A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies
|Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description|
Robot Monster (1953)
Although this was one of the worst evil robot, sci-fi B films ever made, the awful film also had an old-fashioned, endearing quality to it.
Ro-Man (George Barrows) was a seven foot tall, alien race robot, resembling a man wearing a gorilla suit/outfit with an antique diving helmet. He was equipped with a deadly weapon called a Calcinator Ray and was sent to Earth to destroy its inhabitants.
After committing mass genocide, Ro-Man fell in love with Alice, one of the eight surviving humans immune to the ray due to an antibiotic serum. This caused Ro-Man's creator and alien leader The Great Guidance to destroy Earth (and Ro-Man) with deadly Q-rays.
Devil Girl From Mars (1954, UK)
A 15 foot tall, menacing, indestructible and hulking alien 'mechanical man' robot named Chani, looking like a boxy refrigerator with immobile arms and legs and a plastic domed head, accompanied black leather-clad, skull-capped, raygun-armed evil female dominatrix-alien Nyah the Devil Girl (Patricia Laffan), sent to Earth (the Scottish moors) in a Martian spaceship to recruit males for breeding purposes.
The clumsy robot was remote-controlled and destroyed a tree, old truck, and barn shed with his disintegrating death ray-beam.
Gog (1954) (aka GOG)
Gog and Magog
This Ivan Tors-produced Cold War-era film, designed for Saturday matinees and released in 3-D, told about a top-secret underground space research base, where two six-armed experimental robots with Biblical names Gog and Magog ran amok (both were controlled by a murderous supercomputer known as "The Brain" and dubbed NOVAC, or Nuclear Operated Variable Automatic Computer).
They were programmed by punched tape fed into the computer. NOVAC was compromised by enemy agents by high-frequency waves beamed down by a circling-overhead spy plane, causing the robots to be reprogrammed to kill.
The film's tagline described the mechanical robots: "Built to serve man... It could think a thousand times faster! Move a thousand times faster! Kill a thousand times faster...Then suddenly, it became a Frankenstein of steel!"
Target Earth (1954)
In this alien-invasion B-movie, a few survivors including Nora King (Kathleen Crowley) and Frank Brooks (Richard Denning), woke up and found themselves in a deserted Chicago (the trailer described that they were "alone with death in a strangely deserted city").
They had been overlooked and left behind during a massive evacuation. And then about 30 minutes into the film, they encountered a clunky robot that blasted a death ray from its single eye.
The film's plot then told about robot aliens from the planet of Venus who had established a beachhead north of the city to prepare for an invasion. Although there were supposedly many threatening robots, only one was visible in the film.
Tobor the Great (1954)
In this typical 50's sci-fi B-movie, Tobor (Robot spelled backwards) was a clunky, lumbering, seven-foot tall robot spaceman (designed to be a space astronaut) with elevated boots for shoes, pointed lighted eyes, a glassy enclosed head, and a Tin-Man like body.
It was invented by space agency scientist Professor Arnold Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes). Nordstrom was the grandfather of 11 year old grandson - boy genius Brian "Gadge" Robertson (Billy Chapin).
Tobor could sense and be controlled by human brain-waves (ESP) as well as by a remote-control device, and possessed a complex brain and artificial personality (with emotions).
After the secret plans for Tobor were intercepted by a foreign (Communist) spy-chief (Steven Geray) during a press conference, both the boy and Nordstrom were kidnapped - with Tobor programmed to come to rescue them, who in the process stole a Jeep!
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Robby the Robot
MGM's lavish and colorful science-fiction film featured the first celebrity robot - a legendary, classic movie robot named Robby the Robot (Frankie Darro, voice by Marvin Miller) (with its first appearance in a film) designed by Robert Kinoshita.
Robby had a cone-shaped, clear-domed and jukebox-like head (with twirling lights and rotating motorized antenna ears), a lighted chest panel, gripping hands (with thumb and two fingers), bulbous segmented legs, and a pot-belly stove-shaped body. Robby stood at 7' 6" tall, and had a charming, often smug sense of humor (for example: "Quiet please. I am analyzing" and his excuse for being late: "Sorry, miss, I was giving myself an oil-job"). Robby was language-fluent - he could speak English and "187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues." Robby was also very domesticated as a butler (chauffering, cooking, cleaning, and performing heavy lifting tasks). Incapable of harming anyone although possessing superhuman strength, Robby short-circuited when commanded to shoot Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) by Morbius, although Robby was inconsistently portrayed as threatening in the film's poster.
