A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies
|Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description|
Uchu Kaisuko-Sen (1961, Jp.) (aka Invasion of The Neptune Men)
Director Koji Ota's alien-invasion, science-fiction film included robotic alien invaders from the planet of Neptune. The clunky, pointy-headed Neptune aliens had bullet-shaped metal helmets with blinking lights.
They were thwarted by heroic Space Chief (Sonny Chiba in his feature film debut) wearing a caped jumpsuit and sun visor, and riding in a super-charged rocketship (or vehicle).
It was deemed a horrible B-movie when critiqued on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (Episode 819).
[Notice a brief appearance in the film of a toy version of Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet (1956).]
The Creation of the Humanoids (1962)
The Humanoids (or "Clickers")
This low-budget, talkative (yet literate), minimalist film from director Wesley E. Barry was reputedly Andy Warhol's favorite film (although that bit of trivia was decisively unknown). Its subtext provided commentary on the state of race relations and civil rights in the US in the early 1960s. Posters declared: "MAN'S OWN CREATION" - Can He Control Machines That Produce People?
The post-apocalyptic, post-nuclear war society with a declining birth-rate (and sterile population due to radiation) created a 'race' of advanced robotic humanoids (derogatively nicknamed "clickers" and despised as lower-class) to be their mechanical cyborg servants to help with rebuilding Earth. The greenish-skinned androids were characterized by having bald heads, blank eyes, green grease-paint, and uninflected speech. Scientist Dr. Raven (Don Doolittle) had developed a technique to instill human-like personalities into the androids, called the "thalamic transplant," using the essence (memories, skills, beliefs and personality) of recently-deceased individuals and instilling them in the brain - to give them a life-like soul. The threat of replacement of humans by these human-humanoid hybrids was becoming apparent as the practice spread.
A secret Clicker underground was plotting a rebellion to obtain more rights, and was creating their own more sophisticated robot models - outwardly indistinguishable from humans. A protest hate group opposed to the robots, worried about the population becoming overrun with humanoids, was called "the Order of Flesh and Blood." One of its dedicated zealous leaders, resembling a Confederate Klansmen was Captain Kenneth Cragis/The Cragis (Don Megowan). He uncovered the scheme to secretly create mechanical lookalikes to infiltrate the society by Dr. Raven. Cragis was also caught in a scandal when his sister Esme Cragis Miles (Frances McCann) had formed a romantic relationship (termed "rapport") with one of the artificial beings named Pax (David Cross).
He became outraged when one of the human-looking prototype Clickers, thinking he was human, killed Dr. Raven to silence him - it was the first instance of a robot killing a human. However, Raven had ordered the robot to kill him when he was unable to commit suicide.
In the gimmicky twist ending, it was revealed that The Cragis was actually one of the androids with a 'thalamic implant.' Shortly before he died of a brain embolism, it was discovered that Cragis had planted the bomb which killed his human lover - now his reanimated robotic lover - Esme's friend Maxine Megan (Erica Elliott).
In the film's closing, Dr. Raven (who after his death had been rebuilt and resurrected as a younger man with implanted memories) announced the perfection of reproductive organs for the humanoids (the first subjects would be Cragis and Maxine), so that they could breed and save the human race. He spoke to the camera: "Of course, the operation was a success...or YOU wouldn't be here."
Astro Boy (1963-1966)
Astro Boy (aka Mighty Atom, Astro, Toby, Robot Boy, or Boy Robot)
The classic character of Astro Boy, a young robot boy, first appeared in print as a manga or anime in 1951 by master cartoonist Osamu Tezuka, known as the godfather of anime. The original manga was with Astro Boy's actual or real name (Tetsuwan Atomu or the Mighty Atom) and ran in various serialized newspaper stories until 1968. The main features of manga-anime characters (including Astro Boy) were that they were pre-teen characters with oversized, exaggerated eyes.
The 1950s manga was adopted into many generations of TV cartoon series-shows during various revivals, beginning in the 1960s, with a new name for "Mighty Atom":
It was also used for the first feature-length Astro Boy film (from Hong Kong-based Imagi Animation studios), the animated comedy Astro Boy (2009), with Freddie Highmore as the voice of the title character, and Nicolas Cage as the voice of his father Dr. Tenma.
