When people begin talking about the worst movie they’ve ever seen, the answers can vary quite a bit. It depends on that person’s personal likes and dislikes as well as their tolerance for bad and their overall frame of mind at the time. Many people absolutely hate Manos, The Hands of Fate. However, I find that movie to be the classic “so bad its good”. On the other hand, The Incredible Petrified World bored me to tears and the background music of Mesa of Lost Women was too much for my ears to withstand. Robot Monster (1953) is one of those movies where many abhor it with a passion. I, on the other hand, found enough enjoyment in it that the 62 minute running time seemed to fly by.
When Robot Monster is the most recognizable film that director Phil Tucker did, you know he had a stellar career. He only directed nine films between 1953 and 1960; the only other title remembered today is The Cape Canaveral Monsters (1960). He was also an editor on such television series as The New Adventure of Wonder Woman and Jason of Star Command. The last two movies he edited were The Nude Bomb (the 1980 Get Smart reunion flick) and Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). So you can see he never strayed too close to Academy Award-winning movies. He was a Kansas boy, born in 1927 and died at the young age of 58 in 1985. Writer Wyott Ordung was also very selective about his work and, like Tucker, never strayed too far from writing or acting in somewhat questionable products. He wrote Target Earth in 1954, which isn’t too bad all things considered, as well as First Man in Space (1959). His few acting credits are a little more questionable and include such classics as Dragon’s Gold (1954) and Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954).
With a solid crew behind the camera, you needed nothing but the best in front of them. John Mylong (a lot of supporting roles on television shows including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Combat!) heads up our cast as the professor who is seen at the beginning of the movie working in a cave alongside his assistant Roy, played by George Nader (House of 1,000 Dolls and The Human Duplicators). Then we have a mother and her three children, Alice, Carla and Johnny (Gregory Moffett, who did some TV work in shows like The Adventures of Superman and Highway Patrol). Now, why they chose to have a picnic in the middle of Bronson Canyon we’ll never know. Johnny, who sneaks away during his naptime, gets shocked at the cave entrance. When he awakens, it is painfully obvious he’s really dreaming. Oh wait, did I say spoilers? All of a sudden the professor is his father, which of course makes no sense since Johnny had earlier asked his mother when there would be a new dad around. Yes, we’re dealing with prize-winning writing here.
This is where we are introduced to Ro-Man. Yes, he has the body of a gorilla and is wearing a space helmet. Apparently, when one makes a movie for $16,000, you can’t afford a full space outfit. Who knew? So you hire someone with their own gorilla suit to save the day. The result is so ridiculous that it quickly falls into that “so bad it’s good” category. We discover that Ro-Man has killed everyone on Earth except for this family and they’re the last step to world domination. Along the way we get some nice stock footage. What really surprised me was how death is handed out rather quickly and callously. While we don’t see it, Ro-Man strangles a little Carla, then throws Roy off a cliff and kills Johnny very quckly before dropping dead himself. Oh wait, did he really? I literally laughed out loud as the professor comments how we enjoyed Carla while she was here but we’ll find a way to move on. When Roy collapses to the ground, he’s quickly dismissed as dead and “there’s nothing we can do.” And how much did Fisher Chemical pay to have their Billion Bubble Machine play such a key role in interplanetary communications?
Yes, you’re going to have to turn your brain off for this one. However, embrace Robot Monster for all its’ faults and I guarantee you’ll find enjoyment in it. Originally released in 3D, it is now available on DVD in various formats. However, you can save yourself some money and just catch it on YouTube. Vince, Mary and Nic cover it in episode 228 of the B-Movie Cast podcast. Also worth checking out is the review in Keep Watching The Skies!, written by Bill Warren and a must for any film library.