Phil Tucker's “Robot
Monster” has been discussed, dissected, enjoyed and ridiculed
by minds vast and cool and unsympathetic, which slowly and surely
drew their plans against it. So, what can I possibly say that's new
Well, the movie remains a fun time at the
cinema, for mostly all the wrong reasons, but I would like to point
out that its ridiculousness is not inherent in the material, but more
in the presentation. (The main part of the movie is, after all,
supposed to be a dream by a very young science fiction fan, and who
among us hasn't had dreams that, upon awakening, came across as
pretty silly? The difference is, that our dreams were forgotten as
the morning progressed, but little Johnny's lives on, in digitally
remastered eternity.) Had Ro-Man's costume been less garage-sale, and
had the acting been better (less stentorian, less screechy, less
incomprehensibly accented, less flatly blanded), and never mind the
bubble machine and the dinosaurs, this would probably be a
dimly-remembered fan favorite from the fifties, along with some of
Roger Corman's lesser-known efforts, or the movie that it resembles
most, Invaders From Mars. (And here I should point out that Mr.
Ordung, credited with the screenplay, has said in interviews that his
script was re-written by one of the funder's relatives, who was
supposedly in the furniture business—shades of other writers,
who were in the fertilizer business.)
So, what can I tell you
about Robot Monster that you haven't already heard, I ask again? And
my answer is, pretty much nothing.
So, instead, I'll present
the entire film, in transcript, for your researching
pleasures. This was all taken from my print of the film, during
several sessions of very careful listening. There are, alas, a couple
of words that resisted my repeated attempts to transcribe them;
these, (as well as stage directions) are presented in square
brackets, to the best of my ability to transcribe. Even though some
of them must be “wrong” (as an example, there's a
sequence in Ro-Man's first conversation with the Great One in which
he appears to say “Boss, neck X.” I finally figured
“neck X” was “Greatness” but still have no
idea about “Boss”) I wanted to go by what was on
the soundtrack, not by what “should” be there. If you
know what the missing words are, by all means drop me a line, and
I'll correct them and credit you. But for now, read on, memorize, and
dominate the next party you're invited to with your amazing quote
One further thing: No one should apologize for
Ro-Man's ridiculously overwrought pseudo-scientific dialogue. After
all, the makers of Star Trek: The Next Generation got away with
exactly the same thing....
by Wyott Ordung
Johnny – a young boy,
perhaps 9 years old.
Carla – his younger sister, perhaps 5
Alice – his older sister, 17 or 18. [In Johnny's
dream, a brilliant scientist]
Mom – his mother.
Professor – an archeologist. [In Johnny's dream, his
Roy – The Professor's assistant.
alien from the moon, stationed on earth.
The Great One –
Ro-Man's boss, leader of the Ro-Men.
[Open on Johnny, in full
space-man regalia, as he walks about in a field. He walks up to
Carla, points his gun, and makes zapping noises.]
Carla: Am I
Johnny: You're disintegrated!
Carla: Good, does that mean we
can play house now? You promised.
Johnny: These woods are full of
space men. It's either them, or us. Come on.
towards a cave mouth. Inside, Roy and the Professor are examining
Johnny: Spaceman, you must die!
Professor: Did you say
Roy [to the Professor, but
indicating Johnny]: He says, we must die.
Professor: Oh well—well,
if you insist, but...come here.
[Johnny sits on the
Professor: Wouldn't it be nicer
if we could live at peace with each other?
Johnny [reluctantly]: Okay,
I'll be from a friendly planet.
Carla: Good! Does that mean we
can play house now?
Johnny: No! I'm friendly, but I
still have to find out what they're doing here.
Professor: We, we are
acheologists, boy. People who try to find out what men were like way
back before they could read or write. The only way to pass on what
they knew was through pictures like this one.
Roy: You see, our job is to
chip it out carefully and take it to a museum, so people can study
Johnny: Gee, are you
Roy: It's even better than
being cowboys, eh professor?
Professor: You bet.
Carla: Was he a spaceman robot?
Professor: As far as we know,
there were no spacemen at those times, and robots either.
Johnny: He looks some of those
people I saw last time I was on Pluto.
Professor: Oh! What's your
Roy: Uh oh, Johnny, it looks
like you've stirred a little outside of your orbit, doesn't it?
Johnny: Here we are, in the
cave...[Mom and Alice enter]...my mother and sister. [To Roy, about
Alice] Bet you'd like her!
Roy: No doubt!
Mom: Johnny, that wasn't fair!
Alice: You kids promised you'd
take a nap right after lunch if we took you on this picnic, and off
you scoot! [To Roy] I hope he hasn't given you any trouble?
Roy: Not at all...Johnny, at
the camp I used to go to, we used to have to take a nap after lunch,
right up until we were fourteen.
Johnny: You did?
Johnny: Will you be here when I
Professor: If we are, you are
welcome to join us.
