Hu-Mans and Ro-Mans

No money for sets? Say it’s a nuclear apocalypse.

No money for a cast? Write in a hokey cure for said nuclear apocalypse that keeps six people alive.

Can’t afford a monster? Add random dinosaur stock footage.

A truly astonishing achievement, Robot Monster is justifiably on numerous “worst ever” lists. It’s terrible, probably the closest a movie can get to being objectively rotten. Yet, like Ed Wood’s wonky, no-budget output, Robot Monster’s disastrous quality earned it just enough notoriety to find its niche in pop culture.

Robot Monster is among the most accurate “dream” movies every made

This isn’t a budgetary situation. That’s part of it, but generally it’s Robot Monster’s hilariously trippy creative process helping this mess accidentally succeed. The alien menace is obviously first, a loose-fitting ape suit with a kitschy space helmet, speaking endlessly about rules and humanity’s destruction. Then the bubbles. Bubbles everywhere, pouring from a bubble machine so valuable as to earn the company behind it notice in the opening credits. Finally, to spin the whole thing as a 3D spectacle perfectly encapsulates the lowest of the low-end when it comes to ’50s sci-fi as to leave an eternal mark on the genre.

To understand Robot Monster fully is to consider the ending. Sold as a child’s dream, the cheapest of all screenwriting cop-outs, this works for Robot Monster. How else could Robot Monster so accurately convey the wild fever dreams of a ’50s pre-teen? The space race, dinosaurs, cornball romance… bubbles. It only makes cohesive sense when through the eyes of a kid, or more specifically, the ones brought up on duck-and-cover drills while worried about UFO invasions. In that way, Robot Monster is among the most accurate “dream” movies every made, as random, surreal, and illogical as anything seen in the human brain’s innermost sleep cycles. That doesn’t make Robot Monster a great movie, but at least gives it a culturally notable context.

Video

Robot Monster looks… rough, initially. At times, the lackluster clarity is akin to Laserdisc, the analog-like noise, smearing, and halos. Grain skips and jumps too. Considering the filming conditions and 3D process involved, this presentation lacks genuine clarity at numerous points during the runtime. Note the print used for the 2D presentation was the left eye film stock.

Robot Monster simply doesn’t look like film in these spots, but then immediately (with just an edit) can appear moderately defined, and the film stock’s grain resolves naturally. Detail on the monster suit (whether fur, skin, or the helmet) will satisfy anyone trying to pick up on the most precise textures of this classic screen creature. Then with another edit, the grain does bizarre things, like only showing on specific parts of the frame, or banding (briefly in one shot) akin to an early CD-ROM.

The case’s text notes skipped frames were inherent to the source. Aside from those, the print itself looks pristine. There’s hardly a scratch or visible debris anywhere; that’s impressive, and kudos to the clean-up team. Considering Robot Monster’s 35mm print was found rotting in a warehouse decades ago, it’s remarkable anything is left, let alone in any reasonable, presentable condition.

Limited grain replication is at least clean, but weirdly sticky at times. Better is gray scale, even with hiccups now and then. Black levels harden, and contrast shows pleasing peaks. Mid-tones lack the same nuance.

3D Video

From the opening comedy skit and beyond, Robot Monster looks sensational in 3D. The opening title card is one of the niftiest things on the format, comics and text popping from the screen like the best showcase discs.

The cave that makes up so much of the film features great fall-in effects, and the dimension holds to that same standard throughout. Nearly free of cross-talk, the image retains its purity, and whatever the faults with the 2D presentation, they don’t limit the 3D. All of the ridiculous bubbles pay off as they flood the screen. Fields of tall grass extend into the background and foreground.

Depth is achieved inside Ro-Man’s space helmet, clearly separating the glass from its face. Gimmicky, pop-out effects happen casually, sometimes for things as simple as character nearing the lens. The ’50s produced some of the wildest 3D of any era, and that’s true even for the lowest budget productions like Robot Monster too.

Audio

Waning definition further hampers the aged, cheaply recorded dialog. Thankfully freed from static or skipping, the track itself doesn’t sound degraded, rather it’s just the messy dialog replication, strained score, and general weakness. It’s fine, considering the source, and again, age and where the print originated for this release.

Extras

With a ludicrous number of bonuses, Robot Monster is among the most luxurious Blu-rays ever produced for a ’50s sci-fi movie. Things begin with a commentary led by Greg Moffett, Mike Ballew, Lawrence Kaufman, and Eric Kurland. A clip of Bela Lugosi on NBC’s You Asked for It also includes a separate option to watch with commentary. Other bonuses – in both 2D and 3D – play directly through without menu options. This includes trailers for 3D features, discussion on the restoration, PSAs on the format, and more over 37-minutes. The 3D menu option runs over an hour, with a wide array of similar content (including an interview with star Robert Moffett) and spectacular vintage stereophonic photos. Note this is all viewable in 2D as well, but the chapter skip option to view specific pieces did not work.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Robot Monster
  • Video
  • 3D Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

An undeniable classic among the truly terrible, Robot Monster is an absolute slog that somehow achieves near zero entertainment value.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 30 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:


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