Robot Monster (1953)
Editor Pam here. Due to the overwhelming positive response to our joint review of The Beast of Yucca Flats, Nate and I have decided to do another joint review. Well, okay, we got one "Nice Job!" comment from Paulo, but it meant a lot to us. Thanks, Paulo! We'll try to do as well on this review! After taking a full five minutes to discuss the matter, Nate and I picked 1953's Robot Monster to review. Why, you may ask? Well, it's high on the list of "Worst Movies of All Time," making it a perfect candidate for MMT, it breaks new ground as far as monsters are concerned, and best of all, it's in the public domain so neither of us had to spend a cent to watch it. And as you will see, even a cent might have been too much to pay for this little stinker of a movie.
Robot Monster's overall suckiness is not surprising, since a quick search on the Internet reveals that it was made in four days at a cost of around $16,000. The movie has a cast of exactly eight, and surprisingly, with the exception of the two children, all of the actors have reasonably good resumes. Their IMDb listings all show a lot of uncredited roles, but compared to the actors typical of this kind of movie, they were highly sought-after. Phil Tucker, the writer/director, attempted suicide shortly after the movie was released, supposedly because he was suffering from depression and because the film's distributor refused to pay him the agreed-upon percentage of the profits, but probably really out of shame over having made a movie like this. It was originally shot in 3-D, but available copies all seem to be in two dimensions only, which is more than enough, believe me.
On to the show...
The movie opens with a list of credits, including makeup, wardrobe, and something called an Automatic Billion Bubble Machine. No clue is given as to what the machine does except presumably make lots and lots of bubbles automatically. The first two characters we meet are Johnny and Carla, two adorable moppets who are playing outside on a beautiful sunny day. Johnny is about nine and Carla looks to be maybe six or seven. In what will turn out to be a bit of foreshadowing, Johnny is wearing a makeshift space helmet and "disintegrates" Carla with a toy gun. After this, they both get up and start walking. In common with The Beast of Yucca Flats, there is a lot of walking in this movie.
That's nice, zap your sister.
The kids end up at a cave, and here we meet Roy, an archeologist played by George Nader, the movie's most eminent almost-famous actor. This was his first lead role, and after this movie he was signed by Universal and enjoyed several years as a second-string Rock Hudson-type actor, but his career declined in the late 1950s. IMDb remains discreetly silent as to the cause, but other Internet sources say it was because George Nader was gay and people found out.
With Roy and the Professor.
Back at the cave, Roy and another archeologist (German-accented) known only as the Professor, are examining a cave painting. The person who originally created this painting thoughtfully painted it at the mouth of the cave, so future generations wouldn't have to make their way into a dank, claustrophobic cave to view it, and so Phil Tucker wouldn't have to break into his $16,000 to pay for lights to illuminate a cave. Despite being exposed to the weather and passing vandals for who knows how many millennia, the painting looks as though it was painted yesterday. The archeologists, no doubt being highly trained in their specialty, have decided the best way to study it is to chip it out of the wall and take it to a museum! Well, why not? Even though every other archeologist in the world would have left the painting in place, these two men know doing that would just leave the painting vulnerable to damage. Much better to remove it from its context and take it some place where it can be protected, don't you think?
"Cultural artifact preservation? What's that?"
Now there is a certain amount of childish prattle between the kids and the archeologists, and it is efficiently established that these two men are great guys who love kids. It's also established that Carla has a fixation on playing house, since she always brings the conversation around to this. A sign of the way women in the 1950s were brainwashed to believe that their only role in life was to be a housewife, or maybe just a sign that Phil Tucker couldn't be bothered to develop a realistic girl character? It turns out that Johnny and Carla have wandered off from a family picnic, and their mother and grown-up sister show up at the cave to retrieve them. Earlier we saw the children walking through some nice grassy areas, but now they all settle down to their picnic on a very unappealing piece of bare ground surrounded by boulders and a huge mound of rocks, with no protection whatsoever from the sun. This would not be my choice, but maybe the women were worried about getting grass stains on their dresses, as of course, this being 1953, they are both wearing calf-length dresses for their picnic. For that matter, Carla is wearing a dress, too.
