The Colossus of New York (1958)
Hi all, Nate here again with the sad story of two of the most horrible, evil, reprehensible human beings who ever walked the Earth. It's late 1950s New York City and a Mad Scientist is hard at work in a basement lab in his huge, creepy house. Down there among the lab beakers and blinking computer lights, the Mad Scientist and his mousy son, the Douchebag, are seeking to restore life to the dead for their own nefarious and egotistical reasons. Rather than being hideously ugly old dudes with moles and limps, however, the Mad Scientist and his Igor-substitute Douchebag kid are outwardly handsome, successful, well-respected, and well-known in social circles in NYC.
Their lab is well-lit, that's money.
The Mad Scientist is a world-renown brain surgeon and philanthropist who gives off a pleasant grandfatherly air, attends the opera frequently, and seems legitimately concerned about the poor and hungry peoples of the world. But secretly he's a terrible person who will do unspeakable things to advance himself and prove his own scientifically-dubious crackpot theories about the brain and the afterlife. If this were any other b-movie it would turn out that he was a former Nazi scientist living under a new identity, still carrying out Hitler's orders.
Vril Society, I bet.
His oldest son, the slicked-back Douchebag, also gives good camera-face in public, a tall, athletic, charming man who both has his own intellectual pursuits and fervently supports his father's illicit research with frightening zeal. Junior High-level pettiness seems to be his main motivation, jealousy of his younger brother's fame and fortune (and his hot wife), and resentfulness of his father for the perceived lower quality of his love for him versus his little brother. If there was ever a grown man who needed to pack up and move across the globe to Paris to start his life completely over, it's this dude. Sometimes the shadow is just too heavy to live under and you have to find your own sun (I read that on a t-shirt at Target).
Douchebag with his dad.
The younger brother, Jeremy, is a once-in-a-century genius with everything going right for him, big house, great family, world-class career, and all the social and economic perks that come with those advantages. As the film opens he's literally just won the Nobel Peace Prize for being so damn awesome! It's hard to blame the brooding Douchebag brother for being jealous, but there are better ways to handle that sort of simmering sibling rivalry than implanting Jeremy's brain into a colossal robot and turning it loose on the city.
Jeremy (L) in better times.
...the hell, you say? Yes, that's what happens here, at the urging of his megalomaniac father, the older brother takes his sibling's brain from his recently deceased corpse (car accident) and sticks it in a huge robotic Frankenstein creation of his own design. The Mad Scientist father, being a brilliant brain surgeon (yes, insert Ben Carson joke here), gets everything hooked up with the right red/green wires and spring clamps and before long you have a nigh-indestructible, massively powerful robot controlled by the human mind of a super-genius. Sounds awesome, what could possibly go wrong?
A lot, of course, because no one thought to ask dead-Jeremy if he'd mind if his brain/consciousness was implanted in a titanium robot chassis, which you'd think there would be a waiver or two for that. Once he figures out he's stuck in this “body” for the rest of his “life”, Jeremy rightfully blames his father for consigning him to this living hell, never again being able to know the simple human pleasures of touch or taste or feelings or erections. Plus, his family is using his still-kicking genius mind to advance their own research needs, having him sit in a room and figure out complex math problems which they just won't take the time to Google for themselves. Not to mention he can't even go outside because he's a 500-pound 8-foot giant machine with dead, slotted eyes and a serial killer trenchcoat, he totally going to stand out a wee bit at Cony Island. Was there any need to make the robot body so huge and scary? I mean other than script? Was the state of android robotics 1958 so primitive that they couldn't miniaturize any of the solid components? Or at least give him a better face?
Can he get a nice fedora?
It also doesn't help (at all!) that Jeremy's own brother, the jealous Douchebag, has the humpyhots for his widow and has barely waited for his corpse to cool before putting the moves on her. It's hard to blame the girl, Anne, if she feels the need to move on, because she has no idea what the rest of the family has been doing. As far as she knows, her husband died a year ago in a car accident and she's had to raise their son together and try and get on with her life. The fact that her dead husband's brother has been “rather friendly” to her is not particularly uncommon, I read junk like that on Facebook all the time.
Get your own girl, bro.
What is uncommon is that Mecha-Jeremy, while steel and plastic below the cerebellum, still deeply loves Anne and harbors a desire (unreasonable under the circumstances) that they can get back together one day and have more babies and stuff. But, much like the X-Men's Thing, Robo-Jeremy's horrible visage just causes those who once loved him to run away in terror. That's got to hurt like hell for the poor guy, because, remember, he didn't ask to become a monster and he's caring enough to realize that his family is better off with their memories of him as he used to be.
Rah! I still feel love.
By the way, I'm totes in love with Mala Powers, the lovely girl who plays Anne, one of the prettiest women you will ever see on the silver screen and a good actress to boot. She has a lot of lines, even advances the plot a bit, but she's treated terribly by misogynistic tools that produced this film. Befitting her place in a 1950s movie, Anne gets a extended scene in her boobs-overflowing nightgown, has to wear high heels even when hanging out at home, endures a face-mashing kiss from her former brother-in-law, and even faints dead away at the sight of the Robot. All that's needed is a hysterical crying fit and the inability to run without holding a man's hand and Anne would be a feminist poster-child to insulting excess.
No one sleeps like this.
If there was any bit of sanity left in Jeremy, seeing his brother kissyfacing his wife one night outside their house washes it away. From this moment on, the once-docile robot becomes a violent killer, bent on taking out his endless suffering on the human race (and his terrible father and brother specifically). Hard to blame the guy, he's quite a sympathetic creature by this point. Using a combination of brute strength, lazzzer beam eyes (?), and mind-controlling brain waves (?), the Colossus of New York rampages his way through his posh neighborhood and on to the United Nations building in Manhattan, where he starts murdering diplomats and intellectuals because he blames science/smart people for his fate.
Zapping the rich and white.
He kills a dozen innocent people with his disintegration beam eyeballs before he's confronted by his own son, who runs up to him and tries to get him to stop. Jeremy still retains some level of love and compassion for his child and during their rather sweet embrace, he realizes that he has to die so that his child may live without the pain of knowing his father is a murderous machine. So he tricks his son into pulling the Self-Destruct Lever under his coat and the Colossus “dies”.
That's going to be some therapy bills.
So that's it then, not too bad. While the subject matter is classic 1950's b-movie fodder, the look of the movie is topnotch, mostly because this is a Paramount Studios production, with all the money and talented crew that comes with that. There are even a few extremely well-done optical effects, most notably when the regular size people are in the same frame as the Colossus, even though the body actor in the suit was 7'4”, they still needed to shrink the other actors to give him even more of a sense of power and menace and they pull it off pretty well.
Perhaps the main problem I saw was with the skimpy run-time of just 69 minutes, which doesn't give you much time to really sympathize with the Colossus' mental breakdown, nor really to understand the vile, selfish motivations of those who have condemned him to his doomed fate. Another 10 minutes of Jeremy with his wife and kid before the accident would have been great, another 15 minutes of his dastardly father manipulating him into doing his work as the beast would have helped, and if we could have stretched it out to 90 minutes total we could have had a better, more dramatic ending battle than the sorta letdown one we have. But still, a fair movie and worth the time, and the new DVD release is a dream.
Studio money means better blocking.
Written in October 2016 by Nathan Decker.
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