The film told the story of a journey by astronauts of United Planets Cruiser C57D to a distant planet named Altair-IV, where they investigated the fate of a colony planted years before. The studio-bound film inspired the look of many future films and works, notably TV's Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry and Star Wars creator George Lucas. It was shot in Cinemascope and color, and re-worked Shakespeare's The Tempest and has been psychoanalyzed as a dramatization of repressed sexual desires.
The film has been best-remembered for Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Morbius (the Prospero figure) on a tour of the ill-fated Krell laboratories, with his pretty 19 year-old daughter Altaira (Anne Francis as the Miranda character who had never seen men). The Tempest's Ariel figure was represented by creator Morbius' lumbering Robby the Robot, built from plans left in an alien computer system. In one unintentionally funny scene, a ship's crew-member stupidly asked Robby a question: "Er, no offense, but you are a robot, aren't you?" As only a movie prop, it was unusual for Robby to be featured with star billing alongside other actors!
[Note: Robby was reprised in various cameos and appearances, such as his appearance as the suspected murderer in the TV series The Thin Man in 1958, in The Gale Storm Show in 1958, in Hazel in 1962, in Rod Serling's TV series The Twilight Zone in 1963-64, and as the prototype for Robot B-9 in the TV show Lost in Space in 1966-67. Also in The Addams Family as Smiley in 1966, in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 1966, in Columbo in 1974, and in Mork and Mindy as Chuck the Robot in 1979. He also appeared in the films The Invisible Boy (1957) as an evil robot, Hollywood Boulevard (1976), Gremlins (1984), Earth Girls Are Easy (1988), and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).]
Kronos: Ravager of Planets (1957) (aka Kronos)
After a UFO was shot down, a gigantic, box-like metallic robot in two rectangular segments, with a spherical head on top (with two antennae) and four straight, piston pile-driver legs, was activated in the desert in Mexico. It was nicknamed Kronos by the media after the mythical Greek giant.
The all-consuming, insatiable alien robot-machine was an energy accumulator - it devoured any and all electrical and atomic energy sources, threatening the energy supplies of Earth. It sucked energy by using plasma storms of electric bolts and ray blasts.
Three "Labcentral" technicians from the desert US research facility followed after it to stop its menace as it approached Los Angeles.
The Mysterians (1957, Jp.) (aka Earth Defense Force, or Chikyu Boueigun)
In this Japanese alien invader film from director Inoshiro Honda and Toho Studios, a giant robot named Moguera fought against the Japanese army. The large robot monster, resembling a burrowing mole or anteater, had powerful eye beams that shot out destructive rays.
The robot was from the destroyed planet of Mysteroid, representing scientifically-intelligent aliens who were searching for refuge and for female earthlings.
The Colossus of New York (1958)
Director Eugène Lourié's sci-fi B movie from the late '50s featured a murderous, Frankenstein-inspired, hulking (over seven foot tall), round-skulled, glowing-eyed, ski-booted feet, caped steel cyborg-robot named Colossus (Ed Wolff, the same stuntman from The Phantom Creeps (1939)) with giant hands, that could shoot laser beams from its eyes, and had an on/off switch under one of his armpits.
In this film, the living brain of genius scientist Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin) (after his death in a vehicular accident) was transplanted into a man-made artificial shell or robot body in a secret basement lab by his mad scientist, famous brain surgeon father William Spensser (Otto Kruger).
The film's trailer asked the question: "Can a man's mind function in the body of a monster?" According to the film's "terrifying" philosophy, the divorced human brain - from its own body, heart and soul - would become monstrous, cold, and inhuman.
Indeed, the killer behemoth became an indestructible creature that went on a rampage ("orgy of destruction") at the United Nations in New York.
The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1958) (aka La Momia Azteca Contra el Robot Humano, Sp.)
This low-budget, hour-long campy Mexican science-fiction film headlined a remote-controlled, 6 foot tall Human-Robot (straight-legged without knees) - dubbed a "relentless machine" in the film's tagline.
The garbage can-like robot with a human brain in a head (a human face (John Agar) was seen in the cut-out opening), looked like an upside-down paintcan with lightbulbs for ears.
It was created by mad and evil hypnotist Dr. Krupp ("The Bat") (Luis Aceves Castañeda) out of blinking lights and a squared-off water heater. The robot's purpose was to vainly battle the centuries-old Aztec Mummy Popoca guarding a tomb-encased Mexican treasure (a breastplate and bracelet). The robot used radium power as a radioactive weapon, but was demolished by the ancient beastly Mummy in the climactic short finale.
Robots in Film
(chronological, by film title)
Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12