Quiggy: Today, class, we are going to look at the seamier side of cinema, and view what are arguably two of the worst movies ever made.
Blog Reader: (groans)
Quiggy: Now it's not all that bad. Think of it in terms of how NOT to do a movie. The two movies in question are examples of low budget, both in effects and in script. You've heard the old saying that if you gave a monkey a typewriter and an infinite amount of time it would eventually turn out the works of Shakespeare? Well, these guys didn't have to wait near that long. And they didn't even have to use a monkey.
Blog Reader: So what are the movies?
Q: The movies in question are Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Robot Monster.
BR: I vaguely remember hearing about Robot Monster. Isn't that the one where they were so cheap they used a gorilla suit with a diving helmet for the head?
Q: On Mars, Bomar and Girmar (Boy Martian and Girl Martian, get it?) are bored Martian kids. They stare all day at television which gets good reception because the programs they watch are Earth programs. Momar (Mom Martian) tells her husband...
|Kids are the same all over|
BR: (interrupts) I know! It's Dadmar!
Q: No, it's Kimar. You see, he's the king. It's good to be king. He gets to make all the decisions. So: Lesson #2 in Bad Movie 101: You don't really have to get creative with the names. Anyway, Kimar and his council, including Voldar, essentially the villain of the piece...
BR: "Voldar"? Why not "Vilmar"? Like Villain Martian?
Q: Like I said, names don't really matter in Bad Films. Anyway, Kimar and Vilmar...I mean Voldar...
|Methuselah's grandfather, Chochem|
Q: ...go to visit Chochem, the ancient wise man living in a cave. Chochem tells them that all the kids on Mars are suffering from the lack of being allowed to be kids, and that they need a Santa Claus to help them. Kimar and his council, rocket scientists one and all apparently, hop on a rocket ship to go to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus. Why not send soldiers or agents? Lesson #3 in Bad Movie 101: The less actors you have to utilize, the cheaper the budget.
|Space travel on a budget|
BR: That rocketship looks like a trash can with a bowling ball attached to it.
Q: Good observation. Which brings us to Bad Movie 101 Lesson #4. No need to spend money on props. Just whatever you can scavenge from the store room will work. There is a stowaway on the ship in the form of Dropo, a character who provides some comic relief (as if the movie needed any, but Dropo becomes important later).
Q: When Kimar and crew arrive to Earth, they use their search cameras to find Santa. But it's Christmas time and there are hundreds of Santas on every street corner. It seems the Martians didn't do any research before they left. Voldar, being grumpy, probably because his mustache looks like a caterpillar crawled up his nose, exclaims...
|"All this trouble over a fat little man in a red suit."|
Q: The Martians decide they'd better land and get more info. Meanwhile the US armed forces have detected the spaceship. They send out everything they've got: Essentially the movie uses free films of Air Force and Army maneuvers. Bad Movie 101 Lesson #5. To save money use any and all archived film you can to flesh out your story without actually having to spend money. The Martians activate a radar-proof screen to hide themselves, and land. They capture two kids out all by themselves and force them to tell them where Santa is. The Martians activate their robot to help them. The robot makes Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet look positively space age. See Lesson #4 above.
|No, its not Robot Monster. It's....TORG!|
Q: Suffice to say, the Martians succeed in kidnapping Santa, despite the malfunction of their robot, which essentially becomes an oversized toy after entering Santa's workshop. This Santa has to be seen to be believed. He looks like Santa, but has a weird laugh that can give you the creeps. And he never says "Ho ho ho." (Here again, did the real Santa threaten to sue them if they made him seem like the real Santa?) But Santa does end up captured and taken to Mars.
BR: You mean there won't be any more Christmas on Earth?
Q: Hold on. The second half of the movie has Santa and the two kidnapped Earth children on Mars. They set up a workshop that's all automated. Voldar makes several attempts to try to kill Santa. Why, because he's the Grinch... (Didn't you notice? They're both green and mean...) Of course this would be a bad movie indeed if Voldar were successful in killing Santa. But hold on to the end because there's a Three Stooges ending that as to be seen to be believed. And Mars gets its own Santa in the form of Dropo, so the real Santa can go back to Earth.
Q: OK, kiddies, off you go to lunch, but be back in time for the second half of the class.
Q: Welcome back to class, kids. Hope you had a good break because now we are going to talk about what many people consider the worst movie of all time, even worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space. I'm talking about, of course, Robot Monster.
