Horror on the Lens: Robot Monster (dir by Phil Tucker)

Today’s horror film is a true classic of its kind, the 1953 science fiction epic Robot Monster.

Now, I should admit that this is not the first time that I’ve shared Robot Monster in October.  I share it every year and, every year, YouTube seems to pull the video down in November.  That sucks because Robot Monster is one of those weird films that everyone should see.  So, I’m going to share it again.  And, hopefully, YouTube will let the video stay up for a while.

As for what Robot Monster is about…

What happens with the Earth is attacked by aliens?  Well, first off, dinosaurs come back to life.  All of humanity is killed, except for one annoying family.  Finally, the fearsome Ro-Man is sent down to the planet to make sure that it’s ready for colonization.  (Or something like that.  To be honest, Ro-Man’s exact goal remains a bit vague.)

Why is Ro-Man so fearsome?  Well, he lives in a cave for one thing.  He also owns a bubble machine.  And finally, perhaps most horrifically, he’s a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.  However, Ro-Man is not just a one-dimensional bad guy.  No, he actually gets to have a monologue about halfway through the film in which he considers the existential issues inherent in being a gorilla wearing a diver’s helmet.

Can humanity defeat Ro-Man?  Will Ro-Man ever get his intergalactic supervisor to appreciate him?  And finally, why are the dinosaurs there?

Despite the film’s reputation for being borderline incoherent, most of those above questions actually are answered if you pay attention to the first few scenes of Robot Monster.  In fact, one could even argue that Robot Monster is maybe a little bit more clever than it’s often given credit for.  Of course, it’s still a zero-budget mess of a film but it’s also undeniably fun and, in some sections, unexpectedly dark.  If you’ve never seen it before, you owe it to yourself to set aside an hour and two minutes in order to watch it.  You’ve never see anything like it before.

Finally, I should note that Robot Monster’s hero was played by George Nader, who actually did go on to appear in several mainstream films.  Despite his good looks and talent (which may not be obvious in this film but which he did have), George Nader struggled to get starring roles in Hollywood, where he was often dismissed as just being a member of Rock Hudson’s entourage.  (It’s been theorized that Nader struggled because the studios feared that giving him too big of a role would lead to the gossip magazines writing about Nader’s relationship with Hudson, though the two were just friends.  Nader was in a relationship with Hudson’s private secretary, Mark Miller, from 1947 until Nader’s death in 2001.)  Nader finally left Hollywood and went on to have a pretty successful career in Europe.  He was perhaps best known for playing secret agent Jerry Cotton in a series of films in the 60s.

Enjoy Robot Monster!

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