The Creation of The Humanoids has all the standard 1960s sci-fi ingredients. We open with lots of stock footage of nuclear explosions. The mushroom clouds are tinted in garish monochrome and usher in a resonant voice explaining the world after WW3. This is all accompanied by a raging, gonzo Moog synthesizer, and an operatic soprano a la the opening theme of Star Trek.
The film was made in 1960 by Wesley E. Barry. Surprisingly, they chose to film in color considering the meager budget they had but the simple sets and colorful lighting are quite effective. The most ingenious contrivance is having the actors play robots which masks the incredibly wooden acting. The only problem is that the actors playing humans are as wooden as the robots. Compounding the problem is the fact that the entire movie is just dialogue. There are 5 or 6 scenes on 3 or 4 sets and almost no action, just a whole lotta talkin’. This would usually spell a disastrous level of boredom but the combination of the wacky writing and the acting makes it pretty entertaining. Here is part of a 16-minute dialogue,
Cragis: “How could you do this to me, a thing like this? Are you really doing it out of spite, and if so why? What have I done to earn your hatred?
Esme: “I don’t hate you, I feel sorry for you.
Cragis: “Don’t be trite, be an artist, be a musician, even be a poet, but express your freedom some other way.”
The film is a thinly veiled metaphor for the civil rights movement. The humans are the supremacists and the grey-skinned robots are the oppressed. The humans have an organization called “The order of the Flesh and Blood” and disparage robots by calling them “clickers.” The robots are trapped as a subservient underclass with no autonomy.
The film is a mash-up of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Planet of the Apes, and Blade Runner. Those three films would pretty much cover it but there is one other subtext. The Creation of The Humanoids wouldn’t be a 60s sci-fi flick if it didn’t also include an anti-communist message.
The robots may start off as stand-ins for racial injustice but as the movie progresses they turn into a sinister and cultish cabal. As in Azimov’s I Robot, the robots follow certain imperatives. Humanity is dying out due to radiation-induced infertility so the robots hatch a plan to save humanity and enact a utopia. Unfortunately, the plan requires turning all the humans into “godless, soulless, robots.” There are several repetitions of the “godless soulless” phrase so as to drive home the communist reference. The switch from civil rights parable to anti-communist propaganda destabilizes the whole film. The messages end up a garbled mess.
To its credit, the last 24-minute scene is a discussion that stumbles and lurches its way through metaphysics. Is man a mind housed in an interchangeable body or is he some kind of inseparable gestalt? Is love possible in a post-human age? Are the robots oppressed or oppressors? For a movie where nothing happens, it manages to cover a lot of ground.
It never fully commits to any one idea or to any one character being the hero or the villain. This works to its advantage, By providing ambiguity, a space for our own interpretation is created. The film has many flaws but despite itself, it not only has a little bit of substance but its entertaining as well.
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