Robot Monster (1953)

Robot Monster is the Citizen Kane of abysmal 1950s science fiction. It has everything modern viewers have come to expect from movies of this genre: a laughable plot line, completely improbable situations, ludicrous acting, unbelievably awful special effects, cheapjack production values, gaffes galore, and examples of how to fail miserably at every major aspect of motion picture production. For good measure it also sports easily the most ridiculous “monster” in the history of film! The plot is so thin that it can’t even be stretched comfortably over the film’s 66-minute running time without generous padding. A family, headed by the requisite German-accented scientist and including a “hot” chick, a “manly” guy, and two cutesy-poo kids wander through the desert after Earth has been annihilated by a guy in a gorilla suit wearing a plastic diving helmet. That’s basically it, except for some nonsensical pap about an immunity serum. When the guy in the monkey suit is far and away the best actor in the picture, you’ve got a MAJOR problem–but compared to John Mylong as “The Professor,” Ro-Man is Laurence Olivier. You could drive a semi through the plot holes. The dialogue clangers pile up like horseshoes on George H.W. Bush’s lawn. You feel embarrassed for director Phil Tucker, and almost ashamed to laugh at this movie when you learn that the bad reviews of the film drove him to attempt suicide. The experience of watching this film, even with its abnormally short running time, is so excruciating that it feels like you’ve wasted five hours of your life. It’s so bad that after a while you begin to marvel at its very badness, and ultimately you come away awe-stricken.

I call it a masterpiece because under normal circumstances only a talented and determined genius could make a film that sinks as low and violates so many rules of film-making, storytelling and suspension of disbelief as this one does. It takes real talent to make Ed Wood look like Stanley Kubrick, but Phil Tucker pulled it off. For that alone he deserves a place in film history.