"Mother," who isn't given another name in the credits, is played by Selena Royle (misspelled in the credits as Royale), a once semi-well-known actress whose career took a nosedive in the early 1950s when she was branded as a Communist sympathizer. She was around 50 when she made this movie, and she looks every day of it. In fact, she looks much too old to be the mother of Johnny and Carla, but it could be they were adopted. Big sister is named Alice, and she's sort of not-too-bad-looking, except for a tightly-permed early-1950s hairstyle. (Nate, feel free to insert your opinion of her looks here. Nate: She's muthafrickin' HOT!) During the unpacking of the food, Johnny asks out of the blue and completely irrelevantly if they will ever have a new dad around the house, so it can be assumed that this is all the family there is. He also expresses a wish that his new dad be a scientist, so we get a good idea of what's going to happen during the course of the movie. Get used to it, all the foreshadowing is this crude.
The meal must have been heavy, because everybody except Johnny falls asleep on the rocky bare ground, which must have been brutally uncomfortable for the actors. Johnny decides to explore the cave again and heads that way, but when he gets to the cave mouth, he is greeted by a display of lightning which knocks him down. This is rather remarkable, as it doesn't look as though the lightning came anywhere near him, but maybe he's the nervous type. It appears to be a sunny day, so where the lightning came from is a good question. As soon as Johnny hits the deck, the movie cuts to a scene of two lizards who are fighting each other. (Check out the awesome back fin, and wonder just how you glue a fin onto a lizard. Ask yourself if this is a job you'd want on your resume.) The lizard fight is interrupted by a few seconds of two claymation triceratops fighting, then we're back to the lizards. What this has to do with Johnny and the lightning is another good question, but I have the feeling it won't be the last one.
Fortunately little Johnny wakes up, unhurt by either the lightning or the fight between the lizards. However, something mysterious has happened -- when he was knocked unconscious he was wearing pants and a long-sleeved shirt, now he's wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Johnny doesn't seem to notice, but after all, anybody who's just been struck by lightning has a good excuse for being a little out of it. He is at the mouth of the cave, but now there are two pieces of what might be called furniture there. One I guess is the Automatic Billion Bubble Machine, although to be honest it isn't emitting that many bubbles, and it serves no discernable purpose. The other looks very much like a dresser with a mirror on top. Johnny goes over to investigate the dresser and paints something on the wall for no reason I can see, when he is scared off by flashes of light from inside the cave.
As he runs away, out lumbers -- Robot Monster! Look closely, because I have to say I've watched a lot of monster movies and never seen a monster like this. It's a gorilla with a diving helmet on his head, and at first I'm not sure if this is the monster of the title or a poor animal who got his head stuck in a metal vase. Props to Phil Tucker for having the unbridled gall to slap a diving helmet on a gorilla and call it an alien from outer space, as I'm sure nobody else has ever even considered doing such a thing. In fact, somebody might wonder if this is not an alien at all but instead the Navy has started training gorillas as frogmen, but no. It really is Robot Monster, and it heads for the dresser, turns the mirror on, and tunes in on another gorilla in a diving helmet. Robot Monster reports to the other gorilla how he used a "calcinator" to destroy all humans and in fact all life on Earth over the level of lepidoptera. Curse his luck, though, his boss knows better, and says there are still eight people left on Earth. Don't you just hate it when your boss makes you look incompetent? His boss, who is called Great Guidance, is being overly critical here, because Robot Monster (whose real name is Ro-Man XJ2) seems to have killed off 99.99999% of all life on Earth single-handed. This in itself is impressive, but it becomes even more so when you consider that Ro-Man appears to have no transportation of any sort except his own hairy legs. How long it took him to do this is not stated. Of course, it's possible he had an army of subordinates to help him and is just hogging all the credit for himself.
You might be thinking, "Why sweat eight people being left alive on Earth? The invading Robot Monsters can certainly spare them a little space to live in. What can eight puny humans do to a horde of helmet-wearing gorillas, anyway?" But Great Guidance doesn't care, he wants the rest of the humans destroyed, and no back talk from Ro-Man.
On the viewscreen.
Some more good questions: Why put your bubbleinator and your dresser-communicator at the mouth of the cave, where the surely-delicate equipment is exposed to all the elements? (Could it be because Ro-Man also wants to cut costs by not having lights in the cave?) What difference do eight humans make in their plans of conquest? How do you find eight humans on Planet Earth? (Great Guidance seems to have some kind of detection device that told him eight people were still alive, but he hasn't offered to share it with Ro-Man.) How do they see, anyway, because the faceplates on their helmets are backed with some opaque material that looks like metal? And why even bother with putting faceplates in helmets, if you can't see through them? If they're robots, how come they're furry? What did Johnny write on the wall? None of these questions are going to be answered. And with that, it's your turn, Nate.
