Great Guidance. "It was a simple matter of strangulation," he grotesquely remarks, "That leaves four."

"Error again! Five!", Guidance corrects him.

But you see, Ro-Man has taken a liking to Alice and would like to avoid destroying her if it would be possible to, *ahem*, "integrate her into the plan", if you get my drift.

"Do you question the plan?", demands Great One. "No…I only postulate," replies Ro-Man. "Proceed as scheduled…destroy the others!" command Great Guidance yet again, before hanging up. (Really, isn’t he getting sick of Ro-Man’s crap by now?)

Robot MonsterMeanwhile, Roy and Alice’s honeymoon is broken up by a jealous Ro-Man. The hairy bastard storms out of a stand of saplings and attacks the amorous couple. Roy and Alice try to run but seeing that they might actually, you know, escape, decide to stop and have it out mano-a-mano. Ro-Man delivers an overhead smash to Roy’s noggin while Alice frantically beats upon his chest with a styrofoam rock. Roy eventually succumbs to Ro-Man’s patented "Death-Strangle-Grip" while Alice decides it would be best to skedaddle. Unfortunately for Alice, high-heel shoes weren’t the best choice for traversing the desert, and she promptly falls to the ground where Ro-Man scoops her up and carries her off to his bubble-filled lair. ("How is it you’re so strong, Ro-Man…it seems impossible," gasps Alice. (Huh?))

Back home, Papa and Mother find Carla’s lifeless remains sprawled in the grass. As Mother weeps, Papa stoically picks up the child and carries her away for burial. Johnny, kneeling at the grave says, "I wish now I’d played house with her more when she wanted to."

"No regrets, Johnny, we enjoyed her as long as she was with us," says Papa. Man, talk about a close family.

Suddenly, a small figure appears at the top of the screen. Closer and closer, the figure approaches and we see it’s Roy, running as fast as he can, hopping over rocks and scrambling down the slope. He finally reaches Papa who asks "Where’s Alice?" Roy responds, "Ro-Man’s got her!" and then keels over dead! ("Roy is dead…and nothing can be done," laments Papa.)

This last scene is truly a magic moment. The way Roy runs and scrambles down the hill, takes Papa by the arms, delivers his line, and immediately dies is absolutely beautiful to behold!

Anyway, Johnny suggest luring Ro-Man out of the cave so that the others can go in and rescue Alice. Who is going to be the bait? Johnny volunteers and Papa quickly agrees to the plan. (Gee..thanks dad! Don’t you volunteer or anything!)

Ro-Man finally reaches his cave with the captive Alice. Setting her down, he grasps her arms and asks, "Suppose I was Hu-Man…would you treat me like a man?" (Whoa! Dude!) Alice resists and Ro-Man pulls down the top of her dress. (Don’t worry, you don’t get to see anything…this was 1953 you know…) Just as Ro-Man is about to get his groove on, the viewscreen comes to life. It’s Papa and he’s trying to lure Ro-Man out of his cave by offering to meet him. Before speaking with the intrusive father, Ro-Man tries to tie up Alice with a (convenient) piece of rope laying next to his bubble machine. Having monkey hands, however, proves to be too clumsy to actually, you know, tie the rope, so he konks Alice in the head and knocks her out instead.

When Papa offers to give himself up, Ro-Man tells him to call back later. (Once again, this is the Conqueror of the World?)

Ro-Man turns off the viewscreen and walks over to Alice, who is now tightly bound with the rope. I can only assume she felt sorry for Ro-Man and tied herself up. (Or else she was trying to get the movie over with.) Ro-Man goes over to Alice to get, uh, a little more personal, when the viewscreen comes to life again. (Can’t he just unplug it?)

This time it’s the Great Guidance and he’s pissed. He waves his violin bow to get Ro-Man’s attention before laying into him, "Fact: You have captured the girl and not destroyed her. Fact: You have delayed accepting the surrender of the others. This verges on failure." (Verges? I’d say that Ro-Man is proving to be a complete knuckle-head if you ask me.)

"There is something that you do not understand, Great Guidance," begins Ro-Man in self-defense.

"You reject the plan?"

"I wish to make an estimate of my own," pleads Ro-Man to his leader.

"To think for yourself is to be like the Hu-Man!", scolds the Great Guidance.

"Yes," Ro-Man interrupts, "to be like the Hu-Man. To laugh…feel…want…why are these things not in the plan?"

The Great Guidance points out that Ro-Man is "an extension of the Ro-Man and a Ro-Man you will remain." Aha. Well. That’s that then, isn’t it. "Now I set you into motion," Guidance continues, "One: Destroy the girl. Two: Destroy the family. Fail…and I will destroy you." (That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?)