Alice: Come on, come on, quit
[The family moves off to the picnic area. Mom begins
handing out various food and other items.]
Mom: Here dear. There you are.
Take this too, darling. Good. Wanna take that?
Johnny: If dad was still alive,
I bet he'd let me stay.
Mom: I don't think he would,
Johnny: Say, are we ever going
to have a new father around our house?
Mom: I don't know, dear, would
you like that?
Johnny: If we do, I hope he's a
big scientist that makes rocket ships and things like that.
FADE to BLACK, Then FADE BACK
[Johnny wakes up. Everyone
around him is asleep. Johnny runs toward the cave, and falls down.
The screen rapidly flashes negative. A burning object flies through
the sky and explodes. Stock footage of lightning, dinosaurs
fighting. Another explosion fills the screen. Johnny wakes up.
There several pieces of equipment around the cave entrance now.
Johnny begins painting on the cave wall. The screen flashes negative
again, and Johnny runs off and hides just as Ro-Man emerges from the
mouth of the cave. Johnny watches as Ro-Man activates his
viewscreen. Footage of meteors falling and other space scenes
appear on the screen, then a building with a rocket on a launch pad
nearby. Finally, the Great One appears. Johnny listens.]
Ro-Man: Extension Ro-Man,
X-J-2, reporting to Guidance Ro-Man. I salute you.
Great One: You are late,
Ro-Man: Gravitational pull is
stronger than reported, point 7652 higher than our planet.
Great One: Accepted. Report!
Ro-Man: May I ask first for
Great One: Granted. No life has
been discovered on any other planets. Earth is our only rival.
Ro-Man: [Boss, Greatness.] The
Hu-Man knew about atomic energy, but had not mastered the cosmic ray.
Wherever I directed the calcinator beam, they crumbled. At first, the
fools thought it came from one among their many nations. They began
destroying each other with hydrogen bombs. I announced myself to keep
them from wiping out cities, which will give our people much
amusement. Too late, they banded against me. Their resistance pattern
showed some intelligence, but all are gone now. They way is clear for
Great One: I want facts, not
Ro-Man: Fact A, my pulse has
been reduced to plus zero zero.
Great One: Reject! Pair off!
Ro-Man: Pa--? But great
guidance, I approved it! My energizer has scan-checked by square
feet. No life above lepidoptera level exists.
Great One: My computator is
more accurate. In the 22nd category, there is an error of
Ro-Man: The great one is never
wrong. Then there are, perhaps, eight people left on earth?
Great One: Not
perhaps—precisely. Find and destroy them! Then report
[As Ro-Man switches off the screen and returns to the
cave interior, Johnny comes to the entrance and begins to walk
inside. The screen flashes negative, and he runs off.]
to: A fairly destroyed house, all that is left is the basement level.
The walls are strung with wire along which a jacob's ladder effect
appears. The Professor is pacing back and forth, until he notices
Johnny: Hey pa!
Professor: Shh! Mother, it's
all right! He's here!
Johnny: Pa, what do you think!
Mom: I've a good mind to give
you a thrashing, didn't we tell you, never, never, never to go
outside of those wires, without our permission?
Professor: Mother, and you
won't keep the boy from doing it again. We must tell him why. You
know the terrible things that have happened when the Ro-Man landed on
earth. The only reason we are still alive is that your sister Alice
and I worked out a way to reflect his deadly beams away from the
house. He can't see us, he can't hear us, but one word spoken outside
the barrier, and he will be down on us. Do you understand that,
Johnny: But I saw him!
Alice [VO]: Saw who? [She
Johnny: Ro-Man, he's in a cave
at the end of the ravine.
Mom: Then he's found us out.
Alice: Not yet, or we'd all be
dead by now. Are you sure?
Johnny: I was in the cave,
painting his picture the way we saw him on the viewer screen.
Alice: Why were you doing that,
Johnny: So in case he did wipe
out the human race, there'd be some record of how it happened.
Professor: Go on, go on!
Johnny: I heard him coming,
ducked out just in time. Looked to me like he was making it his home.
Professor: Why here, why so
Johnny: Maybe we could kill
him, huh, pop?
Professor: No, Johnny. The arms
of the entire world tried, and failed. We have thrown everything we
had at him, but he is impervious.
Alice: Unless...we could find
his weak spot.
Johnny: Could I have just a
little water, Mom?
Mom: Yes, dear.
Professor: But why here, why
Alice: Perhaps we're the last
people on earth, dad. He senses our presence. He keeps calculating
closer and closer.
Professor: I don't believe
that. I'm sure there were some other scientific minds capable of
rigging a foil, to prevent detection. If you only could find the way,
only one way of communication with each other.
Alice: Do you think we still
have a garrison on the space platform? Ro-man hasn't destroyed that,
Professor: Well...it could be.
If we only could get through to them. But why should we succeed,
where others failed.
Mom: Don't you talk like that,
[The viewscreen in the house activates.]
