Plot – A brilliant surgeon encases his dead son’s brain in a large robot body, with unintended results…
Director – Eugène Lourié
Released – 1958
Sure it’s very outdated in the special effects department, but Colossus of New York does happen to be very up to date when it comes to the timeless debate of ethics versus science and technology. Brings up multiple questions regarding what it is to be human, do we have a soul and just because something can be done, should it be done?.
Released as a part of a B-Movie science-fiction double feature with The Space Children, Lourié’s Colossus adapts Shelley’s legendary gothic novel Frankenstein as it explores the difficult moral dilemma with the subtlety of one of the robot’s oversized metal boots. After a horrific accident, the brain of a world-renowned scientist transplanted into a giant robot by his father, resulting in his sons diminishing humanity and loss of control as he comes to terms with his new situation.
Unlike Shelly’s Frankenstein Frankenstein which excelled at showing moral dilemmas, The Colossus of New York only works if you ignore the film’s lack of subtly. Spencer’s father deciding to transplant his son’s brain into a giant robot, treating him not as a loved family member but rather the chance to advance humanity contains almost no moral or emotional conflict. His choice at the exact moment of his son’s death lacked any struggle with moralities, with discussions about how unethical the experiment was only coming later once the Spencers mental health had deteriorated and felt like a way to add conflict to the second half of the film, with this lack of time spent on the moral conflict and expanding on the problems raised during the first half of the film, to me seems due in a large part down to the films relatively short runtime. Clocking in at just seventy minutes, the filmmakers clearly tried to introduce multiple elements without the time to fully develop them.
There are, however, elements that you will find charming, most of all the wonderfully kitsch robotic creature and somewhat over the top acting that borders on the cheesy. All of which feels miles away from Lourié’s previous creature-features with their higher-quality stop-motion creations and their stories that span the globe. It’s not The Beast From 20000 Fathoms or The Giant Behemoth, but it is one of the more usual smaller and more intimate Sci-Fi movies of the era.