The Great Guidance signs off, leaving Ro-Man to deliver one of the best ‘bad movie’ soliloquies of all time:

"I cannot. Yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do ‘must’ and ‘cannot’ meet? Yet I must. But I cannot."

Ahhh…pure gold, I tell you, pure gold!

Papa, Mother, and Johnny make their way to the meeting point. Papa gives Johnny some sort of ray gun (!) and then send him off to lure Ro-Man out of the cave so they can rescue Alice.

Meanwhile, Great Guidance calls again. "Why have you not killed the girl?", he demands to know. "I must. But I cannot," replies Ro-Man in a confused voice. Just then Johnny appears and offers himself to be killed. Great Guidance orders Ro-Man to kill them. Ro-Man agrees to kill the boy, but not the Alice.

Anyway, Ro-Man runs off after Johnny as Papa and Mama run in to untie Alice. Ro-Man walks over to Johnny (who is standing still…hey Johnny, if you’re going to be the bait, you could try and run away once Alice is free, you know…) Yes well, Ro-Man strangles Johnny, and now Great Guidance has had enough of Ro-Man BS. "You wish to be a Hu-Man? Good! Then you can die a Hu-Man!" Guidance reaches out his furry claw (3D!!!) and zaps out some comic lightning bolts or death rays, or something.

The shot goes to negative exposure again (why not, at this point), and Ro-Man keels over beside Johnny’s lifeless body. Guidance, still not satisfied releases "the cosmic Q-rays", which causes the same dinosaur stock footage from the beginning of the film to be shown again (!!!). "The psychotronic vibrations will smash the Earth out of the universe!", shouts Guidance. (Ummm…is that a bad thing?)

Suddenly we see Roy carrying Johnny in front of the cave. The bubble-machine is gone, everybody is alive, because, yes, it was all a dream!

As Johnny and his family return home for dinner, we cut back to the cave entrance to see, yes, Ro-Man emerging from the darkness, not once, not twice, but three times!

Yes, I get the point…it was a dream…or was it?

I’m outta here.

Dennis Grisbeck (July 2005)

Afterthoughts

So, OK, all this was Johnny’s dream, eh? To be fair, Phil Tucker did clue us in several times, especially with the strange new ‘relationships’ between the characters after we see Johnny fall and bang his head. (The Professor becomes Johnny’s father, and so on.) This "movie in a dream" would also explain Ro-Man’s appearance, since, well, maybe that’s what a kid would believe a ‘robot monster’ would look like. However the film is simply so terrible that the clues go unnoticed because the viewer is in a state of near hysteria by Ro-Man’s antics.

There are a lot of people who defend Robot Monster. Fine. Still, this movie is utterly, completely, totally awful. The special effects are unbelievably atrocious. The dialog is at most times so bizarre it distracts the viewer from the film (especially Ro-Man and Great Guidance’s conversations). Ro-Man, well, what more can be said about him that hasn’t already been said.

This movie is really, really, bad. But a hell of a lot of fun. I dare say required viewing for any bad movie fan. See it!

Read more about Robot Monster at

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7 comments to Robot Monster (1953)

  • guts3d

    “(Don’t worry too much about this one rule, people say pretty much anything that comes to mind while “outside the barrier” without the mighty Ro-Man doing squat about it.)<—– Hilarious! Best line in the whole review!

  • Have you seen this movie? It’s a must! In a way, it’s a bit “smarter” than most people give it credit…and I’ll never admit that I said that!

  • Guts3d

    I bought it a while back upon your recommendation, and it was well worth the trouble. I believe I bought it off of either E-bay or Amazon, and the quality was pretty good.

  • The Wade Williams version from Corinth Films has excellent quality, as do all of their films I’ve seen. My Robot Monster 3D VHS is still in the mail. I’ll let you guys know if it’s worth watching. I imagine the billion bubbles were put in the movie solely for the purpose of looking cool in 3D.

    -Hail Rooty Hitler!

  • lowell nash

    wasn’t gregory moffett also in Plan 9 as an adult?

  • No, I don’t think so. Are you thinking maybe of Gregory Walcott?

  • Peter Ford

    Great website and review! You know, I’ve always liked ‘Robot Monster’ ever since |i saw it on the big screen shortly after it came out. Id did have a nightmnarish quality, full screen, up there in the dark, and the Bernstein score’s really quite impressive. Thanks for preserving this experience for us all!
    Cheers.

    Peter

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