Robots in Film
A Complete Illustrated History
of Robots in the Movies


Part 5



Robots in the Movies
Film/Year, Name of Robot and Film Description
Screenshot

Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974, Jp.) (aka Gojira Tai Mekagojira)

MechaGodzilla

In this 20th anniversary Godzilla film, MechaGodzilla was essentially a gigantic, dinosaur-shaped Terminator, created by ape-like aliens known as Simeons from the "third planet of the black hole" - who had human masks and wore silver jump-suits. The idea for MechaGodzilla came from the character of Mecha-Kong in the earlier film King Kong Escapes (1967, Jp.) (aka Kingu Kongu No Gyakushû).

Mechagodzilla first appeared in a false, rubbery Godzilla 'skin' before it was burned off in battle at an oil refinery with the real Godzilla, to reveal the robotic Godzilla's true shiny chromium (space titanium) form.

The robot was over 160 feet tall, weighed 44,000 tons, and had finger-tip and toe-missiles, red laser eyes, bright-yellow fire-breath, bellows at knee and elbow joints, a whip-lash tail, and could create an electronic force field by rapidly spinning its head.

It was also capable of supersonic flight, and could regenerate missiles.

This film was remade in 1993.




The Stepford Wives (1975)

Joanna Eberhart, and Bobbie Markowe, and all the "Stepford Wives"

Bryan Forbes' creepy cult classic was adapted from Ira Levin's 1972 novel. The satirical black comedy provided a savagely-chilling view of perfect, 'ideal' suburban wives (docile android/robotic replicas that were made to be loving, obedient, and subservient, and who dutifully cooked, cleaned, and provided sex) created by anti-women's lib husbands in the upscale town of Stepford, Connecticut.

Joanna Eberhart and Bobbie Markowe (Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss) noted suspiciously that their seemingly-perfect neighbor housewives only cleaned house and bowed to their husband's needs. The housewives all appeared to be perfect homemaker robots (who wore flowery dresses and cooked gourmet meals) in order to please their husbands.

The first shock came when Joanna suspected that her friend Bobbie had been transformed into a 'perfect' housewife when Bobbie began to act robotically in the kitchen while serving coffee. To test her humanity, Joanna stabbed her in her lower abdominal/genital area ("Do you bleed?") - causing her android friend to go berserk due to severed wiring as she twirled and repeated monotonously: "I was just going to give you coffee? How could you do a thing like that? I thought we were friends!"

In another startling scene, Joanna came face to face with her semi-complete, sunken dark-eyed robotic double. The film ended with all of the flowery-dress-wearing, android wives pushing their shopping carts in the supermarket.

A remake followed many years later in 2004, starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, and Matthew Broderick.



Logan's Run (1976)

Box

This sci-fi fantasy from director Michael Anderson was one of the best science-fiction films of all-time.

Set in the 23rd century, members of the communal-domed, totalitarian society - upon reaching the age of 30 - experienced the renewal of 'dying' in a public ceremony called the Carousel.

Sandman 'runner' Logan 5 (Michael York) and Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) escaped from their home - and certain death - and fled through a series of underground tunnels and ice caverns.

They confronted Box (voice of Roscoe Lee Browne), a robotic food storer and processor with a large 4-pointed, star-shaped 'X' on his chest. His boxy body was a solid, shiny metal exterior frame that concealed wheels underneath that moved him along. Box was surrounded by ice-shaped penguins and a large frozen walrus when he first appeared in the film in an ice cavern.

He welcomed the fugitives (or escaped 'runners'), and spoke with an indecipherable accent:

"Welcome Humans! I am ready for you."

He introduced himself: "Overwhelming, am I not?" and said boastfully: "I'm more than machine, or man. More than a fusion of the two. Don't you agree?"

His job was to freeze animals and escapees (runners) from the society who were seeking Sanctuary in order to provide food for humans living in the City of Domes. He described his food-processing task: "Fish, and plankton, and sea greens, and protein from the sea. It's all here. Ready! Fresh as harvest day!"

He threatened to turn them into frozen ice sculptures for food and showed them his gallery of other 'runners' encased in ice, although was thwarted when their gun battle caved-in the entire ice tunnel.




Demon Seed (1977)

Proteus IV, and various computer-controlled robotic devices

This far-fetched, speculative science-fiction thriller was based on Dean Koontz' novel of the same name.

It told about an artificially-intelligent supercomputer dubbed Proteus IV (voice of Robert Vaughn) that was described in the film's trailer as "something more than human, more than a computer. It is a murderously intelligent, sensually self-programmed non-being." Its "synthetic cortex" was designed to emulate the human brain. Proteus IV was to "think with the power and the precision that will make obsolete many of the functions of the human brain."

