|Cinematography||Harold E. Wellman|
I feel compelled to add my two pennyworth, as the shade of this movie has been with me for most of my life. One of the most terrifying things I ever saw on TV, and I think I was only four, so this was back in 1959, was a clip from The Invisible Boy. I had no idea what a robot was, and so my introduction to the concept was this most impressive creation, ‘Robby’. They must have been very generous with the footage, because I saw the whole kite sequence and the aftermath. I must have been watching through my fingers for most of the time, because when the kid is talking to Robby, he is on the top of a stepladder, and for a long time, I didn’t even realise that the robot had a proper body, I thought it was just a great big glass head. Also, I thought that the chap announcing the clip had said Robin the Robot, and, I thought, hey, that’s my name, so there was a scary identification thing happening there, too. I only remember that this sequence played on my mind – big giant glass head and a small boy – I was plagued by the notion that Robby the Robot might, one day, come lurching into our house, with his big old twirling pirate-earring antennae.
Flash forward to January 2006. I had never seen a single section of this film since that nightmarish trailer on our little old wooden television set. Now I have it in my grasp, after finding it on DVD. I cut straight to the scene that scared me so much. It’s astonishing how clearly it has registered on my memory. I even remember some of the dialogue.
Having now watched this movie all the way through, I can only concur with several of the other reviews, and there is little that I can add. It certainly is a pretty uneven movie, and it looks like several different writers and directors worked on different sequences without ever liaising, although I don’t believe this to be the case.
One of the other reviewers referred to this, I think, as a child’s nightmare, and that’s a very apt description. The film’s unevenness of mood adds to its bad-dream quality.
The sequences that contain intentional humour are quite well-devised, but seem to belong to a little film of their own. The cast of competent nobodies deal with their lines pretty well, whether they know what the heck is going on or not.
Robby has quite a lot to do, and, under the evil influence of the super-computer (this is part of the standard published synopsis, so I’m not giving anything away), gets to be menacing, which he’s really rather good at, although his credibility wavers at one point, when he actually pops up from behind a bush in the garden. That has to be seen to be believed.
I’m so glad I laid this ghost after 46 years, especially as the film is one of the strangest things I’ve enjoyed in many a long day.
It’s not really a good, or well-crafted film, but it’s weird enough to merit my recommendation, especially as it has big, scary old Robby the Robot!
14 July 2004
Such a strange film. One that doesn’t really know which gimmick to run with: the super computer, the borrowed and infamous Robby the robot, invisibility, or space travel. It’s a schizophrenic jumble of the time’s sci-fi staples, with absurdly weak links. Still, I can’t say it was ever dull.
One thing that struck me about this picture, was the dry humor involving the Scientist father. He reacts almost casually to his son’s sudden intelligence boost and invisibility. It comes off like a satire of the Cleaver-type family, and was a welcome surprise.
Give this one a chance if you catch it on Turner Classic Movies one night. But I wouldn’t recommend seeking it out for purchase.