This may be them! Maybe they are coming through from the space
[Ro-Man appears on the screen.]
Hu-mans, listen to me! Due to an error in calculation there are still
a few of you left! You escaped destruction because I did not know you
existed! Now I know you are watching! I see five of you who have not
been destroyed! Show yourselves, and I promise you a painless
Professor: Just the five of us left? But this is
incredible! It means that Roy is gone too!
Johnny: I'll bet
Alice is happy, the way they used to fight!
Don't say that, Johnny. Roy was a great scientist.
I would've never developed the serum without him.
trouble was, he wouldn't admit I was good in my field.
Anyone who could fix that viewscreen after what that blast did to it
is better than good.
Professor: Oh...easy, easy.
I'm sorry. Seems silly after all the terrible things that have
happened. To go to pieces over one...miserable...egotistical,
impossible guy! Oh, Roy!
Ro-Man: Do you wonder what happened
to your fellows? Watch them! [Stock footage of an atomic bomb blast,
negative photographs of cities, ruins, explosions appearing in a
citiscape.] My calcinator beam wiped out your last sages, your last
scientists in their deepest shelters. Everyone but you few. There is
no escape from me. Very well, I will recalculate...your death will be
indescribable! Fool hu-mans, there is no escape!
viewscreen switches off.]
Mom: Perhaps we should talk to him,
try to arrange a truce, make peace!
Professor: He would be
able to plot our position immediately. If Ro-man wants us, he should
[Cut back to the cave. Ro-Man goes back into the
cave. Roy, very much alive, hides near the entrance, then comes down
and touches some of the equipment. An alarm sounds, and Roy hides
again, as Ro-Man emerges again. He looks at the machine Roy touched
and turns it on, then turns the viewscreen on.]
Have you made the correction?
Ro-Man: I need guidance, Great
One. For the first time in my life, I am not sure.
You sound like a hu-man, not a ro-man. Can you not verify a
Ro-Man: I meshed my LPI with the view-screen auditor,
and picked up a count of five.
Great One: Error, error! There
Ro-Man: Then the other three still elude me. And
all escaped detection by the directional beam. Is it possible they
have a counter-power?
Great One: And if they have? Reduce,
correlate, eliminate error! Is this not the law?
will find them, Great one. Trust me! And if the C-Ray fails, I will
use physical means.
Great One: Planet Earth can revolve once
more, then you must either report success, or I will sentence you for
[The Great One switches off the viewscreen, and
Ro-Man enters the cave again. Roy takes this opportunity to run
[Back at the house, everyone is sleeping. Just then they
hear noises outside and all wake up.]
Professor: Sh, it might
be the ro-man! [He readies a revolver.]
Alice [Looking at the
handgun]: If the atomic guns can't stop him...
not for him...it's for us.
[Roy appears over the wall.]
Hi there, anybody home?
Several people: It's him! Yay! He's
Roy: Do you know who's in the cave at the end of the
Alice and Johnny [almost at the same time]:
Roy: Well then—I, I was as close to him as I am
Johnny: So was I!
Roy: But he didn't know that
I was there! You know why?
Alice [slightly sarcastic]: Maybe
you're not worth noticing.
Roy: Now, I know I'm in the right
Professor: Yes, and a moment ago, she was crying
because you were dead!
Roy: Ha ha ha, you didn't have to waste
any tears on me, honey, I bear a charmed life.
Ro-man spoke to us over the viewscreen. He said that we are the last
five people on Earth. Is he lying, or are there any other
Roy: Two more, Jason and McCloud.
why them? That doesn't make sense.
Roy: Oh, doesn't it? Look,
the professor here spends his entire life trying to discover a serum,
an anti-biotic serum that will cure all diseases, even the common
cold, and, thanks to his wise choice of assitants, he manages to
achieve his goal, and so, who does he experiment on with his first
injections? Himself, his family, myself, and Jason and McCloud.
Therefore, the great anti-biotic is also the immunizer to ro-man's
Professor: And I thought it was the electronic
barricade around the house!
Roy: Well, that may prevent ro-man
from finding us and blowing us up--
sarcastic]: --which is nothing!
Roy: --but against the sweep
of the death ray, it's powerless. No, the serum, that's the
Professor: Couldn't you find any more in the lab?
Plenty! But I didn't bring it.
we managed to get together enough fuel to take a rocket ship to the
space platform, and there's enough serum on board to immunize the
entire garrison there.
Alice: Does the garrison know you're
Roy: How could I tell them without letting ro-man know
Alice: They know what's going on down here—they'll
figure it's ro-man and blast the ship right out of the sky. We'll
have to get word to the space platform, that's all.
and McCloud take off in two days. On foot, it would take me longer
than that to get back there.
Alice: We'll have to re-wire the
circuits on the viewscreen, so that we can broadcast without ro-man
picking it up.
Professor: But such a complicated job in two
Alice: Well, at least I can try. If I only had a decent
assistant, who could take orders, instead of trying to be the
Roy: I'm bossy? You're so bossy you ought to be milked
before you come home at night!
