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Friday, April 12, 2019

The Colossus of New York (1958)




Another Friday means another Fifties flick for me to review. While I’m fairly well versed in the decade this marathon has made me dig up a few I either have been meaning to watch or haven’t heard of. This is one of the former as I’ve always heard about Colossus of New York but just never took the time to track down a copy. When I found it for rent on Amazon Prime, I figured I was about due.

Dr. Jeremy Spensser is a genius that is working on a way to grow food in arctic conditions. Between this and his other accomplishments he is being given the Peace Prize for his contributions towards humanity. After arriving back in the states, he is killed when stepping in front of a truck to retrieve his son’s toy airplane. Luckily for him his father and brother are also gifted in their fields of brain surgery and mechanical engineering. Before you can shake a leg, his grey matter is inhabiting a new robotic body and after some convincing continues his work for humanity in secret. He wants no one to know that he is still alive… at least sort of alive anyway.

Earlier in the movie another character, Dr. Carrington, has a foreboding bit of dialogue about what would happen to the human brain if disconnected from all feelings and emotions. Basically, pure logic equals evil! You know what happens right? The events of the movie take place in the year after the accident and by the end of that time Jeremy’s brain goes bad and he decides that instead of saving people some need to die. A good place to start are the attendees at a U.N. meeting discussing his plans to feed the world. The humanitarians have to go so that the “useless” people can die off you see. Shots are fired, laser eyes zap, and eventually Jeremy sees the error of his ways and uses his off switch… Good thing they put one of those in!

Many times the movies that I discover or have been putting off are bad. That is likely why I’ve not watched them. The Colossus of New York is actually a decent movie that has a surprisingly serious undertone to what could have been a silly sci-fi movie. Now don’t get me wrong this is plenty goofy and dumb. Why build a giant super powerful robot body when you just want the brain to do calculations and help humanity? Better yet why the heck give it eyes that shoot deadly beams of destruction? I suppose there were reasons that were never mentioned.

There is also a weird bit with the brother that starts hitting on Jeremy’s widow at the funeral. Sure, he just wants to “take care of her and her son” but that seems a bit early. Heck before the year is out he is trying to convince her to go to Hawaii with him on vacation! All while he knows his dead brother’s brain is in the next room. Damn that is cold. Toss in the giant robot which looks like a low budget Frankenstein’s monster, lots of Matte paintings standing in for locations, and you have the typical stuff you expect in a silly little Fifties horror/sci-fi flick. But there is something else here.

Beneath the surface is an interesting point being made about the human condition. The belief that intelligence is all that matters is pretty well skewered by the movie and the story. They take enough time to make sure that the viewer knows that Jeremy is a loving father and husband, as well as a humanitarian focused on making everyone’s life better. But removed from the basics of emotion and family he becomes ruthless and uncaring. I found that thoughtful and a bit deep for this sort of story. Someone put a lot of thought into the writing and I appreciate that a lot.

In spite of what I just wrote I will warn you that The Colossus of New York isn’t for everyone. I like it because I enjoy this sort of movie, but if you aren’t a fan of the Fifties genre flicks it might not play well. With that warning I’m going to give this one a recommendation if you fall into the fan category.


© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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