Moon monsters launch attack against Earth!
Year of Release: 1953
Also Known As: Monster from Mars, Monsters from the Moon
Genre: Science Fiction
Running Time: 62 minutes (1:02)
Director: Phil Tucker
George Nader ... Roy
Claudia Barrett ... Alice
Selena Royle ... Mother (as Selena Royale)
John Mylong ... The Professor
Gregory Moffett ... Johnny
Pamela Paulson ... Carla
George Barrows ... Ro-Man the Monster / Great Guidance
John Brown ... Ro-Man / Great Guidance (voice)
Ro-man, an ape-like intergalactic exterminator wearing a plastic diving helmet, attempts to vaporize the entire "hu-man" population with his calcinator death ray. Miraculously, six people survive and search for a way to destroy their flea-bitten tormentor. Lonely and without any gorilly magazines, Ro-man is smitten by the voluptuous Alice, but when his boss finds out, he's pink-slipped along with the entire planet.
Will the human race survive the final onslaught? Watch this 3-D thriller to find out!
Robot Monster, remindin' us that when you shoot your movie in southern California there's only about ten degrees fahrenheit separatin' a man from makin' a cheesy Science Fiction flick an a furry snuff film.
An speakin' of animals that look better without their heads - this's the last time I attend Thanksgivin' dinner at Sadie Bonebreak's place. I'm dead serious - I've had some stupid Thanksgivins in my day, like the time Billy Hilliard, Cleave Furguson an me got ambushed by guerilla gobblers, or last year when the Schwartzbergs released a flock of wild birds for their armed diners at the Rural Mural that resulted in 13 gunshot wounds, but this year's gotta be the stupidest of all. Normally we'd have dinner at my place but this year Sadie insisted on cookin' everything 'erself to prove it could be done without the use of a fire extinguisher, although I think 'er real problem had somethin' to do with my housekeeping regimen.
I believe her exact words were: "I'm not eatin' anyplace where the carpet's liable to achieve sentience an start dishin' out cosmic wisdom like on Fraggle Rock."
"Oh come on, it ain't that bad," I insisted.
"Oh sure, you're right, it's perfectly normal to lose a sofa, I dunno what I was thinking," she snarked.
As you can see, the woman refused to see reason so I just quit arguin' with 'er. That wasn't really the problem though; what *really* sent that whole deal to circlin' the toilet was the
situation surroundin' Sadie's bird. See, she'd gone over to Tork Farnsworth's place an picked a turkey outta his flock an brought it home two weeks before the holiday an in that time... crap... I almost had 'er name... Mandy maybe? Oh who the hell cares - Sadie's other half'd gotten 'erself attached to the bird an locked 'erself in the bedroom with it to keep us from loppin' his succulent head off.
"Alright, new rule - from now on no lesbians allowed near fowl with waddles that look like vag..." I was sayin' right up until I took a pot to the skull.
By the time I came around Billy Hilliard an Tetnis'd showed up an were tryin' to reason what's-'er-name outta the bedroom so's we could get dinner started, but it wasn't goin' well.
"Come on 'owa vere, he'ow 'ike ih! Ih'ow be 'ike a hah fub!" Billy tried reassurin' 'er.
"It will not! Go away you butchers!" she screamed from the other side of the door.
"Now listen to me little missy, this is your doctor speaking, and I've gotta warn you that you're in serious danger of contracting turkey pox - which can cause permanent butt rash and loosening of the body's fleshy areas if not quickly treated," Tetnis said in his most professional voice.
"Better than being decapitated, you monster!" she shrieked.
"Alright, this's goin' nowhere," I said, still rubbin' the backa my head.
"We've got a lunatic bimbo in there armed to the teat with female pleasure devices holdin' our dinner hostage an we've gotta find a way to extract it without bein' dildoed to death, now who's got a plan?" I demanded, but the room was quieter'n the studio audience at a Fuller House taping.
"Think you can break it down Billy?" I asked, tryin' to get the ball rollin'.
"She's got the bed pushed up against it," Sadie shook 'er head.
"Alright then that settles it, Tetnis, you've seen The Shining, right?" I questioned.
