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The admirable Ro-Man

Wednesday 5/15/24

I mentioned seeing 1953's Robot Monster on the big screen at the Brattle the other day, in 3D, no less. I must say, 3D does not help Ro-Man's artistic cause, but cheers for trying.

I've long had a fondness for this film, going back to when I was seventeen. I'd go to the video store on a Friday, when you were offered some deal, like rent ten films for the price of three, and I'd leave with a bag of tapes. Robot Monster, some film noir, a serial, a silent, some horror, an Orson Welles movie. No one set me on this path. I didn't know anyone who said, "You need to watch this." I've always just done things for myself.

Grade Z-type movies can be unwatchable, but there's also the variety where you can watch that film again and again. Robot Monster is an example of this. Plan 9 from Outer Space would be another. Whereas, The Beast of Yucca Flats, say, falls into that unwatchable category, or close to it.

Something that is surprising about Robot Monster is the amount of success the actors in the picture had in terms of the number of quality movies they appeared in. I've always thought the movie was wild in that it didn't care if you didn't want to take it seriously. There's an avant-garde aspect to it, but also a child-like simplicity.

Perhaps the most amusing part is when Ro-Man tells the Great Guidance to call him back because he has a hot date. Well, kind of.

This movie is just fun. Silly fun. They have to push it to get to sixty-six minutes, and that means randomly, bizarrely, comically, inserting footage of lizards and dinosaurs for some reason from other pictures. And you get a lot of overhead shots of this guy in a gorilla suit and a diver's helmet walking across an arid landscape.

I don't think we really have anything comparable to an effort like this now. I'd say that Robot Monster is very much of its times, but that speaks more to the period in which it was made than it does what your experience will be like if you watch it now. It's fun to watch now. Makes you smile, shake your head. In a weird way, it's sort of admirable.


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