Wait, what? No, I'm not ready yet! Crap, fine. We leave the furry bringer-of-doom and re-open the scene in a bunker where five of the aforementioned eight human survivors are camped out. It's not so much a bunker, really, more just an open foundation of some unfinished house's basement, completely exposed to the elements and useless as a defensive position against anything more militant than a fuzzy caterpillar. In this post-apocalyptic landscape, the best they could do is an open basement? Did Ro-Man really destroy every single house and every single structure on the entire planet? And they really don't seem too concerned about the lack of a roof (or walls, for that matter). Was Albert Hammond right, does it never rain in Southern California?
At least they have room to stretch out.
In this alternate timeline, or parallel universe, or maybe even the "real" future, that we are seeing now, the faces are the same but the roles are a little different. The portly Austrian archeologist is now Johnny's dad and he and his mom are now married. Remember back when Johnny was gushing over the Professor and how peachy keen he was and all? Well, now he's finally got his father figure. Of the rest of his family, his hot sister Alice is still his hot sister Alice (thankfully) and Carla his annoying kid sister is still his annoying kid sister, so none of that is changed.
Brand new family.
I'm sure whatever they are babbling on about is truly scintillating and all, but I'm way too distracted by Alice's outfit to pay attention. The planet has just been destroyed by an invading alien gorilla, the entire human race exterminated like sheep before the awesomeness of the Calcinator Death Ray, and she's still wearing an evening dress and 5-inch strapped heels! Amazing! And check that sexy conical torpedo bra, you could pierce Chobham armor with those (hubbahubba). On a related note, not to be outdone by her fashion-forward daughter, the mom has also squeezed herself into an unflattering backless halter dress two sizes too small, a decision which someone really should have talked her out of.
This, by the way, is what a proper post-apocalyptic girl should look like...
...not this! And how does she keep that dress so spotless white? Or pink, or beige, it's hard to tell in black-and-white.
Because we the audience need to know these things, the Professor pulls Johnny up on his knee (that's his schtick) and retells him the story of Ro-Man's vicious sneak attack on Earth (kid's got a short attention span). The old man reiterates that fighting back against Ro-Man is folly as no Earthly weapon can hurt him (which is an odd statement as later we see the thin-wristed 98-pound Alice knock him around a bit). The Americans and their allies threw "all they had" at him to no avail (those baguette-eating surrender-monkeys the French were surely no help) and Ro-Man quickly crushed all resistance with his alien technology and sparky helmet antennae.
Hey kid, stopping looking at the camera.
Why, oh, why, you ask, hasn't Ro-Man just waddled over to this basement and slaughtered these last pitiful humans? Well, it seems that supersmart scientist chick Alice has developed this energy-sizzling wire barrier that, along with "deflecting his deadly beams", seem to be able to cloak their physical presence from Ro-Man (huh?). He can't see them, he can't hear them, and it's beginning to seriously annoy him that he can't finish the job. His boss is on his butt daily, his co-workers are grumbling, and he's seeing that quarterly Destroy-all-Humans bonus slipping away from him. I'd suggest he take Ripley's advice and nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.
How these wire things operate without any visible power source is a mystery.
Johnny brings the bad news that Ro-Man has set up shop in a cave just down the ravine from them. While it is true that Alice's Ro-Mulan cloaking device (zing!) shields them from his sight, Ro-Man can still somehow sense they are in the area (probably by their smell as they seem to have no access to running water or shampoo). Even so, why is this killer beast from outer space now living in a cave in Griffith Park with little but a WWII surplus radio and a bubble machine stacked on a rickety card table? Shouldn't he be more image-conscious, isn't he the face of the New World Order of Helmeted Gorillas after all? What self-respecting conquering planetary ravisher wouldn't want to rule from the spacious halls of some depopulated castle, perched upon a throne made of the skulls of the fallen human race? It's just bad form to lose that psychological edge over your opponents, that's all I'm trying to say.
Can really see here how the "viewscreen" is made of wood with duct tape over the screen.
