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Monday, June 25, 2012

THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK (1958)

This Saturday Matinee B-pic from Paramount is a ‘thinking boy’s’ monster movie. It’s loaded with nice provocative ideas, but, oh!, that execution. A Nobel Scientist with grand plans on feeding the world dies just as he gets back from Sweden, but secretly his detached brain is revived inside the metal body of a giant robot by his slightly crazed father & his mechanically gifted older brother. But there’s trouble brewing (really?) since Dad always liked the dead son best and didn’t suspect his other son was now in love with the grieving ‘widow.’ She’s being kept in the dark about the monstrous resurrection, but can’t help but notice when her father-in-law goes rabid after the local clergyman (who also has the hots for the ‘widow’) blathers on about mortality & morality during the eulogy. Meanwhile, the scientist’s young son is guilt-ridden because Dad was killed chasing after his toy plane. So, when this kid bumps into the monster at his dad’s grave, he finds himself a large, metallic father figure. Now things really get strange! Suddenly, inexplicably, Mr Monster can see the future; he can see your thoughts; he’s even waterproof! And when he sees his older brother putting the make on his wife, he decides he was a chump to try and help humanity. Feed the World? Better to Destroy the World! Helped by its nonexistent budget, the film boasts a neat clean look (helmer Eugene Lourie’s day job was art director) and someone in the sound department worked up some creepy Geiger-counter noises for the robot-monster and really loud crashes for various breakable objects. Even the main titles and a solo piano background score show some imagination. If only the dialogue weren’t so painfully idiotic or the acting so thuddingly dismal. Otto Kruger is pleasingly mad as the scientist's father, but the wife (Mala Powers) really deserves some sort of booby prize. Just the same, low-budget sci-fi mavens will want to suffer thru it.

DOUBLE-BILL: Speaking of mechanical men . . . Robbie the Robot also puts a scientist’s cute kid in harm's way in THE INVISIBLE BOY/’57.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: While its all too easy to read pedophiliac tendencies into the most innocuous of actions, especially in films from the ‘50s, the level of discomfort goes pretty high here. Bad enough that the uncle gives gifts to the boy by having the kid reach into his pockets, but then Dad, in his monster form, first warns the child to never, never, never touch that little handle that’s hidden under his cape. And then, at the climax, when he needs the tyke to help him pull off his noble self-sacrifice, he orders the boy to reach in, find the ‘handle’ and push, push, push hard, Billy, push hard! Yikes!

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