12/6/06

107 Robot Monster

(1953, SciFi-Postapocalyptic, b&w), with:

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Four, Flight of Destruction
(1952, SciFi Serial-Children, b&w), and:

Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Five, Death Car
(1952, SciFi Serial-Children, b&w)

To live like the hu-man. To laugh like the hu-man.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Shorts: Commando Cody rescues one of his assistants and catches a gangster.
Film: A little boy dreams about an extraterrestrial ape in a diver’s helmet.

Short Summaries:

Nipple, nipple, tweak, tweak, fly!We begin with not one, but two Commando Cody shorts. The first one is Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Four, Flight of Destruction. In our last exciting episode we saw Cody’s car plunge into the river from a flaming bridge. Previously unshown footage, however, reveals that Cody dove from the car at the last second, escaping unharmed. In an unexplained plot twist, the Moon Men’s Earth contingent is out of cash, and needs to obtain more to finance their campaign of terror. To achieve this, the Moon Men hire the clumsiest gangsters they can find to commit a series of daring robberies. All of these efforts fail miserably, resulting in the death or injury of their members. Subsequently, they conspire to kidnap Cody and hold him for ransom. They break into his office while he’s not there and kidnap his young female assistant instead (who, naturally, faints at several inopportune times). A plane chase ensues where the gangsters bail out after pointing the plane at the ground. Cody follows by (I kid you not) turning a switch on his flying suit from “up” to “down”. He gets into the plane. The plane crashes into the ground and explodes. The end. Or is it?

No, it’s not. Because in Commando Cody in Radar Men from the Moon: Chapter Five, Death Car, we see previously unshown footage of a spare parachute that allows the lab assistant to float to safety, while Cody bails out to pursue the perpetrators. Having failed numerous times, and threatened with dire consequences by the Moon Men, the gangsters attempt one last heist. This predictably fails, and the resulting car chase leaves the surviving gangster in the hospital. With Cody en route to interrogate him, the injured gangster is transported to a top security facility. On they way the driver of the armored ambulance, falling for one the oldest tricks in the book, gets out to assist a fallen pedestrian. He turns out to be a gangster as well; he and the captive gangster get away. When they learn that Cody is in pursuit, they ram an unmanned ambulance into Cody’s car, sending both vehicles over a cliff. The end? Probably not, considering what we know about the producers’ penchant for withholding key footage.

Film Summary:

In Robot Monster, a small boy dressed in a robot suit torments his little sister, who just wants to play house. They find a pair of archeologists, whom they interrogate before women of unidentified relationship to them arrive to take them on a picnic. Stealing away during a nap, the boy runs back to where he found the archaeologists. At this point, I think he gets struck by lightning.

This is where it gets weird. A pair of stop-motion dinosaurs wrestles on screen, intercut with shots of live-action lizards in makeup. Then we get to a confusing story where the older archaeologist is actually a brilliant scientist in the future, who has devised a miracle antibiotic that makes people immune to all diseases and, incidentally, also immune to the death rays of the invading Ro-man. Ro-man is a robot from outer space that looks like a man in an ape costume, wearing a deep-sea diver’s mask. He’s wiped out the entire human race with his death rays, except for the eight people who’ve been inoculated with the antibiotic. Even though they’re the last living humans on earth, they all live within a relatively short distance from each other.

Ro-man contacts the scientist and his family and offers to kill them quickly if they surrender. Naturally they decline, but Ro-man then asks to meet the Scientist’s hot daughter. The boy from the opening scenes goes instead, and accidentally tells Ro-man all of humankind’s most valuable secrets. The hot daughter and the cocky lab assistant go out to find the boy, but they get distracted on the way and make sweet, sweet love instead. They go back home and ask her father to marry them. He obliges and then they go off into the woods to make sweet, sweet love again.

Ro-man has not been idle, and discovers that the antibiotic does not make people immune to strangling. He begins to strangle the family members one by one, but stops at the hot daughter, taking her back to his cave instead. He starts to rip off her clothes, but a scheme by the surviving family members to rescue her goes horribly wrong and gets the boy killed. Ro-man’s superiors kill him for insubordination, and then the earth is destroyed. There’s a little more lizard wrestling, and then it turns out it was all a dream that the boy was having. The archeologists are invited to dinner.

Host Segment One:

Could we have sent a stranger person into space?The Mads have invented a whoopie cushion that inflates itself and spurts flaming methane. Joel invents the cummer-bubble-bund, which is an electric bubble blower on the front of a cummerbund.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘Bots discuss the physics of Commando Cody’s flying suit, pointing out that the helmet and position of the rocket packs would cause him to cartwheel across the sky. Joel challenges them to explain why bumblebees can fly with big bodies and tiny wings, causing their heads to explode.

Host Segment Three:

Crow speaks to Tom Servo through a picture frame in the manner of Great Guidance, Ro-man’s superior. He orders Tom to kill Joel. Joel panics and smashes a pair of balsa wood chairs over Tom’s head.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots discuss the concept of surrealism by having a very surreal discussion.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots wear garbage bags and hum, while they take turns pointing out some of the movie’s many inconsistencies. Example: “Fact—Ro-man spared the human cities for his people’s enjoyment, but he lives in a cave.” Quoth Dr. Forrester, “Could we have sent a stranger person into space?”

Thoughts:

To live like the hu-man...The flaming [insert random item here] has been overused this season in the invention exchanges. The flaming Godzilla was really cool, the flaming flower was pushing it, but the flaming whoopie cushion is probably too much. The Isaac Asimov references are a little out of control as well, but the rest of the host segments are really funny, especially the physics discussion and the surrealist sketch. I’ve always been a fan of stream-of-consciousness humor.

I liked Commando Cody for the first two episodes, but, having used up all their new material, they seem to have spent all their time in the last three episodes going over the same ground over and over and over again. As the second Cody segment of the episode begins, Crow observes that he’d rather “cut an apple in half and watch it brown,” and then tries to leave the theater. I could not agree more.

In a way, Robot Monster is the most accurate Science Fiction movie I’ve ever seen. It’s supposed to be a dream sequence, after all, and my dreams can be pretty nonsensical. A few even feature sweet, sweet lovin’. As a movie, of course, it makes no sense at all. Fortunately it falls into a category that I like to call “transcendent goofiness.” This is the blessed state a truly awful film occasionally falls into when such silly things happen for such nonsensical reasons that you find yourself interested, watching just to see what stupid thing is going to happen next. Joel and the ‘Bots add to this with as many references to apes, bears, and mascots as they can get in while Ro-man is onscreen. My favorite part is when Joel narrates the love scene with Alice Cooper lyrics. These elements turn one of the dumbest films ever made into an enjoyable experience.