Okay then, I guess it’s time for another blog spot about stuff that’s floating around inside my mind…now I intend my blogs to be ramblings, and maybe the odd rant when I feel in the mood, about the things I love, mostly movies, music, fashion etc, as I see, remember and continue to feel about them and this means personal memories, opinions and feelings about these things from my childhood recollections onwards. It’s not really my intention to write in depth factual analysis about my favourite horror films, comparing high-brow hit films with my love of trash exploitation cinema, or justifying why I still love Elvis more than any other singer after all these years. So forgetl that, there’s enough know-it-alls and critics in danger of disappearing up their butts if they sneeze to log onto if that’s what your looking for. No I’m simply sharing my thoughts on whats given me pleasure since I was a kid and how it’s shaped my life, sure I pride myself on having a healthy knowledge for all the things I love, I find it impossible to be into anything and not want to know how it ticks but I’m happy to be honest regardless of whether it’s pc or the accepted view of the experts, mainstream or even cult fanboy masses. Exorcist 2 and Girl Happy are great and that’s fine with me.
So then with the new Terminator movie in cinemas and ‘Humans’ on TV this brings me to movie robots, or more precisely androids and cyborgs, you know the ones, they look like people for some reason, usually sinister reasons and are supposed to fool us into thinking they’re human and on our side.
Now you often get those stupid channel 5 shows that last two or three mind rotting hours, including advert breaks ad nauseam, of the 50 greatest somethings or other with lots of ‘ who the Hell are they?’ celebs talking a load of wank about stuff they know nothing relevant about and film robots are sometimes included and it’s the usual old chestnuts. The Terminator, Robocop, Robbie the robot, C3PO and R2 D2 yada yada, yet there are a few gems that mostly get overlooked and they’re ones that really had a unique impact on me as a child. Don’t get me wrong The Terminator is one of my favourite films, never cared for Robocop much, Robbie is a 50’s icon and I’ll always love the Laurel and Hardy of Star Wars but these earlier 70’s films and characters just prior to Star Wars are special ones to me.
Westworld, now where would Arnie’s T-800 be without Yul Brynner’s remorseless and unstoppable android gunslinger from this 1973 technology runs amok sci-fi classic. Most obviously the blue print for the Terminator this killer robot is truly terrifying and scared the shit outta me when I first saw it on TV a few years later. All these years later and it’s still one of cinemas finest horror character performances and not only the T-800 but Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers owe Brynner a hand shake of gratitude.
But Westworld had something else besides bonkers Brynner that unsettled me as a kid, the other placid yet emotionless android that figures significantly in it’s plot, the cold vacant yet polite sexbot, the saloon prostitute created by Westworld’s Deloss corporation to provide sexual pleasures to it’s male vacationers. The scenes where Richard Benjamin awkwardly seduces Arlette played by Linda Gaye Scott are weirdly sinister and disturbing in her emotionless compliance,
the look on her face when Benjamin is having sex with her and the sense of ‘other’ behind her silvery eyes is creepy in the extreme.
As a kid this registered with me and is a ‘beat’ in the film that still packs a punch today, although I appreciate Linda Gayle Scott’s cleavage even more now, she’s definitely one of science fictions cinemas sexist female androids. This unnerving edge is repeated towards the end of the film when a malfunctioning female android that Benjamin mistakes for a real woman vacationer pleading for help who violently reacts to then smolders and short circuits when he tries to feed her water.
The whole way actress Julie Marcus plays the part is sad yet horrifying and again frightened me as a child. Both these female roles for me are the pre-cursors to another of my favourite films, the ‘Stepford Wives’ from several years later in ’75.
The Stepford Wives comes off like a small town soap opera of perfect small town American families, squeaky clean and all that sweet as apple pie facade but underneath there’s something sinister, behind closed doors, just like in the recent Desperate Housewives’ TV series, things are imperfect and dysfunctional, the woman folk aren’t perfect at all and matrimonial bliss for the men is in question so the menfolk under the leadership of the local and mysterious corporation they all work for do away with their real human wives and replaces them with perfect looking android replicas that are programmed to be subservient servants to their husbands, they don’t argue or contradict, give opinions or show any signs of personal individuality, everything that an out dated 1950’s atomic age suburban and small town house wife and mother should be. When Nanette Newman starts to malfunction and cause a scene at a party she’s whisked away replaced and returned brand spankin’ new. Of course town newbie Katherine Ross cottons on fast and in the films climax she too is replaced, the moment this is revealed to the audience is a shocking yet non violent moment that punches straight to the gut, her black not fully formed eyes are terrifying and the realisation that all’s now lost and even the gorgeous Ross is lost to a souless copy is heart wrenching and up there with any revelation sequence in a horror movie, well to me anyway.
The film never actually says the women are replaced by robots but that’s what helps make it so unsettling, again, it’s the ‘other’ behind the eyes, that ‘knowingness’ you can’t put your finger on, that’s what makes a timeless film. I’m glad to see this Stepford Wives like ethic is currently visible in the excellent ‘Humans’ show on television. As for Terminator Genisys, well I’m looking forward to seeing it for Arnie so hopefully I’ll enjoy the film but after the disappointing third and fourth entries I’m not totally holding my breath but heres’ hopin’.
So there we have it then, two films with artificial people that gave me the creeps as a kid and have remained two of my all time favourite films with horror movie elements and I hav’nt even got round to Ash from ‘Alien’ or the space spore replicas from the 78 remake of ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’. They may not get mentioned in all time greatest robots ever lists but are more influencial than they are given credit for, they simply made many things better in the 70’s, but again that’s just what they mean to me…so beware the hot neighbours wife next door, she bakes a mean apple pie.