Roy: All right, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Professor.
Okay, boss, where do I begin?
[Footage of mechanical and
electrical parts being worked on by hands.]
Roy [VO]: Don't
you have to loop it?
Alice [VO]: Roy, will you not argue,
Roy [VO]: You know something? You're either too
beautiful to be so smart, or too smart to be so beautiful.
[VO]: I guess we do get along all right, at that. But, let's work
together now. We can play later.
[More footage of hands and
Alice [VO]: Roy, what time is it?
Alice [VO]: And what day, Roy? I can't
remember the day! I'm so tired.
[More footage of hands and
Alice [VO]: There. There. Oh Roy, we'll never make
[Back to the house. Everyone is standing around the
viewscreen, Alice is exhausted]
Alice: I can't control my
hands any more!
Roy: Let's rest a little.
but we can't.
Professor: Roy's right...it's time you get some
Johnny: Jiminy, two days you've been at it!
Oh, not that long, it can't be that long!
rocket ship must have taken off at dawn. They're either in the air by
Alice: Then I've failed you then. I'm sorry, Dad.
Roy: Failed, do you realize what you tried to do was
impossible, yet you almost did it?
Alice: But I
[Ro-Man emerges from his cave and activates his
viewscreen. Back at the house, his face appears on the
Ro-Man: Hu-mans! Yesterday I calculated five of you!
Now, I find six.
Alice: He still doesn't know about Jason
Ro-Man: There were eight of you, the guidance
ro-man who understands everything showed me that, yet I might have
had trouble locating the other two, had they not taken off in a
rocket ship and revealed their presence. Look, hu-mans!
image fades to footage of a rocket blasting off.]
are headed for the space platform, which guidance ro-man spared
because it would have been a convenience for my people when they
arrive on Earth.
[Now the viewscreen shows footage
of a kind of jet plane in flight.]
Roy: The space
Ro-Man: But now we shall destroy that too. [The
original rocket is now shown speeding through the clouds] Alert!
Ten, nine, eight...[The Great One appears on screen] the Great One
himself sends the cosmic blast that atomizes the rocket ship—the
space platform—[the Great One gestures, the screen flashes
negative, and the rocket and “space platform” explode].
Hu-mans seven and eight, all! And now, of the two billion, there are
six. Calculate your chances—negative. Negative. Negative. Is
there a choice between a painless surrender death, and the horror of
resistance death? Show yourselves! By your clock-time, in one hour I
seek you out. Last warning!
[The viewscreen fades.]
Mommy, why doesn't he like people?
Mom: I don't know,
darling...perhaps if we could talk to him...you'd better go and rest,
too. George, we can't go on this way much longer! Our food is almost
Professor: What else can we do? Commit suicide, or give
in to ro-man, as the last people on Earth?
Mom: George, talk
to him, make him see that we won't harm him—he can let us live.
If Alice could've finished re-wiring the viewscreen, you could have
talked to the platform without ro-man discovering our presence, why
can't you talk directly to him?
Professor: I could. Of course
I could. As soon as Alice has had her sleep, I will.
footage of hands working on equipment.]
Alice [VO]:Not like
Roy [VO] Alice, look. You simply can't connect these two
Alice [VO] Here, let me.
[At the cave mouth,
Ro-Man adjusts some equipment. He goes to the viewscreen, and
activates it. The Professor and family appear on the
Professor: Ro-man, ro-man! Do you scan us on your
Ro-Man: Yes, earth-man, I see you. This means only
one thing: you have decided to take the easy way out.
No, ro-man. We have fought you to a stand-still. And we will go on
doing it, as long as necessary. If you try to figure out our
position, you are wasting your time.
Ro-Man: None shall escape
me! I shall find a way to rid this earth's planets...of
Professor: No! We humans will not give up this earth
of ours. But let me ask you something else. What do you have to fear
from us? Let me show you the six people you want to destroy. [As he
mentions each name, the camera pans to the person in question.]
First, my wife Martha. My companion for twenty-three years. Is there
anything to fear from this woman?
Ro-Man: The hu-man woman is
the bringer of hu-man life! There must be an end to your
Professor: Or my children...Alice.
Ro-Man: No. I
have a mission to perform.
am built to have no emotions.
Professor: And Johnny.
sticks his tongue out.]
Ro-Man: The boy is
Professor: Or is it in the ettiquette code of
your people, that children must be murdered?
Ro-Man: You are
not like my people. You are savage barbarians, non ro-man,
Professor: Take my assistant, Roy, who has developed
a serum with me, which would have wiped out disease among my
Ro-Man: Wait. There is something I do not understand,
quite. But I want to see the girl Al-ice again.
Alice: We want
peace, ro-man. But peace with honor.
Ro-Man: I will talk with
the girl. It is not in the plan, but although I cannot verify it, I
feel that she will understand.