In the original storyline, the highly-advanced boy robot-android was created when his negligent scientist father, Dr. Tenma (aka Dr. Astor Boyton), lost his son Tobio/Astor/Toby in a car accident, and built himself a new android-robot son. Subsequent versions of the original storyline during various animated revivals modified many elements, including names. After the robot was rejected by his slightly-mad father, he was sold into the circus of the cruel Hamegg (the Great Caccitore). He was searching for a father figure, finding him in the kindly character of Professor Ochanomizu (aka Dr. Elefun). Meanwhile, as a childlike, superstrong superhero, Astro Boy (voice of Billie Lou Watt), with laser-cannon blasters built into his hands, and rocket jet-powered feet, battled and easily defeated a wide variety of futuristic, giant battle-bots, aliens, and monsters.
In the feature film, Astro Boy was endowed with uploaded memories of Tenma's real boy. The lively robot boy (powered by blue energy) spoke very few words, but had the ability to hear and understand robot language. He also had laser-cannons built into his hands, and machine guns in his butt, to combat other evil robots (powered by red energy).
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
One of the most amazing stop-motion animated creatures created by Ray Harryhausen in this legendary fantasy film from Columbia Pictures was an enormous bronze statue known as Talos.
The giant robotic man served as a guard to protect the island from invasion or from pirates, according to Cretan legend.
In the film, the Isle of Bronze was being protected by Talos, who came alive when one of the Argonauts, Hercules (Nigel Green), stole a treasured object against orders, incurring Talos' wrath.
Heroic Jason (Todd Armstrong) came to the rescue by striking it in its vulnerable heel.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) (aka Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens)
This low-budget, infamous Christmas-themed movie has often been voted one of the worst films ever made, but was nonetheless taglined: "Science-Fun-Fiction at its height!" To aficionados of Mystery Science Theater 3000, this 1991 episode (# 321) was one of the most popular.
Ruthless Martian robot Torg (an anagram of "Gort" from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still) was a crude robot made of silver-painted cardboard with two painted-on dials in front, glued-on parts, and duct-work arms. His mission, conceived by Mars' ruler Kimar, was to lead a strike on the North Pole with other alien invaders, and kidnap Santa, so that the depressed children on Mars could recover, receive the 'Christmas spirit' - and of course, presents.
In the film, Torg attacked Santa's (John Call) toy-making workshop at Earth's North Pole, with the help of two kidnapped Earth children, Billy and Betty, although he immediately became a toy. Santa examined the basically harmless robot - and declared it was nothing more than a harmless toy, causing the robot to become suicidal. Once on Mars, Santa declared that the red planet must build its own toy factory.
The character of Gigantor originated in a 1956 print manga (by Mitsuteru Yokoyama), which then became serialized over the next decade. In the original storyline, a giant robot was commanded by 12 year-old Shotaro Kaneda, the son of the robot’s chief inventor, to battle various criminals and mechanized threats. The manga became the basis of a 1963 Japanese cartoon (with over 80 episodes), titled Tetsujin 28-go (aka Iron Man #28).
52 of the Japanese episodes of Tetsujin 28-go were used to create the less violent, dubbed English-language animated adaptation (with edits, English translation, and amendments). It became the Gigantor series - airing for two years from 1964-1965. In the US version, the space-age terrorist-fighting robot's name was changed to Gigantor, and the year was now 2000 (not the WWII era).
In the many episodes, with little character development or plot variation, the orphaned (?) boy now named Jimmy Sparks (voice of Billie Lou Watt, the same voice-actress who provided the voice for Astro Boy), lived with his uncle Dr. Bob Brilliant on a remote island. Using a box with a joystick and buttons, he controlled the peace-keeping 50-foot tall Gigantor - and they worked together to solve crimes and combat evil (megalomaniacal terrorist leaders and evil Europeans) with secret agent Dick Strong and inept Police Inspector Ignatz J. Blooper. The villains were marvelously named as well, such as Captain Spider, General Von Cueball, Mr. Ugablob, and Professor Birdbrane.
Jimmy Sparks with his Control Box
Alphaville (1965, Fr./It.)
French New Wave director Jean Luc-Godard's post-apocalyptic science-fiction film (with gangster and film noir characteristics), a recreation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, told about American gumshoe detective Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine).
He traveled inter-galactically (in a white Ford Galaxy) from the Outlands to the automated city of Alphaville, the capital of a totalitarian state on a futuristic planet.
Alphaville was led by an almost-human supercomputer called Alpha-60 (with a synthetic voice provided by Godard with a dry, slow, gutteral sound), that caused the dehumanized, tattoo-identified inhabitants to be completely complacent and apathetic, due to mind-altering drugs and the outlawing of emotions, love, crying, and conscience.
