Ask any connoisseur of bad films, and I’m sure they’ll agree that Robot Monster will rank up there in their top ten list, together with the usual list of suspects, including Planet 9 from Outer Space, Birdemic, Troll 2, and of course, my personal favorite, The Room. For those of you that have not had the privilege to see Robot Monster before, please do so immediately after reading this article. By the way, if you haven’t guessed by now, the remainder of this article will contain spoilers, so be warned. However, if you’re reading this article, hopefully you’re already familiar somewhat with the movie.
Released as an independent film in 1953, Robot Monster tells the tale of Ro-Man, an alien robot who comes to Earth bent on eradicating the human race. Appearing as a giant gorilla with a diving helmet for a head, Ro-Man has two silver antennas that spring out of his helmet, making it appear to be not just a diving helmet, but it’s now a certified space helmet. Having no other clothing accessories except for this space helmet, Ro-Man is armed with his death ray gun and almost single handedly wipes out all of humanity.
Years pass and Ro-Man learns that there are still eight human survivors left on Planet Earth. Ro-Man reports this to his boss, The Great Guidance, who looks exactly like Ro-Man, consisting of a gorilla with a space helmet in place of his head. Ro-Man vows to kills the 8 humans consisting of an older scientist called the Professor, his wife, two daughters Carla and Alice, youngest son Johnny, his assistant Roy, and two space pilots.
Eventually, Ro-Man meets up with the Professor’s son and tries to destroy him with his death ray gun, as he had with the rest of the humans. However, Johnny is able to survive the death ray gun and it is revealed that the Professor had created a serum that created immunity from the death ray, which is why the eight survivors were still alive. Frustrated with the human defenses, Ro-Man’s boss, the Great Guidance, commands that Ro-Man still kill each of the humans anyway by any means necessary. Accordingly, the rest of the movie is spent showing Ro-Man physically attacking and then murdering some of the humans one by one.
First, Ro-Man kills the two pilots by destroying their spaceship that was headed for the orbiting platform. Then he later strangles the youngest daughter, Carla, and murders the Professor’s assistant, Roy, by throwing him over a cliff. Ro-Man’s murdering actions was basically a gorilla version of Jason from Friday the 13th, except that instead of a hockey mask, Ro-Man had a giant diving helmet on his head to cover his face. But like Jason, we, the viewer, always wanted to know just exactly what was underneath that helmet. Was it just another gorilla face? Was it human? Robotic? Or was it something else? Despite many criticisms of the movie, Ro-Man’s masked identity was one of the good things about the movie and of the beauty of the Ro-Man villain. Moreover, we never really learned what was underneath the helmet.
Another positive factor regarding Ro-Man is that despite being the villain, believe it or not, this alien robot has a self-discovery moment and instead of wanting to kill Alice, the Professor’s oldest daughter, he ends up falling in love with her, much like the original 1933 King Kong did, when, despite being a gorilla, he ends up falling for the character Annabelle ” Ann” Darrow. But unlike King Kong, Ro-Man could talk, so maybe he felt that he could somehow sway Alice into loving him through his intelligence and persistence. We never find out, however, because once Ro-Man informs his leader, The Great Guidance, that he was in love and would not nor could not kill Alice, The Great Guidance beams down to Earth as a result of Ro-Man’s incompetence with his full intent to hunt him down.
Hoping that killing Johnny, Alice’s brother, would somehow appease The Great Guidance, Ro-Man kills Johnny; however, The Great Guidance could care less, and ends up killing Ro-Man by shooting him with a death ray gun. Eventually, The Great Guidance decides to go nuclear on Planet Earth by releasing prehistoric dinosaurs and earthquakes on the planet in the hopes to kill the remaining humans. Although there is a little bit more to the story, I will end here so I don’t end up revealing the final ending of the movie.
As for Ro-Man’s ending, however, his finale is revealed, in which through his death, we learn that in the end…. One, gorillas will never get the pretty girl even if they talk and walk on two feet.
Two, one only needs two silver antennas attached to a diving helmet to make it a space helmet.
Three, maybe gorillas with death rays aren’t such bad guys after all.
According to Wikipedia, despite this crazy plot, terrible acting, and obviously bad special effects, Robot Monster ended up grossing $1,000,000.00 after its initial theatrical release, which was more than 62 times its original investment, which would make the investment be something closer to only $16,129.00.
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Furthermore, today, Robot Monster, and specifically the character Ro-Man, is regarded as an icon not only in bad B-movies, but just in classic and vintage science fiction. Much like Buck Rogers, Ro-Man is still appreciated for its originality and simplicity. Something about seeing an alien robot consisting of a guy in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet on his head just speaks to you.
Today, you can even buy a toy bust of Ro-Man. Here’s mine in my man cave.
Have you seen Robot Monster before? What’s your favorite B-Movie robot? What’s a favorite tv or movie robot that you remember growing up with? We would like to hear from you.