This film rates a miserable and miserly 5.9 from 660 votes on the IMDB. That puts in the company of some Roger Corman’s creations. Democracy, so overrated, as Plato said.
This is a thoughtful science fiction film about racism and bigotry in a post-apocalyptic world. It starts with 92% mortality in a nuclear war, the origin of which is unknown, after which the survivors have created ever more elaborate and human-like robots. The robots are programmed to serve the best interest of humanity! Always tricky that, just ask anyone in politics. (Only journalists know all the answers.)
A lobby poster
The robots are necessary but they have to stay in their place! Evidently some Republicans survived — no holocaust is ever perfect — and those who most want to restrict the robots are members of the Order of Flesh and Blood, i.e., code for the GOP. Indeedy. These Luddites accept the work the robots do so long as they look and act like mechanical contrivances and stay in their distant and inferior place. Jack Haley as the Tin Man in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is their idea of a good robot.
However, the robots themselves realise that such Tin Men are inefficient. They are technically inefficient, clumsy of movement, slow afoot, so they improve themselves with each new iteration. (The make-up is good on this.) The more important way in which they are inefficient is that there are social and psychological barriers between them and human co-workers. Some humans refuse to work with these talking machines.
The robots face the facts: the long term effects of the massive radiation unleashed in the forty minute war has doomed the capacity for human reproduction. The birth rate is falling at an increasing rate.
The robots confer on their Key Performance Indicators.
For the Flesh and Blooders the answer is simple, ahem, as always, to get rid of those damn robots. Period. Their service makes us soft! Rid of them, humanity would fend for itself and grow stronger again, scientific evidence be damned! Ayn Rand should get credit for this part of the script. In her world the will power of rugged individuals could triumph over any old facts.
The Flesh and Blooders wear party hats and harass those who support and use robots. (On the hats, read below.) They skulk around robot recharging stations. Among themselves, the robots call the charging stations temples and refer to the master computer with admirable and anticipatory political correctness as the Mother/Father or Father/Mother. As it turns out, there is a point to this mumbo-jumbo.
Humanity is dying out and the robots will have to put a stop to it. And they do!
The drama is played out with two principle characters (Don Megowan and Erica Elliott). The irony is that the Luddite leader, vociferous and violent, is himself an undercover humanoid! But wait there's more. His squeeze is also one of THEM! The explanation of all of that is ingenious and thought-provoking.
It is all talk and no action against cardboard sets spray painted in primary colours. It seemed more like a play than a movie, but the talk is interesting and I paid attention. A rarity that. That there is no action, that the women are fully clothed, and that it is complicated talk must together explain the democratic rating. The Maestro of 'Dark Corners of this Sick World' Robin Bales, no democrat he, also shreds it for the inertia and the inconsistencies in the story, while admitting that it is full of ideas. The alleged inconsistency is that it starts out about the downtrodden robots and then shifts to the future of humanity. Get with it Robin! It is a segue. Stories develop.
By the way, he, too. suspected theatrical origins but evidently found no confirmation, an inference since he left the point hanging. Just the sort of omission he derides in the films he reviews with his razor tongue.
Don Megowan, large of size, chiselled of chin, deep of voice, dark of hair, was a stalwart in television westerns for years, while Erica Elliot quit with this role, she also started with it, as did the director Don Doolittle whose coda was a nice touch.
Dr Doolittle, who talked to the vacuum tubes.
The opening credits say ‘Introducing Don Doolittle’ and the Internet Movie Data Base indicates this introduction was also his finale.
The hats the Flesh and Blooders wear are ersatz Confederate forage hats. They were sold as novelties at the centenary of the Civil War. Yes, I had one.
Big Don is the big one.
Did they purloin those hats from the dustbins after a revival of ‘Gone with the Wind?’ Who knows. It is all of a piece with the hundred dollar budget for the film.
I came across it on You Tube when trawling for 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s science fiction.
It has whet my appetite for ‘Real Humans’ (2012), a Swedish series aired here, which for reasons lost to time, we did not watch.
Jaded cinephiles will think of Isaac Asimov’e ‘I, Robot’ and ‘Blade Runner.’ Readers may recall 'Tin Men' (1965) by Michael Frayn, which tried awfully hard to be funny.