Anyway, even though they live in a basement, somehow they know that Ro-Man hasn't yet destroyed the "Space Platform", and they are hopeful that the garrison there can help them, if they could only communicate with them. The Professor is a bit of a downer here, all gloom and doom, and his wife has to admonish him kindly, "Don't you talk like that, dear." She then toddles off to bake some muffins and darn some socks. I don't want to bag on the mom too much, because she did put a lot of effort into keeping her hair in that bun, but she's pretty much worthless to the plot. Her role could have been easily written out, her lines given to Alice or even Johnny, without any real difference in the flow of the story. And maybe they could have spent the actress' $35-a-day salary on, oh, I don't know, maybe a monster suit that wasn't such an embarrassment.
Now, despite not having any furniture or personal belongings at all here (besides a few blankets and a bucket of hair gel), they do have a mirror-esque viewscreen just like the one Ro-Man uses (imagine the odds!). This now buzzes and blurs to life, drawing their attention away from fretting about Johnny's lack of discipline. It's Ro-Man on the Destroyer of Worlds channel, and he's pissed that these lousy humans are still refusing to lie down and die beneath his hairy paws. He promises the humans a "painless death" if they surrender immediately, a fair offer which they refuse. Ro-Man then helpfully shows them stock footage clips from Invasion USA and Flight to Mars to illustrate his main talking point that resistance is futile.
Not New York, no!
To listen to Ro-Man speak is to scratch your head wondering where the director went to film school. While Ro-Man's simian/monster appearance is definitely alien, his speech patterns are oddly very human, and if you blocked out the picture and just listened to the dialogue track by itself, you'd form in your head a mental image of Ro-Man being a balding, middle-aged guy from Philadelphia trying to sell you an extended warranty on a washing machine. It's hard to get good voice-talent, though, especially when you can only pay scale. With "alien invader" voices, you either have to go full-blown campy (like High Commander Dick Solomon in Third Rock From the Sun) or super-serious (like Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still), but you are only screwing yourself (and your audience) if you try and blend the two without the rest of your movie also sharing that hard-to-master mix (only Mars Attacks! has pulled that off, in my opinion).
"I'm on a boat!"
Anyway, much hay is made over Alice's boyfriend Roy having disappeared while fighting the monster. Alice seems to be better off without him, however, and she herself calls him a "miserable, egotistical, impossible guy". Sadly, in 1950s movies, when a woman hates a man that much, it's just because she secretly loves him just as strongly (such simpler times...). But fair Alice's soul need not be rent by heartbreak for long, because her beau Roy now returns! Jauntily hopping over the broken masonry wall, his shirt artfully ripped, his hair gelatinous, and his chest hair glistening in the post-holocaust sun, Roy announces that he's officially here to become our movie's Strong Male Lead. And, yes, it's the same Roy the undergrad archaeologist from before, but now he's dating Johnny's hot sister Alice (wishful thinking on Johnny's part, all young boys want a super-cool uncle who can let them smoke cigarettes and sneak them into R-rated movies and such). And as Roy returns and Alice rejoices, back to Pam for part three.
Thanks, Nate. Roy is surprisingly chipper, considering he's one of only eight people left alive by the Robot Monster of Doom. He has good reason, though. It seems that before Ro-Man showed up, the Professor developed an "antibiotic serum" that will cure all diseases, but there's more: the serum also immunizes people against Ro-Man's death ray! Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod, I can't even start on why this isn't possible, it's even worse than that anti-radiation juice the people of Mothra Island have, so let's just slide over this part as fast as possible. It does explain why these eight people survived when everybody else died, because these are the people the Professor tested the serum on. In addition to himself, his family, and Roy, he gave the serum to "Jason" and "McCloud," whoever they are. In addition to discovering that Ro-man's death ray can't hurt him, Roy has also managed to get enough fuel together to take a rocket to the "Space Platform," where Jason and McCloud will immunize the crew. It's petty, but I'm going to point out here that Roy's t-shirt is in tatters but his hair is in perfect shape. Could it be the serum also protects against bad hair days?
"Respect my authority!"
Alice is worried that the Space Platform will assume it's Ro-Man heading their way and blast the rocket out of the sky. Her solution is to rewire their viewscreen so they can broadcast without Ro-Man picking up their transmission. They have only two days, and it's a tough job made even tougher by Roy's inexpert help. There is much bickering back and forth between Alice and Roy, and anybody who's watched b-movies can fill it in for himself. Poor Alice wears out fast and is close to collapse, but tough manly Roy is there to encourage her. However, Alice is finally forced to admit defeat.
I know, I have to be at work soon.