"Like hell you're gonna, that door's Dutch Mahogany," Sadie glared.
"We ain't got time for this!" I stomped. "If she won't open it we've gotta-,"
"Tom?" a shaky voice from inside the bedroom asked.
"The hell's she talkin' to?" I asked.
"That's what she named it," Sadie explained.
"Oh thank cripes, I thought maybe you two'd named your equipmen-" I was sayin' before she took another swing at me.
"TOM?!" the voice repeated, noticeably more alarmed this time, an that's when all heck broke loose an we could hear what's-'er-butt bawlin' hysterically over the top of these weird intermittent thumps.
After that Sadie grabbed a screwdriver an we took the door off the hinges an... good grief what a sight - somehow the bird'd gotten into one of the girl's Xanax bottles, packed away 40 or so of those suckers, an BAM - down he went like a nun at a beer pong tournament... the thudding noises were the moron trying to resuscitate the bird with CPR.
"Call the vet!" she squealed. "Something's wrong!"
Tetnis climbed his way in over the bed an took the bird's pulse, but he just looked up at Sadie an shook his head - that was one dead turkey.
"We'oh, 'aht wolks thoo," Billy said as he reached for the bird.
"Are you insane?!" I exclaimed as I slapped Billy's hand away from the fallen fowl. "Haven't you seen Blood Freak for cryin' out loud? That bird's loaded with pharmaceutical GMO hormones! We can't eat it now you dink - or do you WANT to grow a turkey head an go on a hippy drug-head massacre?!" I asked incredulously.
"I guef nah," Billy moped.
"So what're we supposed to do now that big bird here's kicked the bucket of original recipe?" Tetnis asked in Sadie's direction. Sadie said somethin' but I couldn't hear 'er over the violent sobs emanatin' from 'er cleavage.
Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks was closed, which's bizarre in the extreme since I can't remember him closin' up shop even durin' the mad cow scare in '93. Billy's mama prolly woulda fed us but I wasn't about to go draggin' a hysterical snot-soaked woman into 'er house on Thanksgivin', so eventually Tetnis an me ended up sneakin' out to the concession stand pantry at the Grime Time an borrowin' some stuff for our meal an, ya know, honestly, you could do a lot worse than drive-in dogs, pizza pockets, an Robot Monster for Thanksgivin'. Heck, once Loopy Velez settled down an cried 'erself to sleep it was actually a pretty solid evenin' now that I think about it, besides, it don't hardly make sense to watch a flick this cheesy without a bowl fulla nachos.
Still, next year I'm stayin' home an splittin' a Hungry Man dinner with Apollo an Shankles - I blame the Indians for all this stupid gatherin' together business anyway - if they'da had the decency to just shoot us when we approached 'em with the idea we wouldn't be in this mess. Anyway, it's turkey day, an I got a finalist from The Golden Turkey Awards for your holiday consumption. "How bad is it?", you may be askin' yourselves. Well, lemme put it this way: when the critics got ahold of this sucker in 1953 the reviews were so bad the director attempted suicide. Thankfully the cinematography wasn't the only area where the guy had trouble linin' up a shot, as the bullet missed his skull an he lived to film another day, but I hafta wonder if the critical reception had somethin' to do with the country not bein' ready for outer space gorilla Commies with death rays - some people're just threatened by new ideas, ya know? Unfortunately, readin' a review of this flick instead of watchin' it's about like comparin' a Dear Penthouse letter to a threesome with double-jointed burlesque dancers but I'ma give it a shot anyhow. An in the spirit of the holiday, I'd like to share three bits of wisdom from Robot Monster for which I am particularly grateful. First, if you're gonna go through life with a divin' helmet stuck on your head it's best to just hire someone to handle voice-overs for ya, cause from inside that sucker the odds of havin' your voice heard are about on par with havin' your vote tabulated in a black region of Georgia. Second, a nice, soothing bubble machine can instill a much needed feeling of calm an help mitigate a little tension at the headquarters for human extermination. An third, sex is always better when you know you could be laser-beamed into oblivion at any moment by a 300lb outer space Teletubby.
