A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview
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Robot Monster (1953)

Rating: ** Threat: Alien death ray

Astor. Written by Wyott Ordung; Photographed by Jack Greenhalgh; Special effects by Jack Rabin & David Commons; Edited by Bruce Schoengarth; Music by Elmer Bernstein; Produced by Phil Tucker & Al Zimbalist; Directed by Phil Tucker. B & W, 63 minutes.


George Nader (Roy, scientist and astronaut); Claudia Barrett (Alice, his girlfriend); John Mylong (George, professor and Alice's father); Selena Royle (Martha, her mother); Gregory Moffett (Johnny, Alice's younger brother); Pamela Paulson (Carla, Alice's younger sister): George Barrows (Ro-Man, alien Invader; Great Guidance Ro-Man, alien leader); John Brown (voice of RoMan).


Robot Monster is frequently cited, along with Edward D. Wood Jr.'s Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) as the worst film ever made. While cheap, goofy and amateurish may be accurate terms to describe them, no one can deny that they are also fascinating films, mesmerizing in their camp value and tremendously entertaining. Movies that provide so much pleasure to audiences confirm the adage, “They're so bad they're good!” In fact, these films seem to have a surreal logic at times. In actuality, the worst films ever made are dull, boring, ponderous and impossible to sit through. None of these terms applies to Robot Monster. So the solid two star rating for Robot Monster is earned through its sheer entertainment value, not quality of the production.

The credits of Robot Monster display a background of science fiction comic books. Each actor appears in an iris as his or her name is displayed, but Selena Royle's name is misspelled as “Royale.” Some prints also integrate footage of dinosaurs in a pre-credit sequence that may have been added later to lengthen the film for television broadcast. Children Johnny and Carla are playing a game of spaceman in Bronson Canyon. They come across two archeologists, Roy and George, digging in the cavern. (Perhaps they do not know Bronson is actually a man-made test boring.) Johnny's mother and big sister call for him, having laid out a comfortable blanket in a field of rocks. Johnny asks his mother if they are ever going to have a new father, and if so, will he be a scientist? After eating heartily, everyone falls asleep but Johnny, who sneaks back to the cave so he can explore. At this point, everything changes.

A strange ray from the sky hits the cave, and Johnny stumbles and hits his head. Dinosaurs appear and indulge in a terrific fight. Johnny gets up and sees


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A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema
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