Robot Monster (Phil Tucker / U.S., 1953):

The opening credits play over a spread of comic books (cf. Toute la Mémoire du Monde), followed by a tiny girl patiently enduring her brother’s buzzing toy-gun attack: "Am I dead?" "You’re disintegrated!" "Can we play house now?" A family outing in a pebbly ravine, a pair of archeologists in a cavern and then, just like that, tussling prehistoric beasties and the Second Coming. To "throw the Earth out of the universe" is the alien scheme, the agent of destruction is Ro-Man the Monster (George Barrows), whose mossy primate body is capped by a metal noggin equipped with TV antenna. (The halting yet stentorian tones emanating from his fogged-up scuba helmet are courtesy of John Brown.) Against him in the thrift-store apocalypse stand a gaggle of survivors, the scientist (John Mylong) and the wife (Selena Royle), the babe (Claudia Barrett) and the jock (George Nader), the tyke (Gregory Moffett) and the moppet (Pamela Paulson). Torn between loyalty to his death-ray and desire for his comely captive, Ro-Man cracks most philosophically: "I cannot, yet I must... How do you calculate that?" (The irritated overlord has an easy solution for the dilemma: "You want to live like the Hu-Man? Then you can die like the Hu-Man!") King Kong and The Wizard of Oz are the poles in Phil Tucker’s little nuclear fable, a stroll through the Bronson Cave Trail that’s captivatingly keyed to a child’s dream. (Nothing beats the repeated sight of the cyborg-yeti lumbering through a swarm of bubbles for sheer backyard poesy.) A "picnic film" (Kurosawa’s Sanshiro Sugata), a marvelously short-circuiting Invaders from Mars companion piece, a furry fist raised for sci-fi misfits everywhere. Let the dullards have their Most Amusingly Bad contests and Golden Turkey trophies, the cinephile will receive Tucker’s surrealism with pleasure and notice the sketches for The Man Who Fell to Earth. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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