The movie begins with kids (Johnny an Carla) playin' Buck an Doe Rogers in Bronson Canyon, badgerin' these two archaeologists (Johnny's Dad an Roy) who're examinin' cave paintins in search of man's first porno etchins until Johnny's mama an sister (Alice) show up an force the kids to take a nap on toppa the remains of the Slate Rock and Gravel company. Nobody puts baby in a quarry, so Johnny only pretends to go to sleep an then goes sneakin' back into the cave, cept when he gets to the openin' this flashlight with a corroded battery starts sparkin' up in the sky an causes a buncha prehistoric an contemporary reptiles to appear outta nowhere an kick the cold-blooded crap outta each other. Then a reel to reel materializes on a night stand an starts burpin' up scrubbin' bubbles an this gorilla wearin' a divin' helmet like his cave goes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Ro-man) comes waddlin' out to answer his telescreen an assure Big Brother Bonobo that he's used his calcinator death ray to wipe out the entire human race except Sally Field, whose Boniva regimen has thus far granted her immunity to decalcinization. No such luck though, cause the Brass Monkey from the moon tells Ro-man his superior peep-sweep technology has found eight hu-mans still roamin' planet Earth an that he'd better finish 'em off so they can get their banana plantation up an runnin'. Unfortunately Johnny's listenin' to the two naval apes an their plan to piss all over the primate directive, an he runs home to warn his family who assure 'im Ro-man can't find 'em cause his dad an Alice've erected a Jacob's Ladder that keeps 'em shielded from the death ray an any rational thought that might try creepin' its way into the plot. Then Twonky Kong takes control of the family's flat-screen like he thinks he's on Outer Limits an explains that due to an error in his C++ algorithm some them have rudely survived an that they'd better show themselves so he can drop a nuclear barrel on 'em or else his boss is gonna bust 'im down to civilian an force 'im to co-star in Ronald Reagan movies.
Meanwhile, Ro-man's roydar doesn't seem to be functioning worth a durn since Roy's able to hang out next to the Ro-man cave listenin' to 'im teleconference with Gorilla the Hun an run back to camp to tell everybody that two other guys've survived the ape-ocalypse due to the father's miracle serum that makes its recipients impervious to nuclear radiation. Alice wants to contact the other two dudes an figure out a way for all of 'em to board a rocketship so's they can escape from the planet of the ape, but first she an Roy hafta hotwire their TV an install a scrambler so Ro-man won't be able to eavesdrop or pick up the Spice Channel. Too late though, cause before they can finish solderin' all the circuits together with their space-age turkey baster the rocket lifts off an immediately gets blown to kongdom come once Ro-man spots it, an so finally papa professor decides to have a heart-to-heart with Ro-man through the tube after another extended montage of hands rewirin' circuits with voice overs that plays like Country Crock's branched out into electronics. So the professor tries talkin' peace with Ro-man, but about all that happens is Ro-man gets the robot-hots for Alice an invites 'er down to the ravine to raise his antenna an discuss the terms of her blouse removal. Roy is P.O.'d an puts his foot down as the man of this bombed-out hellscape insistin' she ain't goin' noplace cause Ro-man seems like the kinda guy who'd refuse to wrap his antenna in tinfoil an get 'er knocked up with a litter of chimps in Darth Vader helmets. Course between that an the equal rights speech Alice is puttin' up in favor of her negotiatin', Johnny gets so upset that he hasta run out into the forbidden zone where he bumps into Mighty Slow Young wheezin' his way down to the ravine an Johnny accidentally lets the existence of the miracle serum slip.