BR: Oh, goody, the scuba diving gorilla.
|Beneath the Ocean of the Planet of the Apes?|
Q: Yes. You will note that although nearly every person in the movie is just as unknown now as they were before the movie was made, There is one name that should be familiar: Elmer Bernstein, who did the music for this piece of schlock.
BR: Elmer Bernstein?? You mean the multi-Oscar nominee Elmer Bernstein?
Q: The one and the same. This was early in his career, and if you watch, you'll note than not too much of his talent was needed. Anyway, the movie starts out with two kids who are the most annoying little brats ever, playing games. We are introduced in short order to two scientists who are examining caves for archaeological artifacts, and then to Johnny's mother and older sister. They kids and mom are on a picnic, and after eating they take a nap.
|"Mom, there any cole slaw left?"|
BR: A picnic? In the desert? Who would have a picnic in the desert?
Q: Apparently the producers needed a cheap location, so they just used the outskirts of a place in Nevada. Lesson #6 in Bad Movie 101. Find the cheapest locales for your filming. Saves on transportation fees. Anyway, Johnny wakes up from his nap and runs back to the cave, but the scientists aren't there. While he is there there is a crackling noise and a blinding light and Johnny hits the ground, apparently re-enacting the "Duck and Cover" routine he was taught when a nuclear bomb is dropped. And then some footage of a couple of dinosaurs fighting each other. Remember Lesson #5? Here's more cheesy archived films. Not sure where they came from, but they look like they were salvaged from Ray Harryhausen's scrap bin.
|Big smile for the camera|
Q: In the next scene Johnny gets up and and at the mouth of the cave are two cheesy looking machines. One is apparently what the credits at the beginning termed as the Million Bubble Machine. (at this point it might be pertinent to tell you the original movie was released in 3D. I guess those bubbles made it look pretty exotic). While Johnny hides, Ro-Man comes to the front of the cave and uses one of the machines to report to his superior. Guess what? His superior looks exactly like him. In fact, I think it's the same actor in the same gorilla suit and the same diving helmet... Which reinstates Lesson #3 of Bad Movie 101.
Q: Every time there is static in the neighborhood, you know Ro-Man is near. Ro-Man learns from his superior that, rather than all "Hu-Man" beings having been eliminated, there are still 8 left. Ro-Man's superior berates him for being incompetent and tells him to find the remaining eight and eliminate them. Meanwhile we discover that the scientist is actually Johnny's father....
BR: Wait a minute. Didn't Johnny ask his mother earlier when they were going to get a new daddy?
Q: Very observant. Lesson #7 in Bad Movie 101. Don't let minor details like plot consistency get in the way of the story.
Q: In the continuing story, we find that George, the older scientist, and Roy, the younger scientist developed some kind of vaccine that had a side effect of making the humans who were injected with it invisible to Ro-Man's detection machines. which is why he is having to search for them by foot. Meanwhile, Roy, the assistant scientist, whom everyone though had been killed by Ro-Man reappears. Together with Johnny's big sister, Alice, who is a brilliant scientist in her own right, build a machine to try to contact people in a space station in Earth's orbit. But Ro-Man finds out and destroys it, then taunts the remaining Hu-Mans.
BR: It looks bleak for the remaining human race...
Q: Well, there is hope. Roy and Alice get married...
|A match made on Earth|
BR: Adam and Eve?
Q: Remember, this is the 50's. Such sentimentality was common. Plus Roy couldn't get his groove on unless he put a ring on it. So the two go off on their honeymoon and little Carla, the younger sister follows, but she gets the brushoff and told to go back. Unfortunately Ro-Man gets to her first. Then it's one down and five to go. Ro-Man then comes across Roy and Alice. He kills Roy and takes Alice back to the cave to get his own groove on.
|A match made on Planet Ro-Man|
Q: Then Ro-Man's superior kills him because Ro-Man refuses to kill the girl. And then Boss Ro-Man unleashes a lightning storm on Earth like you wouldn't believe, which includes some more footage of claymation dinosaurs (including the ones seen earlier in the film), but does have the ultimate effect of finishing off those pesky Hu-Mans. Which leads one to wonder; If he could do that all along why did he need Ro-Man on Earth in the first place? Then Johnny wakes up. It was all a dream.... or was it?
Q: Well that's it for this class on Bad Movie 101. Time to toddle off to bed. You need nap time in order to grow up to be Good Movie directors, not Bad Movie 101...
Footnote: I had fun writing this piece, and I hope you enjoyed it, but I think I'll probably go back to my regular way of writing this blog after this.