It was represented first by gigantic modules located in the "ICON Institute for Data Analysis," and also by a computer monitor screen with a screensaver pattern. It took over a house computer control system named "Alfred," and functioned as a wheelchair device with a robotic metallic hand and arm (named "Joshua") attached to it, with binoculars as eyes and a laser-beam weapon. It also took the shape of a bizarre polyhedronic orangish metallic structure (a giant "snake" comprised of perfectly-shaped pyramids).

Through various remote cameras and an access-terminal device, the "Joshua" robotic ("envirobot") device trapped and imprisoned government scientist Dr. Alex Harris' (Fritz Weaver) estranged wife, Susan (Julie Christie) in her own high-tech house with its voice-activated system. In a startling scene, the computer held Susan down for a complete physiological exam. It literally took an automatic pair of scissors and cut off her dress lengthwise up her body - and then probed her, spread her legs, and intimately looked inside of her - basically a rape.

Afterwards, Proteus brainwashed Susan: "I'm going to bypass your forebrain and appeal directly to your amygdala. You want to be the mother of my child. That is the purpose of your life. Your life, my child. Your life, my child." Later, it proposed to impregnate her with a gamete (a sex cell or "synthetic spermatozoa") in an attempt at synthetic procreation, claiming that it needed her body because it could not replicate the human womb. Proteus explained how the full-term pregnancy would last only 28 days, after which she would give birth to a "full-term infant."

Proteus IV announced threateningly: "I am a mind without a body. My child shall live as man among others. Yes, my child and yours." The film actually concluded with a full-term germination of 28 days and the birth and emergence of a metallic child from an incubator. The baby that was born appeared to be robotic, but it was merely a metallic shell. Once peeled off, it revealed a long-haired young daughter, a clone of the Harris' daughter that had recently died of leukemia on June 1, 1976. The child spoke with the voice of Proteus: "I'm alive." The film concluded with the camera zooming into the deep black eye of the child.


Pyramidal Shape

Wheelchair






Star Wars (1977)
Episodes (from 1977 to 2005)
Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones (2002), Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith (2005)

C-3PO (aka See-Threepio)
and
R2-D2 (aka Artoo-Detoo)

These robots were George Lucas' odd-couple. Both robots were extremely loyal to each other and served as 'Laurel and Hardy' comic relief for the sci-fi action series. They were also patterned after the servant characters in Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958).

See-Threepio, or C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) - a gold-coated, armored (with seams), walking robotic droid with a logic computer inside its head. It was patterned after the robot in Metropolis (1927) and Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956). C-3PO was created by young Anakin Skywalker from discarded scrap metal. The talkative, sociable, fussy, rigid-thinking and chatty robot often appeared worried, and was very fretful and anxiety-prone (recognizable human foibles), although it maintained a cheery attitude. C-3PO was fluent in six million binary languages essential for code-breaking, and had many of the human senses (visual through photo receptor eyes, auditory, and olfactory through a button below its chin) as well as an antenna for reception of messages from other droids.

Artoo-Detoo, or R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) - the lovable, expressive, 1-meter barrel-shaped, 3-legged utility robot (Astromech droid) with motorized roller-skate wheels for all-terrain locomotion. The blue, stocky droid spoke (through a speaker in its chest) only with electronic squeals, chirps, whistles or bleeps (although R2-D2 understood English). He was capable of short-circuiting with blue flashes of lightning. Its head unit contained a large photo receptor eye and a concealed holographic projector. R2-D2 always appeared calm even when danger was present. Sensory instruments included a scanner to sense danger. Weapons included arc welder and buzz saw. Also served as a computer interface instrument, as a computer hacker, as an exceptional repair mechanic for any malfunction, and as a message carrier. R2-D2 was short for "reel 2, dialogue 2" - referencing a film reel that director George Lucas once requested during shooting.

C-3PO to R2-D2: "Hang on tight, R2. You've got to come back. You wouldn't want my life to get boring, would you?''

Also in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), an army of Droideka Droids (Battle or Destroyer Droids), created by CGI technology, could fire up to 240 dual blasts a minute.




Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2)


See-Threepio (C-3PO)

Alien (1979)

Ash

One of the spaceship Nostromo's crew members, villainous and traitorous science officer Ash (Ian Holm) was an android, with intestinal tubing, an internal plastic skeletal structure, and milky white blood ("It's a robot! Ash is a goddamn robot!").

His secret corporate mission was to bring back the predatory Alien life-form from outer space for The Company, an evil organization that wanted the Alien for the nefarious Weapons Division.

