What can I say about Robot Monster that hasn’t been said before? It is a true masterpiece of schlock and holds a special place in the hearts of all the cast and crew of MMTV. No movie is as intertwined in the daily goings on here. For what it lacks in story it makes up for in the insane special effects and monster design, and I’m not talking Michael Bay SFX – I’m talking not having the $1.60 to buy fishing line so it can’t be seen on film and using some poor crew member’s shoe laces to fly two aluminum pie pans into the scene.
The evil alien Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 (called "Ro-Man" by the humans) has destroyed all human life on Earth, except for eight humans, using the "Calcinator Death Ray". The survivors include an elderly scientist, his wife, two daughters and son, his young assistant and two pilots taking a spacecraft to an orbiting space platform. All eight have developed an immunity to the death ray since receiving an experimental antibiotic serum developed by the scientist.
Ro-Man must complete the destruction of all humans, even if it means physically killing them one by one, before his mission to subjugate the Earth is complete. After fruitless negotiations, he destroys the rocket ship headed for the orbiting platform with a laser. He later strangles the youngest daughter, Carla, off-screen and tosses the assistant scientist Roy over a cliff.
His mission is waylaid, though, after he develops illogical attraction for Alice, the eldest daughter. He refuses to eliminate her, forcing the alien leader, "The Great Guidance", to personally finish the genocide by killing Ro-Man right after he kills Johnny, the young son. He then releases prehistoric dinosaurs and a massive earthquake, rendering the scientist, his wife and Alice as the only humans left.
Ultimately the youngest family member, the son, wakes up after suffering a mild concussion, revealing that the film had presumably all been a dream. However, The Great Guidance is then seen coming out of a cave (three times in a row).
Twenty-five-year-old writer/director Phil Tucker made Robot Monster in four days for an estimated $16,000. The film is similar in plot to Invaders from Mars, released a month earlier by Fox. Both pictures contain a young boy stumbling upon an alien invasion who is captured as he struggles to save his family and himself. As the alien commences the final destruction of earth the boy awakens to find it was all a dream. Despite rumors to the contrary, the film did receive some decent reviews and grossed $1,000,000 in its initial release, more than sixty times its original investment. Except for a few scenes at a house, most footage was filmed outdoors in Bronson Canyon, the site of innumerable motion pictures and TV settings.
The score was composed by Elmer Bernstein, who also composed Cat Women of the Moon the same year, and, much more prestigiously The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Ten Commandments and Michael Jackson's Thriller.
The film's special f/x include stock footage from 1940's One Million B.C., 1951's Lost Continent, and Flight to Mars spliced into the film. Within the first viewscreen footage is a brief appearance of the Rocketship X-M ship during its initial boarding. A matte painting of ruins of New York City was included from Captive Women.
The budget did not allow for a robot costume as intended so Tucker used his friend George Barrows who had his own gorilla suit to play Ro-Man. Tucker added the helmet.
The film was shot and projected in dual-strip, polarized 3-D. The stereoscopic photography in the film is considered by many critics to be of a high quality, especially by a crew who had no experience with the newly developed camera rig.
In the film's opening credits, "N. A. Fischer Chemical Products" is given prominent credit for the "Billion Bubble Machine", used in the film as part of Ro-Man's communication device for reporting to his superior.
Robot Monster was originally released with the 3 Dimensional Pictures short Stardust in Your Eyes, starring nightclub comedian Trustin Howard as Slick Slaven.
Giant crab monsters that eat the brains of the poor fools trapped on the island and then talk in the victims voice to lure the remain people to their doom. Yep, they really made a movie with that plot…Did I mention it’s from Roger Corman?
A group of scientists land on a remote island in the Pacific to search for a previous expedition that disappeared and to continue research about the effects of radiation from the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests on the island's plant and sea life. They learn to their horror that the earlier group of scientists have been eaten by mutated giant crabs that have gained intelligence by absorbing the minds of their victims. Members of the current expedition are systematically attacked and killed by the crabs, which are invulnerable to most weaponry because of the mutation in their cell structure. Finally, they discover the crabs are the cause of the earthquakes and landslides that are destroying the island. As the remaining expedition members struggle to survive on the ever-shrinking island, they must also find a way to stop the crabs before they reproduce and invade the oceans of the world.
Writer Charles B. Griffith described the scripting process later:
Roger came to me and said, "I want to make a picture called Attack of the Giant Crabs, and I asked, "Does it have to be atomic radiation?" He responded, "Yes." He said it was an experiment. "I want suspense or action in every scene. No kind of scene without suspense or action." His trick was saying it was an experiment, which it wasn't. He just didn't want to bother cutting out the other scenes, which he would do.
Griffith also appeared in a small role and directed some underwater sequences.
The film was Corman's most profitable production to date, which he attributed to the "wildness of the title", the construction of the storyline, the structuring of every scene for horror and suspense and editing for pace. As a side note, The Macra Terror - A classic Doctor Who serial that follows a similar plot.