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July 27, 2006

Invasion of the Cine-oids: A Double Feature

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Creation of the Humanoids
Wesley E. Barry - 1962
Dark Sky Films Region 1 DVD

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Sins of the Fleshapoids
Michael Kuchar - 1965
Other Cinema Region 1 DVD

There is that old joke stating that the future isn't what it use to be. These two flashbacks from the Sixties express concerns that would appear in later, far more costly films. An extremely low budget film and its no budget parody, both far lessed polished than Blade Runner prove a lot more fun than I, Robot. The two films begin with a premise of taking place in a post-apocalyptic future, with human-like robots programmed to serve humans. The sets are sparse, there are usually no more than five people on-screen at once, the acting uneven, yet the films are triumphs of imagination over limited resources.

Creation is a parable about Kennedy era prejudice as well as a thriller about some very human -like robots on the loose. One can laugh at the examples of early robot technology, guys in awkward cardboard costumes flailing their arms. Some of the dialogue can be atrocious - a future cop is told to leave by the politically influential hero with the words: "Beat it before you don't have a beat to beat."
Some of the earnestness expressed in the film reminded me of Ed Wood, Jr. at his most grandiose, and the films cast includes Dudley Manlove, Eros from Plan Nine from Outer Space. Creation manages to be both ridiculous and sublime, often simultaneously, in its view of what it means to be a human being.

The film also is one of the last films by several notable film veterans. Director Wesley Barry began as a child actor in the silent era. Cinematographer Hal Mohr has only two more films before he finally retired. This was also the second to last film for make-up artist Jack Pierce, most famous for the creating the look of the Universal monsters of the Thirties. Mohr should have known better than to photograph several of the actors looking straight up their noses in close-up. What makes Creation of the Humanoids better than some similar films with better casts and budgets is the sense of imagination and plot twists in one very economical package.

Mike Kuchar's Sins of the Fleshapoids takes some of the same ideas about robots with human feelings and goes in its own hilarious tangents. The film begins with actor/narrator Bob Cowan announcing off-screen, "It is a million years in the future!". This is a future where robot slaves take care of their human masters, and Clark bars, Wise potato chips and Carvel ice cream cones are still available. Two of the robots rebel and make love - their hands touch, and the screen is ablaze with hand drawn bolts of electricity. While the film is primarily the work of Mike Kuchar, twin George contributed a scene of Kuchar star Donna Kerness, seen above, admiring her beauty. The robot love comes with a hilarious conclusion that Hollywood would never have touched forty years ago. Worthy of admiration are the wall paintings, done by Mike Kuchar, in a style that can only be described as Greco-Roman-Alien.

Posted by peter at July 27, 2006 09:17 AM