Professor: No! I am the head of
this family unit. You have to talk with me!
hu-man! If I meet with the girl, I may find a way to integrate you
into the plan! It is not a fact, but what you would call—a
Professor: Name the place, ro-man—I will be
Ro-Man: I do not understand...but it is only the one
called Al-ice that I want to see.
Alice: Here I am, ro-man.
Where shall we meet?
Ro-Man: Do you know the area of the fork
of the two dry rivers? There is a ruin there. I will meet you in an
hour. But you must be...alone.
Alice: I will be there.
viewscreen goes dark.]
Professor: You will not—have you
Alice: We've played every other card, why not try
Mom: Do you realize what you're doing?
If there's a chance I can strike a better bargain than father, then
I'm the one to go.
Carla: Is Alice gonna have a date with
Professor: This is madness, Alice! Roy, you have to
speak to her!
Roy: I know I'm not in the family, Alice, but
your father's right.
Alice: You mean, there are certain things
nice girls don't do? Even if it means that man's millions of years of
struggle up from the sea, the slime, to fight to breathe air, to
stand erect, to think, to conquer nature, [even now is] to be stopped
cold by a doting father and a jealous suitor?
Roy: I just
don't think that any human being should degrade himself in order to
Alice: You'd rather just have us go out of business,
is that it? Letter returned, no forwarding address. Can't you see
you're being sentimental idiots, letting your emotions run away with
Professor: Perhaps that is the quality of being human.
The very thing that makes us different from ro-man. The difference we
are trying to preserve.
Alice: Very pretty talk—but I
still intend to do something about it.
[Roy blocks her
Alice: Get out of my way.
Roy: You're not
Alice: I said get out of my way!
Roy: And I said
you're not going!
[Roy picks her up. Shouting by all parties
while Johnny sneaks off. Elsewhere, Ro-Man is roaming the hillsides.
Every now and then, the screen flashes negative.]
the house, Alice is tied up and everyone is waiting while the
Professor is looking for Johnny]
Professor [VO]: Johnny!
Johnny! [He steps into shot.] Johnny is gone!
Mom: You don't
think he'd be outside in that?
Professor: Oh, that fool
romantic kid will try anything! What a family I have!
wouldn't do anything!
Professor: Johnny has left the
barricade. He might have it in his head to find ro-man. We have to
Roy: Don't worry, Professor. Alice and I can find
Alice: I'll go, of course, but don't either of you speak
[They untie her.]
Professor: But be careful of
ro-man! When Johnny comes back, I will set off a flare.
[Cut to Ro-man, walking among the hills. Johnny runs
across the landscape, noting the negative flashes. He arrives at a
ruined house and meets Ro-Man, perched on a wall just out of his
Ro-man: What are you doing here, boy?
My sister isn't coming.
Ro-Man: So they sent you?
I came by myself. I wanted to find out what you had against
Ro-Man: You are hu-man. Your people were getting too
intelligent. We could not wait until you were strong enough to attack
us. We had to attack you first.
Johnny: I think you're just a
big bully, picking on people smaller than you are.
Now, I will kill you.
[The screen flashes negative as the
Calcinator death ray is employed.]
Johnny: You look like a
Ro-Man: So...the calcinator death ray
REALLY cannot harm you. Your father must be a brilliant
Johnny: He's got a super-serum that keeps people
from ever getting sick.
Ro-Man: How do you know it
Johnny: Cause he tried it on me and Carla and Alice and
Roy...and everybody. And we don't get sick even when we swallow
capsules with real bad bugs in 'em.
Ro-Man: And the two men
who took off on the rocket ship? They also had this
Johnny: Sure, they--[realizing he has said too
Ro-Man: You have told me all I need to know. I will
calculate the spectrum dust in the calcinator death ray, to
counteract this antibiotic. And you will all be destroyed.
runs off, and Ro-Man shakes his fist at him. Ro-man leaves the
[Cut to Roy and Alice, searching for Johnny. Roy
removes his shirt. Suddenly they spot Ro-Man, who does not see them.
Roy picks up Alice and dashes off. They hide in the tall grass.
Ro-Man looks around briefly, flashes the death ray, then leaves. Then
he turns around and walks back across the landscape.]
Johnny, who is nearing the house. Mom spots him.]
George, there he is! He looks all right! Oh thank God, thank
Professor: Johnny! Johnny!
[The help him over the
Professor: Where did you go?
Mom: There, there,
darling—it's all right. Now, tell us all about it.
No it isn't, ma. I gave it all away! I didn't mean to, but I
Professor: You did what?
Johnny: I wanted to talk
to ro-man, but he got out of me how we were protected from the death
ray, and now he's gonna do something about it.
all right, boy. You did right. And ro-man won't find it easy to
counteract the serum, so we have still a little time left.
I only wish it were over now.
Carla: Well, when it is, can I
go over to Janey's house and borrow her dolls?
Professor: Yes, er, of course, darling.
