The Wizard of Oz is one of the best and all-time classic movies. It had great visuals, memorable characters, decent special effects for the time period and a timeless story that transcends time and will still be told generations from now. It also gave us, in a way, the first memorable twist ending that has been parodied and quoted. In some eyes, it’s one of the best films of all time.
Why mention Wizard of Oz? Well, I thought I would mention a good movie before I delve into the unpleasant and difficult movie to view without any kind of riffing of Robot Monster. This movie was a cheesy B-movie drive in film made in the fifties that tried making a monster sci-fi movie that talked about alien invasion and the possibility of human extinction. With so much going against this movie, is this film enjoyable at all? Well, that’s tough to tell. When MST3K uses the movie in their show, that usually says that your movie is so bad that you have to riff it just to get through it all. However, I viewed it without the riffing and just sat through the entire movie on one sitting. So, we’ll review this film and discuss the story, the characters and the special effects. Let’s sit back and make sure we are immunized as we review Robot Monster.
The main story of this movie is a little convoluted. We meet Johnny, an adventurous young boy, who is playing in the field acting like an alien or astronaut walking the planes of an unknown planet. He comes across some archaeologists and Johnny loves science. His mother comes by and collects him to continue their picnic. Johnny falls asleep and now our “wizard of oz” story begins. SPOILERS: The whole movie is basically a dream and it doesn’t even have to be. So, during this dream sequence, Johnny made the archaeologists part of his family with his oldest sister being married to the younger one and the older one being the father. They seem to be the last of the human species because alien invaders called Ro-Man have wiped everyone out. The last humans aren’t wiped out because the father developed a serum that makes them immune to the Ro-Man’s death beams. That’s basically the plot of the movie. It’s Ro-Man trying to find the last of the humans and the humans and the humans trying to either reason with the Ro-Man or trying to find a way to destroy him. It’s a simple story that really doesn’t have much going on. It’s like watching some people play chess and there hasn’t even been a check once throughout the match. It is a tough watch because the dialogue is silly and they throw in random scenes with a marriage scene, off-screen love making, and a lot of walking scenes through a quarry.
The characters are so stock and uninteresting that it was really hard to be invested in anything they say or do to move the story forward. The Ro-Man, has a bad ADR voice and looks ridiculous. I know this is a B-movie drive in film but, come on. You have a guy in a gorilla suit and a space helmet covering their face on their head and that’s your master alien race. What kind of lazy design were they thinking? I know some designs from the 50s were cheesy and silly but this one makes no sense and it’s just laughable the whole time. But, the rest of the characters are just boring and plain. Johnny is annoying and brings only brings horrible Opie level annoyances. The Father figure talks science babel that doesn’t really explain how he developed his serum and whatnot. The sister and her husband are the pretty people that have the chemistry and the naivety of youth and love, which ultimately gets them killed by the Ro-Man. The mother is background fodder and I forget she’s even there half the time. If the characters were maybe more interesting, the movie could maybe have some kind of charm and even maybe have some kind of cult reaction to it.
The special effects are minimum. They use a bubble machine when we are in the lair of the Ro-Man I guess showing science stuff. There’s a video mirror that is used for communication, which is probably something out of a Buck Rodgers comic. The rest of the effects involve alternating color changes when it comes with the death rays. For a movie that is supposed to have robots and monsters, its a very dialogue heavy movie with very little action.
Overall, this movie is tough to watch. You need people or some MST3K riffing in order to make this movie watchable. I had to pause a couple of times just because it was boring. I was hoping there might be some hidden gem or cult status to this. There was none. At the end of the movie, Johnny wakes up and is reunited with his family as the archaeologists make sure he goes home safely. I don’t understand why they needed to do a Wizard of Oz premise but it just doesn’t work. You could have just opened with the movie with just the Ro-Man having conquering the Earth and have some survivors trying to continue to live and maybe figure out how to escape the clutches of the Ro-Man. Either or, the movie lacks so much of everything needed to make the movie enjoyable and watchable. I would not recommend this movie to anyone unless you want to do a good riffing (if you do, be prepared to do it constantly).
This movie is available on Amazon Prime.