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Monday, January 18, 2010

Creation of the Humanoids

This independent film (Genie Productions) is surprisingly deep for a low-budget movie. It has the usual hallmarks of B-grade films: simple sets, marginal acting and stock footage. The writing is above average. The Creation of the Humanoids (CotH) is a very thoughtful science fiction drama. It is not an action film. It is not a special effects showcase. Set in earth's post-nuclear future, it is a tale of mankind's dependence upon, yet fear of, the robot servants they created.

Quick Plot Synopsis
After a destructive nuclear war, earth's population is too small to rebuild. They develop robots to do the work. These robots are improved intellectually and refined physically to eventually look and move like humans. This upsets a vocal minority who call themselves The Order of Flesh and Blood. The Order wants to suppress robot advancements and keep people in charge. A high-ranking member of The Order (Craigis) uncovers a plot by the robots to improve one of their kind to be almost indistinguishable from a human. This is illegal. The lab of Dr. Raven (a human who is aiding the robots) is raided. Raven fears what the authorities will do to him. Unable to commit suicide, he orders the improved robot to kill him. The robot complies. This crime should embolden The Order's anti-robot rhetoric, but a new problem derails things. Craigis' sister is "in rapport" with a robot. While trying to talk his sister out of this scandalous platonic relationship, a co-worker drops by. Craigis and Maxine almost instantly fall for each other. While out late smooching, they are summoned to The Temple. There, they are interrogated by three leader robots. This reveals that Craigis and Maxine are themselves a couple of the improved humanoid robots. A young Dr. Raven enters. A robot body of himself as a younger man was built and his memories implanted into it. Dr. Raven tells Cragis that he's a robot. Craigis has trouble with this revelation, but copes. Mankind will eventually die out due to a low birth rate. The robot central committee is trying to preserve mankind by producing robots that look and think they're human. Craigis and Maxine reaffirm their love for each other, even though robots. Success. Mankind can be saved. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
There are so many deep thoughts and intriguing background stories within CotH, that many could be movies unto themselves.

Cold War Angle
This is unmistakable, as the film opens with several stock footage clips of nuclear test blasts and the narrator talking about an atomic war which wiped out 92% of mankind.

Notes
Story Roots -- Screenwriter Jay Stills blended elements from two prior robot stories. The namesake came from Jack Williamson's 1947 novel "Humanoids". From Williamson's story, Stills drew the trope of a population of mechanical servant robots who are programmed for mankind's "good" and mankind atrophying into uselessness. From Kavel Capek's 1921 play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)" he drew several basic plot elements, including a robot "Adam and Eve" to start a new creation.

Racial Commentary -- The oppression and subjugation of "the Clickers" is a shifting social critique. At times, is sounds like a civil rights / racism analogy, with a (slave) labor class having few rights and the ruling minority worrying about them gaining power. Then too, there was the tension over the "interracial" relationship of Craigis' sister Esme, and the robot Pax. Yet, there is more depth to the Clickler/Human issue than fits the (then) contemporary black-white tensions.

Feminist Commentary -- There is a hint of feminism too. At one point, Esme tells Maxine (who is a robot, though even she doesn't know this yet), jokes that her brother, Cragis, considers women to be an inferior design copy of men. On a certain level, the Order of Flesh and Blood sounds like chauvinist men worrying over women taking over the workplace. Yet, this doesn't fit the Clicker plight exactly either.

Death by Leisure -- Both Capek's play and Williamson's novels featured mankind's doom coming from leisure, not nukes. The robots simply did too much for man, so he atrophied into uselessness. Craigis hints at this problem a few times in the script (per the book themes), though good ol' fashioned radiation gets the primary blame. This gives CotH a very 50s feel.

Biblical Undertones -- Unusual for a sci-fi, a fair amount of dialogue is devoted to discussing the nature of the soul, and the role of a creator. At one point,e robot Ultima Dr. Raven expounds on some very biblical themes near the end. He talks of physical death not being frightening when the prospect of eternal life is there. He talks of the joy of a new, immortal body over his old fleshly one.

Bottom line? CotH is a surprisingly deep story for a low budget production. The pace can be slow at times, and the scenes a bit talky. But, the many topics and issues it raises can be food for thought long afterward. For those who like their sci-fi cerebral, it is worth the search to obtain a copy.

6 comments:

CMB said...

This is a great blog about a great topic!

Keep up the great work.

jpuglise said...

Coth is my favorite Sci-Fi B-film ever! THANKS SO MUCH for this site! Exactly what I was looking for. One can tell you must love these films and have spent many hours working on this site. You have no idea how much it is appreciated!

Thanks...

Nightowl said...

J: Glad you like the site. Yes, I do love these old films. Even the really "bad" ones are a lot of fun.

Yes, I -have- spent many many hours on them and the site. Visiting a few of the "sponsor" sites is a nice way to show appreciation. :-)

kurganwins said...

Thank you, this is the movie I was looking for. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, great movie.

Nightowl said...

kurganwins,
Glad I could help.

John Drake said...

Howdy,

Let's see, low budget, no special effects, decent story line and sort of shallow characters.

It's fun and well worth watching.

Even a low budget film like this can be entertaining.

Yup, I have seen it several times since I was a little kid.

Could our next stage in evolution be technological instead of biological?

Was wistful then, not some much today.

Are you missing time periodically, then feeling refreshed and smarter? Maybe you made a visit to the Mother/Father temple and did not know it.

After all, if the 100 series robot was not successful, we would not be here.

John