Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Colossus of New York (1958)

Colossus of New York1The Colossus of New York is an underrated sci-fi thriller made by Paramount in 1958. It has mad scientists, monsters and death rays and what more could you ask for?

Dr Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin) is a brilliant young scientist who is killed in a freak accident. His father, noted brain surgeon Dr William Spensser (Otto Kruger), refuses to accept the fact of his son’s death. Why should the world be deprived of such a brilliant young mind? He persuades Jeremy’s brother Henry (John Baragrey), an expert in automation, to help him in his plan to ensure that Jeremy’s wok will continue. With his skills in brain surgery he is able to keep Jeremy’s brain alive and now Henry’s skills in automation will give him a new body.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that the new robotic body that they give Jeremy makes him look like a classic 1950s sci-fi monster. Jeremy’s intellectual skills are intact but Henry has doubts as to whether his brother can remain psychologically healthy in his new monstrous body. We can’t help sharing his doubts.


In fact the first request Jeremy makes of his father is to kill him. But Jeremy is persuaded that the world needs his skills, in particular his current project on grains that can be grown in polar regions, and Jeremy reluctantly agrees to remain alive to complete this work.

What Jeremy hasn’t been told is that his wife Anne (Mala Powers) and son Billy are still alive (it appears that he somehow thought they’d been killed as well). And Jeremy decides that he can’t go on living without seeing them. He befriends his young son Billy, who assumes he is merely a friendly giant. But soon there are rumours going around about a strange monstrous creature lurking in the woods near Dr William Spensser’s rather gothic-looking home.


His wife sees him as well, but she doesn’t realise that this monster is her husband. Jeremy’s psychological state is about to take a turn for the worse, however, when he discovers that his brother Henry is in love with Anne. Jeremy takes this news rather badly.

When his father and brother created the new robotic body for Jeremy they included a couple of features that will now have rather unfortunate consequences. Jeremy has hypnotic powers, he has extra-sensory perception and his eyes are equipped with powerful death rays. Why these features were included in his robotic body remains a mystery.


None of this bodes well for Henry. His robotic brother can track his every movement using his ESP and he can force others to do his bidding using his hypnotic powers. And of course Jeremy is just itching to try out his death rays.

The special effects are reasonably good and they’re definitely fun. The monster Jeremy looks suitably menacing.

The acting is passable enough and director Eugène Lourié (who was something of a specialist in this type of film) does a competent job.


Olive Films’ DVD releases is typical of this company. It boasts an excellent anamorphic transfer but is totally lacking in extras - there is not even a trailer.

The Colossus of New York is an interesting variation on the classic Frankenstein’s monster theme with Dr William Spensser being the mad scientist who is so intent on doing good that he fails to realise that he is actually doing evil. This is a fine example of 1950s American sci-fi and is highly recommended for fans of the genre.

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