There Was a War, Off Screen, Trust Me

Mystery Science Theater 3000, Season 1, Episode 7: "Robot Monster"

It's not often that a movie covered by Mystery Science Theater 3000First aired on the independent TV network KTMA, Mystery Science Theater 3000 grew in popularity when it moved to Comedy Central. Spoofing bad movies, the gang on the show watch the flicks and make jokes about them, entertaining its audience with the same kind of shtick many movies watchers provided on their own (just usually not as funny as the MST3K guys could provide). It became an indelible part of the entertainment landscape from there, and lives on today on Netflix. is so short that it requires two filler short-films before the main event. That's what we have today, though, as we check out the MST3K episode for Robot Monster; the main event is so short that we have not one but two different "Commando Cody" episodes padding out the front. Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that the main event are the "Commando Cody" episodes and Robot Monster was the padding. Certainly it feels that way.

Robot Monster

It's a triple feature, so let's get in deep and see what Joel and the Bots were up to this time around:

Short: Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter 4: "Flight to Destruction"

When last we saw Commando Cody (from back in episode three of his serial, covered over on The Corpse Vanishes), his car had just exploded when a bomb on a bridge blew up. But, as this episode reveals, that wasn't the whole story as, apparently, Cody bailed out just a second before and rolled to safety. Whether you believe that or not should indicate how well you can invest in bad 1950s serials. Regardless, Cody has to find a way to put the screws to the moon men.

Meanwhile, the moon men. are running low on funds (for... some reason?) so they have to resort to pulling capers to pay the bills. Banks jobs just won't cut it so, instead, they try to kidnap Cody from his lab. This leads to yet another fist fight in the lab (what is this, the third one in five episodes?) before they kidnap Cody's lab assistant, Joan. Cody has to fly to the airplane where Joan's has been taken and save the girl, but before they can escape the plane seemingly crashes into the ground, once again putting Cody on a path with death (except, as we know, not really).

This film sucks, of course, but I will say it's the most lively of the three works covered here today; as we'll note shortly, even the second "Commando Cody" episode is a pretty dire wreck, unmemorable and tedious. This isn't a great episode by any stretch, simply iterating on what we've already seen before (including those fist fights) as the serial pads itself out to the full 12 episode length.

Short: Radar Men from the Moon, Chapter 5: "Murder Car"

This story is even less interesting than the previous tale. Cody and Joan somehow see a parachute in the plane and manage to escape to safety long before the plane crashes (a bit we didn't see the last time around, of course). The moon men. send their goons to steal the payroll from some business (back when payroll was done in actual cash) and then Cody goes chasing off after them, onto for his car to seemingly crash into an ambulance and then fly off into a ravine. No doubt next time we'll see that he's still alive, though, probably having rolls free of that car, too. Ugh.

This episode, frankly, was worthless. Nothing important happens here at all (not even a good fist fight), and in the end Cody is right back where he was the last time: apparently dead but about to cheat his way out of it once more. I get that serials have a formula, and there's only so much you can move the story forward when everyone is waiting for the last episode to wrap everything up, but this chapter was abysmal. Just an utter waste of 13 minutes. Go home, Cody, and come back with a better story next time.

Main Event: Robot Monster

Now we're on to the real story, the 1953 sci-fi monster film Robot Monster. This (rather short) film tells the tale of a family -- the Professor (John Mylong), his wife (Selena Royle), older daughter Alice (Barrett), younger daughter Carla (Pamela Paulson), and their son Johnny (Gregory Moffett) -- who go out to investigate a cave system (and have a picnic nearby), and then suddenly a war strike and most of the population of the Earth is eliminated. The only survivors are the family along with the Professor's lab partner Roy (George Nader). Apparently the Earth was attacked by a single alien, Ro-Man (voiced by John Brown, played by George Barrows), who managed to wipe out all life on the planet with his death rays.

As it turns out, though, the Professor created an anti-sickness serum and, somehow, this serum protected his whole family (and Roy) from the death rays. Hiding out in the Professor's compound (well, most of the time), the whole group uses the Professor's tech to avoid detection by Ro-Man. But what they need is a plan to defeat the lone (and, honestly, rather ineffectual) alien before he finds them and kills them. Time is running out for the human race and it's up to the Professor, and his family, to save the day.

This film, frankly, sucks. It has one of the dumbest setups I've seen in a while: an alien destroys all life on the planet but we miss all of it for... reasons. Then the alien, who looks like a man in a gorilla suit with a spaceman helmet on top, goes and lives in a cave that just so happens to be right nearby the Professor's compound, but he can't find the Professor and his family also for... reasons? Oh, and the family has to stay in the compound to avoid detection, that part is made very clear... so, naturally, they're always leaving the compound for... reasons. It's so stupid.

Obviously the movie was made on a tiny budget and there was only so much the creators could do, but this film reeks of a "I could totally make a film, watch me" mentality. While the actors in the film (none of which are famous in the slightest) are fine, there's so little story, or character development, for them to work off of. It's just people standing around, talking about an alien; the alien standing around, talking about the humans; and then it all ends. Oh, and it's all a dream sequence in the mind of the young son and none of it happened.

I may have already said this before, but I think this might be the worst movie yet that the series has ever covered (even giving Manos: The Hands of Fate a run for it's money; it's that bad. The guys do what they can with it, and actually make it watchable, but this film is so bad I don't think I'll ever want to watch this episode again.