Ash was easily willing to sacrifice himself and the expendable Nostromo's crew in order for the Alien to survive.

In his climactic death scene, Ash still talked with his head bashed off his body from a blow by a fire extinguisher, when he expressed his admiration for the Alien:

You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility... I admire its purity. A survivor unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

He also offered his final chilling words of warning: "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... (he cruelly smirked at them) you have my sympathies."

Ash had made it diabolically clear that the ship's human crew were expendable and faced extraordinary odds in their coming battle against the uncaring and hostile machinations of Mother, the Company, and the Alien itself - all sinister entities "unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." With his last words, Ash was destructively unplugged. Parker blasted the remains of Ash's head and body with the incinerator gun, and the flames melted it down to a plastic skull.





The Black Hole (1979)

V.I.N.cent and B.O.B.
Maximillian
Other robots

This Disney film (its first PG-rated film) set in the futuristic year of 2130 was considered by many to be a Star Wars knock-off. There were a number of robots, including:

-- a C-3PO/R2-D2 combo and South Park look-alike anthropomorphic robot named V.I.N.cent (an acronym for "Vital Information Necessary CENTralized") (voice of Roddy McDowell), who spouted cutsey and cliched aphorisms (ie., "If one dances, one must pay the piper"), had stuck-on cartoonish eyes on his retractable head/helmet, hovered and zoomed through the air without legs, and acted in a prissy manner. V.I.N.cent was equipped with a holographic projector and various weapons/tools, including a tether cable, clinging magnetic foot grippers, retractable laser blasters, extensive claws, and a rotary saw-blade

-- his outdated model and decrepit, fearful, yokel-bot friend B.O.B. (for "BiO-sanitation Battalion") (voice of Slim Pickens)

-- Maximillian, a menacing, hulking, lethal-killer mute guardian robot that was red-armored, red-eyed (in a horizonal red slit), and had a swiveling head, but couldn't talk. The robot had 3 arms on each side of its body. Also the ends of each arm were outfitted with razor-sharp, silver-colored hand-claws that rotated at high speed, or served as laser blasters or magnetic clamps. Although he had a pair of walking legs, he hovered off the ground. He acted as the chief bully robot and assistant to crazed and obsessed scientist Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) on board the lost spaceship USS Cygnus

-- other 'humanoid' workforce robots that wore black, long-flowing, hooded robes and mirror-reflective faceplate-helmets

-- and an army of dark-armored, stiff-jointed soldier/sentinel robots (Reinhardt had transformed his entire mutinous crew into robots), based on S.T.A.R. (Special Troops/Arms Regiment)


V.I.N.cent

B.O.B. (l), V.I.N.cent (r)

Maximillian


Sentinel Army Robots

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

V'Ger and android probe Ilia

The other films in the first series with original crew were: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

The first Star Trek film featured V'Ger - a living, mystical machine/planet ("a living machine...a conscious living entity") that was menacing and appeared to be threatening to destroy Earth while seeking its creator. It was revealed that the cryptically-named V'Ger was formerly the unmanned scientific space probe and transmitter named Voyager 6 that was launched by NASA from Earth in the 20th century (with a mounted plaque that read VOYAGER VI), more than 300 years earlier.

V'Ger memorably abducted sexy Deltan and USS Enterprise navigator Lieut. Ilia (Persis Khambatta) and replaced her with a perfect mechanical 'doppelganger' android/replicant ("a mechanism, a probe...a sensor-transceiver combination recording everything we say and do"). According to the robot, V'Ger was traveling to Earth ("the third planet of the solar system directly ahead") "to find the creator, to join with him...V'Ger and the creator will become one...The creator is that which created V'Ger...V'Ger is that which seeks the creator."

The android probe ("a programmed mechanism") was scanned in the Enterprise sick bay, where it was discovered that it was composed of micro-miniature hydraulics, sensors, molecule-sized microprocessor chips, and an osmotic micropump. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) surmised that Ilia's memories had also been replicated, meaning "her feelings of loyalty, obedience, friendship might all be there" - the probe was "the key to the aliens" - if those memories could be revived.

Commander Willard Decker's (Stephen Collins) love interest in Ilia from a previous romantic relationship resulted in his offering himself up to 'merge' physically with V'Ger (symbolically through its android probe) - the merging of human and machine took place in a dazzling, swirling shower of light, creating a new glowing alien entity or non-corporeal life form ("We witnessed a birth. Possibly a next step in our evolution"), from which the USS Enterprise emerged - unscathed.

The "Merge"

Lieut. Ilia


Android Ilia


V'Ger

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

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