Creature Features revisited – Giant Robots
A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today…Giant Robots
One would think and associate the 1950’s sci-fi age with giant robots. Surprisingly there are very few giant robots in film during this time period. Here are my top picks:
Ya’ know, leaving the terrible pseudo-science and phony looking flying saucer aside, this film takes an hour to really get to its namesake. The ‘robot’ is the weirdest looking thing, rectangular metal blocks stacked on columns. And forget about its means of locomotion, even at seven years old (the first time I saw the film) I knew that those alternate pumping pistons would not be an effective mode of transportation. So, what do I like about it? It’s massive, it shoots lightning from its antennae, and it soaks up all the power from a nuclear blast to redistribute it in a calculated path of destruction (I’m really stretching it here). Besides, one of the scientists was played by George O’Hanlon who later became voice of George Jetson (The Jetson’s cartoon). The other scientist was played by Jeff Morrow.
The Colossus of New York (1958)
The Colossus of NY was directed by Eugène Lourié, a name that should be much more famous in the sci-fi community than it is. Ross Martin stars as Jeremy, a scientist and humanitarian, who is killed in a car crash on the night he was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. His Father transplants Jeremy’s brain into a 12 foot tall robot. This reborn version of Jeremy is kept in seclusion and away from his wife and child, who are picking up the pieces of their life after his death. From the sealed off lab he works with his father and his assistant to solve the problems of the world. But, the lack of contact with his family and a suspicion that his partner is secretly seeing his wife drive him mad. He decides the world is not decent enough to be saved by his work, so they should die by his work. He sets out on a rampage in NYC to attack a convention honoring the scientific community. In the end it is only the love for his son, who is also at the convention, that allows him to be destroyed before causing any further damage. The only score in the film is the piano composition of Van Cleave (who also did music for White Christmas, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and episodes of the Twilight Zone) The film is mostly a sad melodrama until the short-lived Robot-attack at the conclusion of the film. But it is worth seeing for sci-fi fans of this era.
The Mysterians (1957)
Aliens land in Japan and their giant spacecraft burrows into the ground. They have two simple requests in their alien ultimatum. “We want two acres of land, and all of your women!” When the leaders of earth say, “No” (everyone except Jack Benny, that is) the Mysterians release the Giant Robot, Mogera. He shoots radioactive rays from his eyes and stomps small towns. Flying Saucers come down from space and zap any military attempt at combating the alien takeover. However, the Japanese military has been working on a secret weapon to combat the onslaught of Robot and Saucers, thus, the first appearance of the Maser Cannon is seen in a Toho film. The Maser Cannon shoots a laser beam that looks like lightning and would be put to combat in many future Toho films releases. By far the best giant robot film of the era.
Target Earth (1954)
A young woman, Vicki, (Virginia Grey), wakes up to find the city of Chicago abandoned. The film does a great job at showing her running through the deserted city streets, and portraying her panic, which had to be an influence on the opening of 28 Days Later. She eventually stumbles upon three more people who were down and out and missed the evacuation. The alien invasion consists of robot sentinels roaming the city and zapping anything that moves. Squirrels? Gone. Pigeons? Gone. People? Zap! Zap! Extra crispy. The robots are only 8 to 10 feet tall so I don’t know if they should be considered giant, but like I said, there wasn’t nearly as many films in this category to choose from as I would have thought. This film is heavy on drama but seriously lacking in robot combat. The robots are only seen in a few scenes. They shoot an electric ray from their TV screen faces and a couple of people disappear. The robots are decent looking and the story is really well written, so I‘d give it a thumbs up, anyway. Also stars, Richard Denning.
Of course, we got GORT from The Day the Earth Stood Still, but he only zapped a few things then stood immobile for most of the movie. Besides, I’m going to feature this film in my Alien Ultimatums list in the future…