[Cut to a
flashing, revolving light in the sky. We hear Alice and Roy in
Alice: Is Johnny safe?
Roy: Shh. [Bone in my
[Cut to them still in the grasses. Roy starts holding
her arms, she pulls back. He holds her face, she turns and looks
away. Cut to Ro-man wandering the landscape. Back to Roy and Alice,
they are kissing. Cut back briefly to Ro-Man. Back to Roy and Alice,
he tosses away a flower and she laughs. They mime some kind of
conversation. And more kissing.]
[Fade into the landscape,
and ro-man is still wandering around. He returns to his cave.]
[Back to the house. The Professor is showing a book to
Johnny, Mom has Carla on her lap, in the background Roy and Alice are
approaching. They mount the wall, the Professor helps them
Professor: Oh! What has kept you two? We were
Mom: Now, really, father, isn't it obvious?
Have you been playing house?
Roy: Professor, uh, it may sound
silly to you, but Alice and I want to get married, and we were
wondering how you'd feel about performing the ceremony.
You want me to--?
Alice: Oh, yes!
Professor: In that
case, let's do it! And I want you to know—this is the biggest
social event of the year! The whole darn town will turn out!
to ro-man, who emerges from his cave. After a brief moment of
hesitation, he activates the viewscreen.]
guidance, I have discovered the secret of our failure to destroy the
remaining hu-mans! Our C-ray—the calcinator death ray—cannot
penetrate them. They have been made immune through the anti-biotic
serum, which I believe is the same as our formula X-Z-A.
One: Reduce their counterpart! Eliminate the error! Death to hu-mans
can come by force!
Ro-Man: I will use physical means, Great
One. The plan shall be fulfilled.
Great One: The planet Earth
has half-revolved! You have but a short time to achieve our
[The viewscreen goes dark and ro-man goes back into the
[Cut to the house, where Professor is preparing to
perform the wedding.]
Professor: All right—places! [Roy
and Alice approach him] Go! [He dum-dum's the wedding march.] Dearly
beloved, we are gathered here to...dear Lord. You know that I am not
trained for this job. But I have tried to live by your laws. The ten
commandments...the beatitudes...the golden rule. I would like you to
look down, on Alice and Roy, and give your blessing. Even in this
darkest hour, we have kept the faith. In your grand design, there may
be no room for man's triumph over this particular evil that has beset
us. But if by any chance, victory should be on our side, I want you
to give a long life to Alice and Roy, and a fruitful one. But no
matter how it ends, Lord, watch over them this night...watch over us
all. Amen. And now, I pronounce you “Man, and Wife.” Roy,
do you have the ring?
Roy: Why, I didn't think about
Johnny: Oh, brother—are you going to have to pick
up after him!
Mom [takes off her own ring and gives it to Roy,
then speaks to Alice]: I wanted you to have it, some day,
Roy: With this ring, I thee wed.
only thing to seal it now, is a kiss.
Where are you going on your honeymoon, Niagara Falls?
(laughing): Well, to tell the truth, we hadn't thought about
Professor: Wherever you go—be careful. And I want
you back, the first thing in the morning. And in case you don't know,
there is a war going on! And now, more than ever, I don't want to
Roy: Thanks for everything, dad. Most of all, for
having raised Alice. You too, mom.
Alice: I'll go get my
things, and then we'll go.
Carla: She ought to have some
flowers, it isn't right! [She runs off screen.]
emerges from his cave and strides purposefully across the landscape.]
[Roy and Alice are walking across the fields when Carla calls
Carla: Roy, Alice, wait for me!
what are you doing here?
Carla: I didn't get you any presents.
[She presents some wildflowers.]
Alice: Oh, you little rascal!
Thank you very much. Now, you'd better run right on home!
[Carla runs off, and soon runs into
Ro-Man: What are you doing here alone,
Carla: My daddy won't let you hurt me.
We'll see! [He grabs her and carries her off camera. Then he returns,
alone, to his cave, and activates the viewscreen.]
Great guidance, I have a favorable report. I have already eliminated
one of them. Force was necessary—it was a simple matter
of...strangulation. That leaves four.
Great One: Error again!
Ro-Man: Four and one more, on whom I have made an
estimate, in relation to our strategic reserve. The plan should
include one living human for reference, in case of unforseen
Great One: Do you question the plan?
No, great one. I only postulate--
Great One: Proceed on
schedule! Destroy the others. All of them!
dark. Ro-Man goes into the cave.]
[Fade to the next morning.
Roy and Alice are kissing again, unknowingly observed by ro-man, who
attacks. Alice screams. Roy attacks but is beaten down. Alice attacks
with rocks. Roy attacks again, but is thrown down an incline. Alice
tries to run but Ro-man catches her. Ro-man carries off the
[Cut to Mom and the Professor, searching
for Carla, whose body they find in a field.]
Carla, no, no no [sobbing].
Professor: Shh! He will hear
Mom [sobbing]: I don't care! I don't care!
