In general I have a very high tolerance for 1950s science fiction movies. Even the low-budget ones. In fact especially the low-budget ones. That tolerance does not extend to the 1953 Robot Monster.
It’s not the incredibly cheesy special effects that are the problem. Even though they are cheesy beyond belief. It’s not the overall concept, even though the concept behind this one is very very silly. It’s not even the acting, awful though it is. The problem with Robot Monster is Wyott Ordung’s script, and most of all it’s the fact that it commits the One Sin That Cannot Be Forgiven, the one plot device for which I have absolutely zero patience. I can’t tell you what that is for fear of revealing spoilers although quite honestly it’s hard to see how it would be possible to spoil a movie as bad as this one.
Earth has been invaded by the Ro-Men, and their aim is to destroy all life on our planet in order to make room for their own race. Only six humans have survived and unfortunately they may be the six dumbest humans who ever lived.
Ro-Man turns out to look exactly like a guy in a gorilla suit wearing a cheap space helmet. I assume that was because the producers happened to have a gorilla suit and a cheap space helmet. Ro-Man possesses a terrifying death ray weapon but the six survivors have been treated with a miracle antibiotic and a side-effect of the antibiotic is that it makes people immune to terrifying death ray weapons.
Ro-Man also has a machine that produces bubbles. Our puny earth weapons are useless against advanced technologies such as that.
Ro-Man communicates with his superiors by means of a view screen and the view screen is the one special effect in the movie that actually doesn’t look too bad.
The six human survivors include a middle-aged scientist (we know he’s a real scientist because he has a foreign accent), his wife and three children plus his assistant Roy (George Nader). I’m amazed they have lasted this long since they make every stupid mistake anyone could possibly make when confronted by a malevolent alien armed with a terrifying death ray weapon.
The plot, such as it is, consists almost entirely of the humans trying to come up with new and imaginative ways to do stupid things to get themselves killed.
There are a couple of surprisingly dark moments but the script manages to undercut the effects of these moments. There’s also a cringe-inducing love story sub-plot involving Roy and the professor’s daughter which includes the most ludicrously inappropriate love scene in cinematic history.
Phil Tucker produced and directed this movie and he displays no talent whatsoever.
The acting is uniformly terrible but alas it’s terribly in a dull and irritating way rather than in an entertaining way. The guy playing Ro-Man does make a bit of an effort and it has to be admitted that acting while wearing a gorilla suit and a cheap space helmet does provide something of a challenge.
The sets are pretty much non-existent, most of the action taking place in a ruin, a cave or an abandoned quarry (abandoned quarries being a godsend for the makers of cheap sci-fi movies).
The space platform scenes may be the cheesiest special effect ever put on film.
There are also giant prehistoric reptiles in this movie. I have no idea why.
The Region 1 DVD from Cheezy Flicks offers an indifferent transfer without any worthwhile extras apart from a couple of trailers.
I pride myself on being able to something positive about most low-budget sci-fi movies of this era but I’m afraid there’s not much to be said in Robot Monster’s favour. If you’re in the mood you may get a few giggles from the ultra-cheesy effects. Rent it if you’re a 50s sci-fi completist and you have the ability to set your expectations very low. Otherwise it’s not really worth bothering with. If you decide to brave it you’ll need very large quantities of beer and popcorn.