Friday, May 15, 2009

Robots attack!

Robots and giant robots. They fascinated me as a kid. When I was 12 years old my dad saw me reading TOM SWIFT JR. AND HIS GIANT ROBOT and snorted, "Are you ever gonna grow up?" I had no answer for him then.

On a recent pleasant afternoon I pulled out my first season SUPERMAN DVD collection and watched "Runaway Robot." Inventor Horatio Hinkle has created a very early version of Robocop. I saw this episode several times on afternoon TV when I was a kid. A decade later in the Army I met a sergeant named Hinkle and asked innocently, "Are you related to Horatio?" From his puzzled look I guess he hadn't seen that particular 1951 SUPERMAN episode.

Before the movie serials and TV shows, Superman existed in a much-loved series of animated shorts by the Fleischer brothers. The episode, "Mechanical Monsters" is one of my favorites, fondly remembered from their black and white TV appearances in the mid-'50s. This episode is WWII vintage.

The Fleischers spawned an impressive segment of the 2004 special effects movie, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW. The instant I saw the flying robots in silhouette I recognized the influence. They're a lot bigger, more formidable and about to stomp on sexy Gwyneth Paltrow, but you could imagine the late Dave Fleischer nodding his head in approval.

Robots and giant robots. Yep, still love them, and 45 years later in answer to Dad's question, "No. I'm never gonna grow up."

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