Then Johnny goes marchin' home again while Ro-man shakes his meaty fists in protest, cept by that point Roy an Alice've gone lookin' for the kid an end up havin' to speak to each other in Mime so Ro-man won't hear 'em until eventually the Tang-orang hasta head home for an insulin injection an the two of 'em find new an interesting ways to beat the bush. The only downside to that is 1950s etiquette now dictates Roy buy the cow, so the couple hafta get the professor to preside over their marriage so the benevolent God that let 'em get invaded by intergalactic space simians won't get offended. Ro-man meanwhile is royally hacked off about bein' stood up an not gettin' an invitation to the wedding, so he kicks on the Fisher Price bubble broadcaster, checks in with the overlord newsdesk, an vows to end humanity. Needless to say, Ro-man's King Kong instinct has gone into overdrive now, only while he's searchin' for the honeymooners he runs into Carla instead an slaps the bear hug on 'er like Superstar Billy Graham til 'er spine snaps like a box of cheap candy canes. Mom an Pop discover the corpse while Roy an Alice're just about to start rockin' the rhododendron, cept Ro-man shows up an pitches Roy down the canyon wall an carries Alice back to his cave where he assures 'er his helmet's good up to a depth of 500 feet an that he's well equipped for muff diving. They're just about to get down to some serious snatchsquatchin', but before Ro-man can kick on some Hairy White an turn the lights down low, the Head Hominid calls an tells 'im to prove his loyalty by makin' sure Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore an Ro-man starts havin' an existential hooter crisis. We're gettin' dangerously low on remainin' runtime so I prolly oughta can the chatter an end this thing before I go ruinin' the ending, but I can assure you Ro-man ain't the only one that's gonna end this flick short on satisfaction.
Alright, so maybe it's aged like those dozen trout you forgot to pull outta the camp trailer last summer - the absurdity of it all, and the fact that it's got a running time of 62 minutes even accounting for various chunks of stock footage from other flicks, makes this thing pretty durn watchable from a "so bad it's good" perspective. It's usually a good idea to ignore lists of the "worst films ever made," at least where it concerns their entertainment value, as these lists are generally constructed to affirm people's preexisting notions of what's awful with titles they've already heard of. Generally speaking truly abysmal flicks don't make these lists as they're boring and unmemorable; movies like Bride of the Gorilla, Monster from Green Hell, and Curse of the Swamp Creature, for example. That said, most of the movies that grace these lists are, while terrible, extremely entertaining, and Robot Monster is among the most enjoyable of the titles born out of the 1950s Science Fiction boom, complete with what may be the single most ridiculous monster in the history of film. It would seem that originally there was to be an honest-to-God Robot Monster, but lo and behold it turns out $16,000 and a four-day shooting schedule made that goal unattainable and the director had to hire a friend who had previously constructed his own gorilla suit to play the monster - fortunately for the actor in the suit, Tucker was able to scrape together the $1.50 necessary to secure a plastic diving helmet from the toy aisle at Woolworth's so the poor man's face could be hidden, thus preventing his being mobbed for autographs when he went out for a Big Mac. The critics, having apparently been born without a sense of humor or irony, mostly ripped the flick a new corn-chute to the point that the director wrote a suicide note and mailed it to the local newspaper who sent an investigator to Tucker's hotel where he was discovered with a pass from the psych ward of a veteran's hospital in his pocket. Whole thing sounds a little far-fetched to me but, true or not, it certainly helped build the legend surrounding this turkey, and absurd as the flick may be it grossed over a million at the box office, which is an absolutely massive return on the filmmakers' original investment, and 36 years later the film became a bona fide classic when it was selected for riffing by the Mystery Science Theater crew. In short - this celluloid catastrophe will still be funny after I and all the other grumpy critics have gone to our graves, and for that reason, Phil Tucker has earned a special place in the history of cinematic schlock.
