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"I cannot - yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do 'must' and 'cannot' meet? Yet I must - but I cannot!"—Ro-Man XJ2
A 1953 B-Movie, released in 3D, by Phil Tucker, Robot Monster is one of the most famous So Bad It's Good sci-fi films ever made. Simply put, it is about a family having a picnic in California and meeting an evil alien invader: the nefarious Ro-Man, who has used a special Death Ray to destroy all humans. But the family survived by taking a special serum invented by their scientist dad.
Using his amazing advanced galaxy-conquering technology -- you can tell, because it emits soap bubbles at moments of high drama -- Ro-Man must find a way around their defenses. The kicker is the Big Guy's also struggling with unforeseen human desires... oh, did we mention the scientist's nubile daughter? Not to mention her hunky lab assistant boyfriend, annoying younger brother and... Yeah, you figured? OK then.
So far, so run-of-the-mill. It could even be argued that hey, as compared to, say, Manos, this thing has an actual plot (though not a good one), also a soundtrack involving the onscreen actors speaking in their own voices. But no other classic bad movie can boast of Ro-Man, the titular "Robot Monster". Quoth the film's then-twentysomething auteur, recalling the inspiration (and, not incidentally, budget) behind his lead character: "I know George [Barrows] will work for me for nothing. I'll put him in the gorilla suit, put a [diving] helmet on him, and it'll work!"
Well... no. At least, not in the way he intended.
Robot Monster provides examples of:
- 3D Movie
- Acting for Two: George Barrows as both Ro-Man and Great Guidance. It makes for some pretty cheesy fun, given that both characters have several conversations together but look almost exactly alike and have the exact same voice.
- After the End: It's explained that much of movie takes place after Ro-Man has (almost) completely wiped out human civilization.
- All Just a Dream.
- And You Were There
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Carla, Johnny's younger sister.
- Johnny himself is this too.
- Apocalypse How: Starts off as a Class 3a, thanks to the the effect of the Calcinator Death Ray. Later upgraded to a Class X, as the Great One gets pissed off at Ro-Man's failure to kill the humans and unleashes a "Q-Ray" which completely destroys the planet.
- B-Movie: And how!
- Bullying a Dragon: Johnny taunts Ro-Man from an apparently safe vantage point.
Johnny: "You look like a pooped-out pinwheel!"
Ro-Man: "I will destroy you!"
- Dan Browned: The trailer claims, "Robot Monster brings you an actual preview of the devestating forces of our future."
- Downer Ending: Disregarding the All Just a Dream, this is a bleak movie.
- Deus Ex Machina
- ~Everything's Better With Dinosaurs~: They're apparently baby alligators with fins glued to their backs. They don't bring much to the plot, as they are Stock Footage from One Million BC!
- Everything Is Better With Monkeys: Well, sort of...
- Evil Overlord: The Great One (who is played and voiced by the same actor who does Ro-Man, except with a slightly different helmet).
- The Faceless: Stockings, worn over the face and under the helmets, to convey the effect.
- Fail O'Suckyname: "Wyatt Ordung" worked on this film. (The bots take his name as a question, and choose "Wyatt".)
- Fantastic Racism
- Follow the Leader: Invaders From Mars, released a month earlier.
- Funny Foreigner: It's unknown if the Professor was supposed to be one, but he certainly sounds like it (the actor playing him, John Mylong, was Austro-Hungarian).
- Heel Face Door Slam: Ro-Man almost seems like he's going to stop being a Jerkass at the end, but the Great One has other plans.
- Iconic Characters: Ro-Man: the classic B-Movie monster of all time.
- Idiot Ball
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Twice.
- In Name Only: Ro-Man is supposed to be short for 'robot man'.
- Jerkass: Ro-Man. Seriously.
- Kick the Dog: Ro-Man shows the family the destruction of humanity on their video screen. Why? Oh, just to make them feel shitty.
- Kid Hero
- Kill All Humans - Eight are left at the start and it goes down from there.
- Logic Bomb
- Madness Mantra: "I must... but I cannot..."
- Mars Needs Women: Actually justified in a weird way - Ro-Man has no idea why he wants to get into Alice's pants, and while he's struggling with it Great Guidance orders him to kill her, so he goes into the Madness Mantra.
- Moment Killer: The Great Guidance calls up Ro-Man at the most inopportune times....
- ~Name's The Same~: Ro-Man XJ2 should not be confused with XJ-2, one of Jenny's older sisters.
- Nice Hat: Ro-man's helmet.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Right there in the title.
- Notable Original Music: By Elmer Bernstein, of all people.
- Or Was It a Dream?: While it may have been Bobby's dream, it seems it could have been a clairvoyant dream.
- People In Ape Suits And Diving Helmets
- The Professor: ...The Professor.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Ro-Man has a gorilla body because there was no money for a robot costume, and the actor playing him already owned his own gorilla suit.
- Ridiculously-Human Robots
- Robot Names
- Rule of Three: The end? Nope, Ro-Man comes out of a cave stretching his arms at the viewer! The end? Put that funky shot again, boy! The end? Play it again, Sam!
- Shirtless Scene
- Spock Speak
- Stock Footage
- Techno Babble
Ro-Man: "I am ordered to kill you. I must do it with my hands."
Alice: "How is it you're so strong, Ro-Man? It seems impossible."
Ro-Man: "We Ro-Mans obtain our strength from the planet Ro-Man, relayed from individual energizers."
- Tin Man
- Turned Against Their Masters
- Video Phone: Ro-Man uses a video linkup to communicate with Great Guidance on the planet Ro-Man.
- Villain Protagonist: Technically, 'Villain is the Only Character Who Isn't a Trite Cliche', but close enough.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?
- You Are Number Six: The main Ro-Man differentiates from the others by his codename, XJ2.