THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK
The Colossus of New York is a Frankenstein film. That and a few dashes of the classic disembodied brain story Donovans Brain (1943), filmed as The Lady and the Monster (1944), Donovans Brain (1953) and The Brain/Vengeance (1962). More so, it is a Frankenstein film reworked for the 1950s era of the Space Age and in particular the Age of the Computer than began around the same time with the advent of Univac. Apart from a handful of stragglers, most notably The Fly (1958), the mad scientist film that was thriving in the 1940s died away in the 1950s and the scientist was regarded as a hero rather than a threat to society. Certainly, The Colossus echoes with imagery from classic monsters its large, hulking nature and especially the climactic scene where the child pulls the switch that deactivates it reminds a good deal of The Golem (1920); the bathos of the scenes with it empathising with the boy resonate with memories of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein (1931). The Colossus even engages in the good old monster movie standby of carrying a woman off in its arms although this has an added poignancy in that the woman is the wife of the man inside the robots body.
On a plot description level, The Colossus of New York is unexceptional but Eugene Lourie makes something extraordinary out of it directorially. The Colossus is an unearthly creation large (something like nine feet tall), ungainly, frequently shown sinisterly underlit and speaking with an alienated electronic voice and looking wonderfully sinister stomping about with its eyes lit up. There is a fascinating scene with Otto Kruger and John Baragrey bringing the Colossus to life and it slowly starting to awkwardly clomp about while trying to modulate its voicebox in order to speak. There are some wonderfully creepy scenes like where a paranoid John Baragrey calls Otto Kruger on the phone He can see me, and suddenly there comes the mechanical voice from behind Kruger Yes I can and the robots eyes light up in the dark and it eerily advances into camera, telling where Baragrey is right down to the cross street. In the next scene, we see it emerge from the river to obliterate Baragrey with lightning bolts from out of its eyes. There is a fabulous climactic scene where the Colossus appears at the United Nations, standing in stark relief against the Swords Into Ploughshares mural blasting the crowds below with its eye raybeams, before his young son Charles Herbert runs up to it and it begs him to pull the lever and end its suffering.
There is a certain theme that runs through much of 1950s science-fiction of the divorce between the mind and emotions, that the intellect on its own untempered by feelings is something dangerous. You can see this in films like Forbidden Planet (1956) and at its most absurd with the hopping brain invasion of Fiend Without a Face (1958). Here Otto Kruger announces his experiments whereupon Robert Hutton is given to comment in horror: The brain divorced from human experience will become dehumanised to the point of monstrousness, to which Krugers response is You are an idiot. An idiot. At the end, Kruger is given to reflect on the error of his ways: Youre right Carrington without a soul, theres nothing but monstrousness. Notedly in contrast for the scientists of the 1930s and 40s, Otto Kruger ends the film simply shrugging and admitting he was wrong whereas a decade earlier he would be made to pay for his hubris and probably go out destroyed by his own creation. There is still the other odd line that makes you do a double take today, like when John Baragrey is insistent on giving young Charles Herbert the rather creepy greeting (in reference to the coat he is wearing): Billy, you want to look in my pockets and see what I find for you.
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