At this point, Ro-Man appears on their viewscreen. It appears that whenever Ro-Man calls, their viewscreen picks up, and there's nothing they can do to turn him off. If I were in their position I think I'd hang a curtain over it and ignore Ro-Man, but I guess they feel it's important to know what the enemy is thinking. Ro-Man reveals that he knows the rocket took off, and he gloats as he makes them watch him destroy it. He again offers them an easy death if they surrender now, gives them an hour to decide, then gloats some more and hangs up. Alice renews her efforts to rewire the viewscreen so they can communicate with the Space Platform. In case you were wondering why the invasion force didn't destroy the Space Platform, it's because they thought they'd find it useful. I suppose Earth's buildings were felt to be useless so no attempt was made to save them. Perhaps Ro-Men prefer to live in caves.
Is that a V-2 turned on its side?
Ro-Man calls back when the hour's up. The Professor firmly rejects the idea of surrender, but he tries to soften Ro-Man's heart by introducing his family one by one. Johnny doesn't help matters by sticking his tongue out at Ro-Man, who seems to be pretty knowledgeable about such Earth gestures, as he immediately recognizes it as rude. At first indifferent to the Professor and his family, Ro-Man begins to soften as the conversation progresses and says that if he can talk to Alice alone, maybe something can be done. Alice bravely agrees to meet him at the spot he designates, but not unexpectedly Roy takes exception to this, and Alice ends up being held down by Roy and her parents as Johnny sneaks off by himself.
We cut to a sequence of Ro-Man walking (I told you there was a lot of walking) through the hills. Climbing those steep hills in a gorilla suit must have been hell on the actor, and even if he took out whatever was blocking the helmet faceplate he couldn't have been able to see very well, so let's hope he was paid decently for his efforts. Oddly, though the day is sunny enough so that you can see Ro-Man's shadow, there are bursts of lightning. It's up to Nate to explain the lightning, since it's his turn again.
Taking a stroll.
Lightning? Huh? Sorry, I was distracted by a squirrel. So Johnny takes Alice's place and meets Ro-Man out in the woods. After some pointless bickering and posturing on both sides, Ro-Man fires his Calcinator Death Ray at Johnny (which consists of an echoing crack on the soundtrack and some flashing lights off-screen), but the boy is unharmed. Johnny mocks Ro-Man ruthlessly, calling him a "pooped out pinwheel", which is, coincidentally, the same mortal insult that made Nikita pound his shoe on the table back in '60.
While researching the Calcinator Death Ray, I uncovered the shocking truth that Earth scientists had already discovered the power of this amazing weapon. They're "disposing" of human victims, you know!
Proving once again that you should never send a six-year old to negotiate with an intergalactic world-devastator, Johnny then spills the beans that the reason that they are safe from Ro-Man's ray is the Professor's vaunted multipurpose antibiotic serum. Johnny also says that his father tested this then-unproven serum on his own family (including his young kids) and then gave them capsules filled with deadly diseases to prove that the serum worked! It's just a throw-away line, but it puts a whole new spin on Hippocrates' old "Do no harm" mantra, eh?
Ro-Man listens intently.
Anyway, Ro-Man says he'll analyze the dust from the destroyed rocket guys to recalibrate the Calcinator Death Ray to defeat their serum (no, I don't have a clue what the hell that means, and you don't either). Johnny then runs off and tells his parents that he screwed up and gave away their secret. His father is pretty blase about this unfortunate turn of events, though to be fair he seems to have abandoned all hope a while ago anyway.
Loose Lips Sink Species, dumbass kid.
Meanwhile, Roy and Alice are out wandering around, presumably looking for Johnny. It must be hot because Roy takes off his t-shirt and fluffs up his pelt, his uber-manly pheromones wilting all plantlife within a hundred yards. Ro-Man suddenly shows up, lumbering towards them. Roy turns and lifts Alice up in his arms and carries her away to safety in one of the most laughable examples of the wimpy 1950s movie woman I have ever seen. In fairness to Alice, though, she is wearing a tight skirt and stiletto heels while walking along a dirt path, so maybe Roy figured she'd just twist her ankle if she tried to do more than gingerly tiptoe away.
He's so strong.
Ro-Man seems like he can't find them, even though they are clearly outside the cloaking wire barrier. The beast stumbles around, thrashing bushes and shaking his furry fist in impotent rage as Roy and Alice hunker down in some tall grass nearby. Did this helpless hairy turtle-on-his-back really defeat the entire US Army juggernaut overnight? Really? Because he doesn't seem to be able to get through that shrubbery without some effort. Ro-Man gives up eventually and goes back to his cave.