All that sappy sentiment ain't gonna help one bit once this ADD-addled insanity goes under the microscope, but hey, at least he did somethin' with his life that didn't involve the Monday mornin' quarterbacking of 65-year-old pop culture. The plot of this movie, when looked at from the International Space Station, is actually pretty typical and bears some similarities to its successful contemporary Invaders from Mars, but zoom in closer and you'll find some of the most random, absurd detailing of a film you'll ever bear witness to. Needless to say, certain plot devices were written specifically to allow use of stock footage the director had secured for inclusion in the film, and while that never quite seems to work out the way a director intends, I can honestly say I've never seen anybody try to shoehorn stock footage of dinosaurs fighting into an alien invasion flick before. Okay, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, sure, but at least in that movie the dinosaurs were taking an active role in destroying mankind - here, humanity's already wiped out with the exception of eight people, and the Ro-men just want an excuse to plop prehistoric reptiles down onto the planet's surface. I'll be talkin' forever if we go over each absurdity in detail, so let's just briefly run down a few of the most egregious happenings and move on: bubble technology necessary for interstellar communications, a Jacob's Ladder that shields our survivors from detection, sexy time in the scrub brush with King Kong Bundy stompin' around, the rocket men trying to escape in their shuttle despite the Ro-man nukin' everything in sight, a miracle serum that keeps the flesh from meltin' off your bones in a nuclear holocaust, and am I the only one who finds it odd that Ro-man just happens to take up residence within throwing distance of the only surviving humans on the entire planet? There is one huge caveat that I can't mention without ruining the ending and, honestly, if for some reason you're desperate for this movie to make sense, it really kinda does explain everything, if you want it to.
The acting ranges from mediocre to obnoxious, although much of the problem lies in the utterly moronic dialog. My favorite scenes are prolly Alice's big equal rights speech where she explains how she's gonna shit talk Roy even though he's dead cause he never adequately appreciated her contributions to science (he's actually alive but they don't know that at the time), and the climax where Ro-man starts havin' a psychological meltdown about what to do with Alice while his libido and the head space ape vie for control of his actions. He's just dyin' to get a peek at Alice's blouse bubbles, but at the same time Boss Bonobo's demandin' he kill 'er in the name of his proud space monkey heritage - pretty goofy stuff. It's not difficult to find acting that's worse than this in much newer movies, and even though it's not very good, it's still the flick's second strongest aspect on a technical level.
Here's who matters and why: George Nader (The Human Duplicators, Beyond Atlantis), John Mylong (Mermaids of the Tiburon), George Barrows (Frankenstein's Daughter, Hillbillies in a Haunted House, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, Tarzan and the She-Devil, Mesa of Lost Women, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939, Tarzan and his Mate), John Brown (The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951). Not surprisingly, the two people who had even the teensiest bit of notoriety before this flick were pretty much finished after it was released, although Senator McCarthy probably played a bigger role in one of the two's careers than Robot Monster. Selena Royle had previously played Elizabeth Almond in The Heiress, and John Brown played Bill Hannegan in The Wild One, as well as Professor Collins in Strangers on a Train, but this was one of the last films for each of them.
The special effects... well, you know, gorilla in a plastic diving helmet; I dunno how to be any clearer than that. I'm not even gonna grade the stop-motion dinosaurs from the stock footage because they're not really part of this movie, so yeah - gorilla in a diving helmet and a rocket ship on a wire. The shooting location is one of the most common in B movie history, and while Bronson Canyon is a good choice for a no budget picture, it's just not that exciting because you've seen it so many times before. Furthermore, the entire movie takes place within a very small area with little variation in terrain and is generally pretty dull to look at, particularly in black and white. Admittedly we're in a post-apocalyptic society so it's really not problematic for the movie to appear bleak, but what little atmosphere the scenery does add feels completely incidental. The soundtrack is probably the high point because even though it's brutally dated, it's goofy in ways that enhance the silliness of the premise and add a great deal to its status as a "so bad it's good" flick. The score was composed by the young Elmer Bernstein, who would later go on to compose soundtracks for movies like The Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven, Birdman of Alcatraz, To Kill a Mockingbird, True Grit, Animal House, Airplane!, An American Werewolf in London, Ghostbusters, and Heavy Metal, thus making him the most successful member of the crew by a mile, and making the score the only aspect of the movie that isn't completely botched. You've got the "snake charmers in outer space" track during the opening credits which is decent, the "wild west saloon for kids under eight" theme that's really cheesy but appropriate for the scene it accompanies, and a third track that plays while Ro-man menaces Alice that'd be fairly harrowing and catchy if the monster wasn't so hilariously inept. Overall, Robot Monster is as big a technical disaster as you'll ever see, but because of its eccentric dialog, absurd plot, bizarre monster, and full steam ahead enthusiasm on the part of its 25-year-old director, it's one of the most enjoyable turkies of the 1950s, and a must for any "bad movie" party.