Tom Doty Times Columnist
January 3, 2014
This holiday season is poised to be colder than last year, so why not stay inside with a cozy fire, while you roast a pair of cinematic turkeys in your DVD player. Here are two films guaranteed to make you laugh, and they have a bonus effect. They will raise your expectations for movies this year, ‘cause there isn’t much chance you will see a dumber duo.
“Robot Monster” was made in 1953 by Phil Tucker. He wrote and misdirected this cautionary sci-fi tale about a nuclear winter that only gets worse when the titular creature appears. The story begins by skipping over the best bit — the apocalypse. A handful of people have somehow survived, but their celebration is cut short when “Ro-Man ” appears. Turns out he is the first wave of an alien invasion (though he actually appears to be a sweaty dude in an ape suit and diving helmet).
The hairy beast spends most of his free time contacting his boss on a machine, which appears to run on bubbles, he has stored in a cave . The top dog (actually the same guy playing Ro-man in the same lame costume) keeps berating him for failing to put down the humans.
Turns out, he kind of likes them and secretly pines to be a hairless ape and have emotions and junk. The boss is none too pleased and instructs Ro-Man to annihilate the remaining humans with something called the “Calcinator Death Ray.”
Ro-Man blows the gig and his downfall scares off the alien fleet. Good thing, too, cause they actually had us by the shorties.
“Bride of the Monster” was made in 1955 by the late Ed Wood. His films may stink by today’s standards, but they pretty much reeked the first time out, too. The story follows a mad scientist on his quest to conquer the world by creating an army of atomic supermen. Said force actually consists of one failed experiment called Lobo (played by Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson). Bela Lugosi top lines as the language mangling scientist who seeks to regain his former glory as a Nazi by testing his lab equipment on the local yokels who inhabit the swamp that surrounds his crumbling abode.
Lugosi’s character is one weird dude. He keeps an octopus in his moat, is prone to long winded speeches, and spends most of his time lashing Lobo with a bull whip.
A plucky female reporter starts investigating the missing locals and quickly descends on Lugosi’s house, as it is the only dwelling anywhere near the spots where people went missing. Her investigation is cut short when Bela grabs her up and has her strapped to an operating table so he can put a spaghetti strainer on her head before marrying her off to Lobo.
It all ends with Lugosi zapping himself with electricity and becoming an atomic superman who can toss plastic boulders and even look tough in long shots (where he is doubled by a guy who is at least a foot and a half taller). That said, this does have the famous shot of Lugosi wrestling with a busted mechanical octopus, which he simulates by holding its tentacles around his throat while thrashing around and grunting in ice cold water.
This holiday feast may go down hard, but it won’t cause indigestion. This is also the best double feature for folks looking to make a change via New Year’s resolutions. Tucker and Wood may have only succeeded in making mediocre flicks, but they did it on their own and saw their dreams through. Their efforts may be laughable but they are also laudable. These guys managed to get a movie made long before you could count on the internet for fund raising. Each was an expert salesman who was able to raise a budget by selling others on their outlandish ideas. Say what you will about the final product but they managed to get something made that was true to their somewhat limited vision.
Have a great year. It can only get better now.
Best line: “Don’t be afraid of Lobo. He is as harmless as a kitchen.”