Hey, they're over there!
Ro-Man jumps on his viewscreen and tells his boss about the serum, which he suggests is similar to their own Formula XZA, an assumption based solely on Johnny's use of the word "serum", apparently. They bounce ideas of each other, run some plans up the flagpole, and decide to go ahead and murder the rest of the human race as planned. Ro-Man then signs off and spends a little downtime enjoying his bubble machine.
Runs on batteries?
With Ro-Man gone, Roy and Alice find themselves alone, snuggled up in the grass in the warm summer sun, with no parents or squares around to chill their scene, man. She looks into his big brown eyes, he looks at her big perky boobs, and they both gush words of love and devotion. You all know where this is going, winkwinksaynomore. It's a cutesy scene, with the actress playing Alice being especially flirty, but it seems forced and the frequent cut-backs to Ro-Man huffing and puffing his way up a dirt track take away some of the sexual tension of the moment.
A bit later (three minutes...), back at the bunker, Roy and Alice announce that they want to get married! Aww, how sweet. While Roy combs his chest hair and freshens up his unibrow, Alice finds a veil somewhere and borrows her mother's ring. The Professor does the ceremony, though he's not officially licensed to do so by the state of California so their marriage is technically a sham. While we hope they have a long and loving life, we also have our fingers crossed that they are both fertile, because if they do manage to defeat the alien gorilla invasion, it's up to the two of them to repopulate the planet. Well, we don't want to think about it, but eventually Johnny and Carla will reach "breeding age" and then we're going to have to rethink our traditional views on familial interpersonal relationships, if you know what I mean (and I really hope you don't...). With that, back to you, Pam.
Don't do it!
Thanks, Nate. I suppose Roy could marry Carla later on, but Mom looks too old to have any more kids, so that still leaves a very small gene pool...I don't want to see what the family group is like in another ten or fifteen years. But for now, Roy and Alice are all smiles as they head off to their honeymoon, probably to the third grassy hill on the right. But little do they know that Ro-Man has once again emerged from his cave and is walking around again.
Who needs a hotel room?
Carla catches up to Alice and Roy and presents them with a bunch of flowers for a wedding present. They shoo her off quickly and send her home, but before she gets there, who does she run into but Ro-Man? Well, she doesn't actually run into him, she sees him coming and stops and waits for him to walk up to her. She seems suicidally overconfident, informing him that her daddy won't let him hurt her. Sadly, she is wrong, and Ro-Man grabs her up and carries her off (with a good deal of difficulty, but the camera cuts away after a few seconds).
Ro-Man with Carla.
We catch up with Ro-Man again at his cave, where he is fiddling with his bubble machine and his communicator. Carla is nowhere in sight, and we fear the worst. We are correct, as Ro-Man proudly informs Great Guidance that he has eliminated one of the remaining humans by strangulation. I suppose 1953 mores wouldn't allow the depiction of a little girl being strangled in a movie like this, and I for one am glad. Odd that the serum can protect against a "Calcinator beam" but not from being strangled. Ro-Man and Great Guidance now argue, and it seems Great Guidance wants the five remaining humans killed immediately, while Ro-Man wants to kill only four and keep the fifth for study. I bet everybody can guess which one he wants to keep, hmm? The argument ends with Great Guidance ordering Ro-Man to kill all five, but Ro-Man doesn't say yes or no as he signs off.
Note the wingnut on the viewscreen.
We cut to Alice and Roy kissing as Ro-Man sneaks up behind them, not that they would probably notice if he was playing the bagpipes. However, something, possibly his smell, alerts them, and they start running but for no apparent reason stop after a short distance. With a lot more guts than sense, Roy tries to fight Ro-Man but not surprisingly is knocked down quickly. Judging by their respective sizes, Ro-Man outweighs him by a considerable amount. Now Alice again tries to run but of course falls down right away, which is what always happens in a cheap science fiction movie when the heroine tries to run away. Ro-Man picks her up and staggers off with her. Your turn again, Nate.
She's a feather.
