My friends at The Film Detective are hosting a Drive-In Monster Movie Party all this month, and asked me to join in on the fun! When I received the list of movies they’re showing, I jumped at the chance to watch and review ROBOT MONSTER, that infamous no-budget classic directed by Phil Tucker, featuring an alien called Ro-Man who looks like a gorilla wearing a diving helmet. And honestly, how can you not love that!!
ROBOT MONSTER consistently makes critics’ all-time worst movie lists, derided for its technical ineptitude, overwrought acting, absurd dialog, and flat-out senselessness. It’s all that, to be certain, but I look at things through a different (some would say “shattered”) lens. First, did I enjoy it? The answer: a resounding yes! The movie may not be on a par with CASABLANCA or THE SEARCHERS , but it didn’t bore me or make me want to shut it off. Tucker’s little opus isn’t the height of brilliance, but it’s fun, and I watch films mainly to have fun. Second, I don’t want to be preached to or have someone else’s political philosophies rammed down my throat – I wanna be entertained, dammit, and ROBOT MONSTER succeeds on that level. Tucker himself allegedly attempted suicide after the movie was released, but honestly, it’s not THAT bad.
The movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of it. Seems Ro-Man is one of a Master Race of aliens who’ve obliterated everyone on Earth except for a hearty band of non-stars, most prominent being ‘B’ actors George Nader and Claudia Barrett, both of whom are easy on the eyes. Claudia in particular is one hot sci-fi babe, and apparently Ro-Man thinks so too, as her Earthly delights cause the diving-helmeted gorilla-alien to kidnap her for his own nefarious purposes. This may be a kiddie sci-fi flick, but lovely Claudia sure seems to spend a lot of time in bondage!
George Barrows as Ro-Man scares no one in that silly get-up, and seems to be having a hard time navigating through Bronson Canyon in his bulky costume (probably couldn’t see out of the helmet!). Barrows was a bit player and stuntman who followed the grand tradition of Charlie Gemora and Crash Corrigan in playing onscreen apes, beginning with TARZAN AND HIS MATE, and appeared in such fare as GORILLA AT LARGE, BLACK ZOO, GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, and HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE , as well as tons of TV (THE ABBOTT & COSTELLO SHOW, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, THE LUCY SHOW, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, MAN FROM UNCLE, THE INCREDIBLE HULK).
I still haven’t figured out what’s up with all the bubbles, but that didn’t stop me from loving this loopy yet likable film. ROBOT MONSTER is one of those so-bad-it’s-good flicks that has a demented charm all it’s own. Most importantly, it’s enjoyable, something you can’t say about many big budget productions currently playing at the local bijou. I like it, and if you’re in the right frame of mind, you will, too!
ROBOT MONSTER is now playing on The Film Detective