You must care! You must not give up!
[Professor carries off
Carla in his arms. Cut to ro-man carrying Alice in the same way. She
is kicking and screaming.]
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 [through] our individual
Alice: Small enough to carry with you?
No, mine is in the cave.
[Cut to the family at Carla's
Johnny: I wish now I'd played house with her more
often when she wanted to.
Professor: No regrets, Johnny, we
enjoyed her as long as she was with us, and now, somehow, we have to
find a way to live without her.
[Roy runs in from the
Professor: Roy! Where's Alice?
Ro-man's...ro-man's got her! [He collapses.]
[Cut to Ro-man
carrying the screaming Alice. Professor examines him.]
Roy is dead...and nothing can be done. Nothing!
one of us could lure him out for a moment, and then the others could
run in and grab Alice.
Professor: That's easier said than
Johnny: He'd come if he could be sure of killing
Professor: Go on! Go on!
Johnny: We call him on the
viewer screen. Tell him we don't want to fight anymore. He can get us
in the ravine if he promises easy death. You slip in and grab Alice
when he comes out after me.
Professor: It might work! There's
no time to lose.
[They run off. Cut to ro-man carrying Alice
to his cave. He puts her down, against the cave wall.]
Suppose I were hu-man. Would you treat me like, a man? [He starts
Alice: No, ro-man—you haven't told me yet
where the energizer is kept.
Ro-Man: Silence, girl! [He yanks
open her straps, but she puts them back in place. The viewscreen
activates. Ro-man is nonplussed. He ties up Alice, but can't quite
get the knot right. He knocks her out instead and turns to the
viewscreen. It is not the Great one, though, but Professor and
Ro-Man: Why do you call me at this time?
Ro-man—we can't stand it any longer.
Ro-Man: I have made
my last offer.
Professor: You promised us a painless death, if
we give ourselves up. Come and get us!
Ro-Man: You can wait.
Call me again at another time.
Professor: No! We will meet you
half-way. In the ravine!
Ro-Man: All right! I will meet you
in the ravine, when the sun passes over the mountains. [He cuts the
transmission, and turns his attentions to Alice, who is now tied up.
But as he reaches for her, the viewscreen activates again.]
One: Attention! Attention, extension X-J-2! Attention! Attention,
Ro-Man: We hear you, great guidance.
One: Earth ro-man, you violate the law of plan. Fact: you have
captured the girl and not destroyed her. Fact: you have delayed
accepting the surrender of the others. This verges on failure.
Ro-Man: There is one thing you do not understand, Great
Great One: You reject the plan?
I...wish to make an estimate of my own!
Great One: To think
for yourself is to be like the hu-man.
Ro-Man: Yes...to be
like the hu-man. To laugh, feel, want...why are these things not in
Great One: You are an extension of the ro-men. And a
ro-man, you will remain. Now, I set you into motion. One: destroy the
girl. Two: destroy the family. Fail, and I will destroy you.
viewscreen goes dark.]
Ro-Man: I cannot, and 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.
to the Professor and the rest approaching the ravine. They kiss
Johnny goodbye, give him a gun, and leave; he approaches Ro-man's
[Back at the cave, the viewscreen activates
Great One: Attention! Attention extension X-J-2!
[Ro-man turns to answer, while Johnny runs toward the cave,
and Mom and the Professor approach from another direction.]
Speak, great guidance.
Great One: Why have you not killed the
Ro-Man: I must, but I cannot.
Johnny: Here I am,
Great One: The girl first, then the boy! Now!
Ro-Man: Great guidance, I cannot kill the girl...but I will
kill the boy.
Johnny [tosses away the gun—looks
accidental]: Here I am!
Ro-Man: Al-ice, do not hate me—I
[Ro-man goes off to kill Johnny, and Professor and Mom
rush in to rescue Alice. Professor throws some of Ro-man's equipment
[On the planet Ro-Man, the Great one watches ro-man
apparently with disapproval, Ro-man meets and starts to strangle
Johnny, as the Great one continues to watch.]
Great One: You
wish to be a hu-man? Good, you can die a hu-man!
toward the camera and lighting comes from his fingertips. The film
goes negative, there is footage of explosions in the air; ro-man,
standing over Johnny's body, reacts as if in pain and dies.]
One: Human elements still roam planet Earth! I, the ruler of all
ro-mans, shall complete your task, earth ro-man. I shall release our
cosmic Q-rays! [Footage of lightning, stop-motion dinosaurs and an
armadillo.] This will bring prehistoric reptiles to devour whatever
remains of life! The cyclotronic vibrations will smash the planet
earth out of the universe!
[More footage of lightning,
flashes of negative film, dinosaur battles. The Great One gestures
again, with more lightning bolts, and eathquake footage appears.
Suddenly, the film dissolves to Roy carrying Johnny.]
Found him! Take it easy, son, you're all right.