Thanks, Pam. Ok, here we go, the last reel. Poor dead Carla is found by her distraught parents, and they dig her a grave and hammer in a cross. As they wail and gnash teeth by her grave, the mortally wounded Roy runs/stumbles up to give the news that Ro-Man has Alice, and then keels over and dies like Pheidippides at Athens. With Roy and Carla dead, we are running critically short on viable breeding pairs to continue the human race, but I suspect that's the last of their problems right now. It's little Johnny who comes up with plan, they'll call Ro-Man and arrange a meet-up, and then the adults will run in and save Alice while Johnny lures off Ro-Man.
Back to the beast. Having carried her to his cave, Ro-Man ties Alice up with some rope. It's not that easy for him, probably because those ape-mittens don't exactly have the dexterity to tie a knot, and he eventually gets frustrated and slaps her. Alice, despite all this, seems pretty compliant with her captor, making no effort to run away when Ro-Man turns away, helpfully standing still while he ties her up, and oddly seeming to enjoy being smacked by her furry kidnapper. Her early-onset Stockholm Syndrome makes no sense, but maybe she has a thing for hairy men (after seeing Roy's chest hair thicket, I'd say so).
That's going to leave rope burns.
Any designs that Ro-Man might have on Alice's already-soiled virtue are interrupted by the constantly buzzing viewscreen. First he's called by the family, and after some back-and-forth, he agrees to meet with them in a few hours so he can kill them. As soon as he hangs up with the humans, the Great Guidance calls to berate him for not killing everyone yet. Ro-Man wants to "make an estimate of my own", but his leader warns him that he has to follow the plans of the group, no independent thought allowed. Ro-Man waxes philosophically, "At what point on the graph do 'must' and 'cannot' meet?", but the Great Guidance is having none of this free-thinking nonsense. Hey, is this a communist allegory? Because it's 1953, after all, and these gorillas do look a bit like Uncle Joe.
What a total asshat.
Later, the family shows up in the ravine. Johnny runs to one side of the cave as a decoy and calls Ro-Man out. The trick works, amazingly, as Ro-Man lumbers after Johnny, allowing mom and dad to rush in and untie Alice. That was too easy, did Ro-Man really single-handedly defeat the militaries of the world? Unaware that his girlfriend has run off, Ro-Man comes at Johnny who just stands there and lets the beast strangle him to death (uh, ok, maybe he didn't fully understand the plan).
So even though Ro-Man is out there doing his job (killing humans), the Great Guidance has still decided to fire him for gross incompetence. "You want to be a human, you can die a human." the Great Guidance says savagely as he demands that Ro-Man return his key to the company washroom and have his desk cleared out by 5pm. He then zaps Ro-Man with sparky fingertip laser bolts through the viewscreen! Whaa...? Huh? Ro-Man is struck down and rolls on his back like a dead cow.
Continuing to prove that he's the worst boss ever, the Great Guidance waves his tuning fork over some foggy champagne glasses and unleashes a torrent of slowly meandering armadillos and lustily mating triceratops (stock footage cribbed from One Million B.C. for those keeping score at home). He then proceeds to smash the Earth open with good vibrations, or something equally terrible. We see the planet torn asunder...
...and, what the hell? It was all a dream? Johnny fell down and hit his head and dreamed the whole damn movie? Jesus Christ. Rarely has anyone pulled off the "it was all a dream" trope and it definitely doesn't work here (grudging exceptions made for Bob Newhart, Time Bandits, and that whole season of Dallas when Bobby Ewing was "dead").
"Ha, I fooled you."
So that's it then. The End. I thought it wasn't as bad as everyone says, but it was still borderline unwatchable. The only redeeming qualities were Alice's conical brassiere and her father's Mengele-like medical experiments. The rest of it was balls. Pam, what did you think of it?
Well, Nate, I thought it was a clever move on Phil Tucker's part to have this movie be Johnny's dream. That way, anything that didn't make sense, like the calcinator beam and the serum, could be dismissed as Johnny not knowing that these were impossible. As you pointed out, it doesn't work for this movie, which was supposed to be science fiction, not the result of a blow to the head. I'm guessing Phil Tucker wasn't interested enough in science fiction to take the time to come up with something realistic, he just wanted to get the movie made as quickly as possible on his miniscule budget. I mean, the basic premise isn't too bad: alien space invader is supposed to clean out Earth's aborigines so people of his more advanced and more deserving race can settle there, but once he meets a human, he begins to question his mission. Too bad all Mr. Tucker could think up were the usual pulp-fiction cliches and things that made no sense at all, like the family living in the remnants of a basement with no shelter overhead. Not to mention the bubble machine -- what was that thing supposed to do?
Written in March 2010 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...