As a masochist for incredibly low-budget science fiction and B-movie monsters, I get a strange sensation of pain and pleasure when watching films full of cheesy stock footage and men in rubber suits. I know these are terrible movies. Even most of the people who made them know that they are terrible movies. And yet, I continue to watch them. But why? Perhaps because these films give hope to aspiring filmmakers that a film does not have to be a high quality blockbuster hit to be memorable. This seems to be the case with director Phil Tucker’s 1953 film ROBOT MONSTER.
Originally released as a 3-D movie, ROBOT MONSTER bombed at the box office following an endless array of negative reviews from critics. It has made numerous “movie flop” lists including Harry Medved and Randy Lowell’s book THE FIFTY WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME (AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY), as well as a list of “The 100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made” in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson’s book THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE MOVIE GUIDE. The amount of harsh feedback that the film received was so unbearable that Phil Tucker had attempted suicide after receiving news of critics’ reactions. Luckily, it was a failed attempt, and he has lived to see the cult-like fanbase that ROBOT MONSTER developed over the years. One mega-fan of the film, Rich Silverman, went so far as to adapt the film into a musical which had its world premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival on June 4th. And if you thought the film was ludicrous, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a singing space gorilla!
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic canyon inside a young boy’s dream, ROBOT MONSTER is the story of a gorilla called Ro-Man XJ2 who lands on Earth from his distant planet on a mission to destroy the last family of humans in existence. The Ro-Man race differ from mankind in that they are devoid of all emotions; every decision and every action made by the Ro-Man are logically calculated… until now. Ro-Man XJ2 remains loyal to his planet’s request to wipe out the human race until he meets Alice, the family’s eldest daughter. He falls in love with her tender caring ways, and he is willing to kill her entire family as long as he can have her. But the feeling is far from mutual.
In its musical form, writer Rich Silverman takes many of the subtleties implied in the film and blatantly places them in the forefront of our minds. The sexual longing for Alice by both man and beast is pulled from our imaginations and placed on a stage right before our eyes with bold innuendos and gestures. The gender expectations of the 1950s that are sprinkled across the film flood the characters standing under the bright theater lights. And many of the unintentionally laughable scenes in the film are intentionally laughable in the musical, begging the question as to whether the stage adaptation is meant as a serious tribute to the film or sheer parody.
If you are in the Hollywood, CA area, there is still time to confuse your brain with ROBOT MONSTER: THE MUSICAL as it will continue to run on the main stage at the Sacred Fools Theater Company through June 23rd. Click here to get your tickets!