Roy: He's all right. [To Johnny] We just want to make
sure you get up with everything you fell down with.
him into the cave.]
Roy: [Shouting] Hey, I found him!
[To Johnny] That's quite a bump there, boy. What happened?
[Enter Mom, Alice and Carla]
Mom: Darling! Are you
Roy: You gave your mother quite a scare!
Roy: Here it was getting dark, and no Johnny!
[to Roy]: You're alive?
Johnny [pointing at
Carla]: Her, too? Boy, was that a dream, or was it!
must try and repay you for all the trouble you've gone to...won't you
and your assistant join us for dinner?
Carla: Will you play house with me when we get
Johnny: Well...oh, all right. But I gotta keep an eye
out for ro-man!
Alice: Really, Johnny. You're overdoing this
spaceman act. There simply aren't any such things.
on, dear. This way.
[They all walk out of camera. Pan to the
cave mouth, where a superimposed Ro-Man emerges from the cave, arms
spread in menace, three times.]
Well, you knew I wasn't going to shut up about this, right? At any
rate, you can skip from here on out...my service to humanity is
secure, now, that future generations will know exactly how humanity
met our end.
Science fiction is an ongoing, evolving form. It
chews up and digests its elders like no other art form, except maybe
popular music and movies (a subject for a different time). What's
interesting is the lag between written science fiction (where it all
began) and its mass market cousins, science fiction films.
films have (surprisingly) lagged quite a bit behind their literary
brethren. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Star Wars, which in
1977 dazzled us all with the beautifully realized imagery that
written science fiction had projected onto our mindscreens way back
in the 1930's.
The abbreviated point? Just this—Robot
Monster was made in 1953. Have you ever read the anthology edited by
Isaac Asimov, called Before The Golden Age? It was a collection of
stories written before John W. Campbell assumed editorship of
Astounding Science Fiction Magazine, and thus ushered in the “Golden
Age” of science fiction (of which Asimov, until his untimely
death, was a prominent part).
If you've never read the book
(published in three paperback volumes) it's well worth seeking out,
if only to show the roots of a literary form. Some of the stories are
great, some are strained, and some are flat-out two-headed cousins in
the SF family tree.
My point? “Robot Monster,” had
it been published as a work of (written) fiction “before the
Golden Age,” would have fit pretty well into this anthology.
Where time and the thick glasses of fandom (yes, I've got mine) would
look upon it kindly as a precursor to greater things.
it appeared as a film, which entails different standards, which,
alas, Mr. Tucker was unable to meet. I mean, you only have to say
“gorilla suit with a diving helmet” to stifle anyone who
wants to say something nice about this film. “Billion bubble
machine” only tightens the death grip. Let's be plain here: NO
ONE is ever going to say this film is an unsung masterpiece. (Unsung?
Oh wow...a musical based on Robot Monster! Someone's going to be
rich, but it sure ain't gonna be me. I have GOT to stop giving away
all my brilliant ideas on this here internet thing!)
written works have a much easier time of it. Had Robot Monster been a
short story, well, he could have been a robot monster, not a gorilla
in a diving helmet. And no Billion Bubble Machine! No, those
“bubbles” as you primitive hu-mans see them, would be
pure, powerful, first-generation Jack Kirby Molecular Disturbance!
Ignore the fact that I have had a crippling case of Writer's
Block for the last few years, and induge me as I say: with words, you
have no limits. With film, you have a budget. And sometimes, a
brother-in-law in the furniture business. And sometimes, a gorilla
I've tried to keep the editorializing out of the
transcript above, because like most people who like science fiction,
and science fiction movies, I've got a soft spot for Robot Monster
(it's right here in my head). It's all supposed to be a dream,
after all (though as Jabootu
points out, little Johnny definitely has some
issues) and dreams aren't meant to be hit with the sharp-edges of
reality. How many of our dreams would get a thumbs-up by film
critics? I thought not.
Anyway, I'll close here by saying
two things. One, the collection of comic books that the credits play
over is either a) a really great collection, or if they're fakes, b)
an incredible simulation. Someone out there knew what looked
good. Those covers look so real, they're Stomp
Tokyo good, that's how good they are.
Secondly, yes, to
our hu-man eyes, Ro-Man looks pretty ridiculous (and he talks funny
too, just like the Battlefield Earth aliens). But consider: he is,
after all, an alien being. We have no idea who or what awaits us out
there. I hope, myself, that if we do meet alien beings (and I
honestly hope we do) that if they look like gorillas with diving
helmets (and they might!) that we don't start laughing at them.
They might be quick to take offense, and, after all, we have no
defense against their dread Calcinator Death Rays.
that: they wipe us out, and while exploring our dead culture, come
across a copy of Robot Monster. Bet they'd be surprised, and maybe
look upon our vast works with a new and dawning respect. Maybe.
Goodnight, Phil Tucker, and goodnight, Wyott Ordung. Sleep ye
well, oh ye pioneers.
September 8, 2004