Part of Lemmy Caution's mission was to bring back and/or kill Professor Von Braun (Howard Vernon) who was responsible for creating the fascist Alpha-60 computer that ruled the state-run technocracy. In one chilling scene, the computer interrogated Lemmy and accused him: "You are not telling the truth."
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
Sexbots or Fembots, including Robot # 11 (aka Diane)
This spy film's farcical premise was that San Francisco mad genius scientist Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) had created an army of gold, bikini-clad robots (or sexbots), such as Robot Number 11 - or Diane (Susan Hart), who were programmed to seek out eligible billionaire bachelors and charm them away from their fortunes through marriage. Their physical assets included contagious go-go-dancing.
The film was a parody of Goldfinger (1964) and other Bond films of the time and Frankie Avalon beach movies. It led to the Italian-made sequel Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), and to the copycat Austin Powers films.
Dr. Who & the Daleks (1965)
The Daleks originally debuted in the long-running BBC-TV series Doctor Who, and were adapted for the Technicolored big screen. They appeared as 5 foot tall, pepper-pot-shaped, red/blue/gold-colored robotic monsters from the planet Skaro, a desolate landscape that had suffered from the effects of an ancient nuclear war.
Daleks were actually evil mutants that were forced to live inside their protective machine casings due to harsh levels of radiation, with surrounding solar panels (to convert energy) - they could glide along and could fire lethal death rays from protruding gun sticks. Their heads (with a pointing eye-stick) and upper body could rotate.
The warring Daleks with metallic voices patrolled and dominated the planet from their metal city and conducted a reign of terror, as they cried out: "Exterminate!" and "You will obey!"
Peter Cushing starred in the 1965 film as eccentric scientist/grandfather Dr. Who, who traveled to the planet Skaro to help the peaceful race of turquoise-skinned, persecuted Thals overcome the dreaded and oppressive Dalek threat of nuclear attack.
In the second film in 1966, Dr. Who traveled to a futuristic England and again counteracted the Dalek plan, this time to conquer Earth and subjugate humans as helmeted slaves called "robomen."
Cyborg 2087 (1966)
Cyborg Garth A7
In this low-budget anti-Communist tale (with a Terminator-like script), Michael Rennie starred as rebellious freedom fighter Cyborg Garth A7, who was time-transferred in a time-machine capsule from the year 2087 to 1966 ("an agent from the world of the future," "half-human, half-machine, programmed to kill").
Behind his zippered jacket was an implanted homing device (to allow two killer cyborg tracers with deathly ray guns from the future to follow him back), and his reinforced arm/hand had the strength of five humans.
Cyborg Garth's mission was to alter the oppressive, dystopic future that outlawed free thought and to save the world from a totalitarian state that was ruled by machines, by specifically preventing Professor Sigmund Marx (Eduard Franz) from revealing the secrets of his invention regarding radio telepathy.
Dr. Satan's Robot (1966)
Steel "Killer" Robot
Republic Pictures' remake of director William Witney's early 1940s film serial (with 15 chapters or episodes), titled The Mysterious Dr. Satan (aka Doctor Satan's Robot) (1940), was released in re-edited form to TV in the mid-1960s as a feature-length film.
The film's plot pitted the hero Bob Wayne (Robert Wilcox) (also known as the chainmail cowl-masked Copperhead, because he left small coiled coppersnakes as his calling card) against mad criminal scientist Dr. Satan (Eduardo Ciannelli) and his mechanical, square tin-canned or steel "killer" robot (Tom Steele), in his desire to take over the world.
[Note: The same robot also appeared in Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952).]
King Kong Escapes (1967, Jp.) (aka Kingu Kongu No Gyakushû) (aka King Kong's Counterattack, or King Kong Strikes Again)
Mecha Kong (or Mechani-Kong)
In director Ishirô Honda's Japanese-language science fiction film from Toho Studios, there was a climactic wrestling match (on the top of Tokyo Tower, instead of the Empire State Building). The battle was between:
MechaKong had a dome on the top of its head with a flashing light.
[Note: MechaKong, a robotic replica of Kong, was the inspiration for MechaGodzilla for Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974).]
Barbarella (1968) (aka Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy)
Robot devil dolls
During Barbarella's (Jane Fonda) mission from Earth to the planet Lythion to find young scientist Durand-Durand (Milo O'Shea), she was attacked by battling mechanical, razor-toothed robot devil dolls.
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