Friday, October 23, 2015

The Colossus of New York (1958)

The Colossus of New York has inhabited a dark little corner of my mind since I was a kid. I gobbled up monster movie books like it was end-of-days back then, and it seemed like every book had at least one picture of this guy in it.

Basically I grew up knowing what The Colossus looked like, but only as much about the movie as I could gather from various photograph captions. Which wasn't very much. I'm sure at least a few of the books included a plot summary and production information, but the words never seemed to stick with me the way a good photo did.

Take this one, for instance. It would be pretty tough to get an image like this one out of a 10 year old's head:


Although I gotta say, having finally just seen the movie, I don't actually recall a scene featuring The Colossus with this extremely nonchalant fellow on the left, or all those cables running out of his colossal pant leg, so my guess is this is a behinds-the-scenes production shot, rather than a still from the movie proper. Even so: pretty awesome, right?

In true B-Movie fashion, the movie promises large-scale mayhem it never delivers. The film's opening credits roll over an image of the New York skyline in ruins; in reality The Colossus breaks a couple of windows. What actually does happen after the opening credits is this:
  1. Brilliant Guy (BG) is well on the way to solving the world's problems, but gets run over by a truck instead. He's dead, or possibly mostly dead.
  2. Brilliant Guy's Dad (BGD) just happens to be a top-notch neurosurgeon, so he keeps BGs brain alive and sticks it in a jar.
  3. Brilliant Guy's Brother (BGB) just happens to be a top-notch roboticist, so he sticks BGs still-alive-brain into a giant metal body, turning him into Colossal Brilliant Guy (CBG).
  4. The two fellows keep CBG locked away in their lab, so he can keep solving the world's problems.
  5. CBG is not happy. He misses his wife and son. Even worse, he's slowly going insane because it turns out brains need real bodies in order to not go insane.
  6. It also turns out BGB has been wooing CBGs grieving widow, and acting all dad-like to CBGs boy. This pisses CBG off, and because he's quickly becoming Insane CBG, he kills BGB. With some kind of heat beam* that comes out of his colossal eyes.
  7. Insane CBG decides he's going to kill everyone who isn't a genius. Or something like that.
  8. He decides to start his killing spree at the U.N. building, where he's arranged for his whole family to be present in the crowd that night. (To kill them? So they can watch him kill everyone else?)
  9. Small-scale slaughter ensues until CBGs son runs up to him and, at CBGs request, pulls his plot-convenient kill switch and he dies.
*This and CBGs sudden development of ESP is never explained in the film, but I'm going with the whole brain-unburdened-with-physical-body-uses-all-its-power-for-nonphysical-abilities route, which totally works for me.

 Huh. Well, there's more to the story than that but let's just say the plot started out on track but then strayed off into B-Movie ridiculousness somewhere along the way. Even so, there were a couple of things that make this one a keeper, or at least a will-watch-again-some-day, for me.

First is that Brilliant Guy was played by none other than Ross Martin, who I really only know from The Wild Wild West and an above par episode of Columbo. But I really liked him in those two things, and I liked him in this.

Second is that The Colossus is a really cool robot design. Okay, technically it's a cyborg, but you know what I mean. Just take a look at that thing:


The Colossus was played physically (with Ross Martin doing an electronically altered voice-over) by Ed Wolff. Not a lot out there on Ed. Apparently his career spanned ten movies over thirty five years, and he mostly played giants, robots and monsters. This, because he was a big fellow: 7' 4" by most counts. I couldn't find a picture of the man out-of-costume to save my life. Closest I got was this behind-the-scenes still from Return of the Fly, showing him from the neck down. Good sized fellow.


The American Film Institute says this about the costume Ed wore as The Colossus:
According to modern sources, the colossus was designed and built by Charles Gemora and Ralph Jester. The costume itself was eight feet tall, weighed 160 pounds, and was created from burlap, plastic, rubber and fine chicken wire. Inside the costume were batteries, cables, air tanks and oxygen tubes which both moved mechanical parts and assisted Ed Wolff, who played the colossus, in breathing. Because it took over forty minutes to get Wolff in and out of the costume, a special rack was designed for the actor to rest on between shots.
That explains all those hoses and such coming out of The Colossus' pant leg, in that first photo.

Anyway, not a lot more to say about this one, except it's worth a watch for robot-coolness alone. And while I may have spoiled the overall plot for you, I left enough unsaid to make it interesting if you ever decide to give it a go.

THREE COLOSSAL BRAINS

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