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  Tobor the Great A Rival To Robbie
Year: 1954
Director: Lee Sholem
Stars: Charles Drake, Karin Booth, Billy Chapin, Taylor Holmes, Steve Geray, Henry Kulky, Franz Roehn, Hal Baylor, William Schallert, Robert Shayne, Lyle Talbot
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Advances in technology have been moving on apace, and in the near future mankind may eventually get their wish to reach the stars themselves as atomic power is proving the greatest breakthrough available to the space programme. But there will be setbacks, and suppose sometime soon America's Space Agency were forced to experiment on willing test subjects to find out how much the human body could take? And suppose one of the scientists they employed, Dr Harrison (Charles Drake), was none to happy about it?

By 1954, the craze for science fiction was well established in Hollywood movies as everyone looked ahead to wonder what the future held. The genre was applied to a variety of subjects, but there was always that nagging feeling that after it had been established on the big screen for stuff like the Flash Gordon serials, that it was really entertainment for kids. Hence works such as Tobor the Great, aimed squarely at the juvenile audience of the day with its young boy, Gadge (Billy Chapin, best known for Night of the Hunter), as our eyes and ears.

The kids needed a figure to identify with, and scientist's grandson Gadge was depicted as bright and inquisitive, much like the young fans of this type of movie would have been, but most of all excited about the possibilities of what the approaching years had to offer. Possibilities like your very own robot, the Tobor of the title, played by a luckless fellow wearing a very large, clunky suit, which grandfather Professor Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes) has invented as a replacement for manned space missions, being far safer in theory.

Of course, there are still a few issues to be ironed out, as we see in a hilarious sequence where Tobor gets so caught up in a game of asteroids (really) that he flies into a rage and makes to knock the cast around the room, including Gadge, in a potential Ed-209 moment. Fortunately he has a way of tapping into psychic powers, which allow him to respond to and understand his human counterparts, so we are reassured that he's a nice robot and will not go on the rampage during the final reel. Except he actually does, only not because he's rebelling, because he's tracking down the kidnapped Professor and Gadge.

Yes, if there was one subject fifties sci-fi liked just as much as contemplating technology, it was contemplating what to do about those darn Reds across the Atlantic, and that was apparent here as the bad guys scheme their way into the Professor's secrets. Alarmingly, they also threaten to torture Gadge with a blowtorch, but don't get the idea this was action packed even if Tobor does knock a few things down in his rescue mission, because for much of the time the film came across as if it were a dry instructional film, with lots of lecturing and demonstration to sit through. As the theories here were pure speculation, and we still haven't caught up with most of it, there was some amusement to be had in their idea of things to come, but it was well seen there was all that mayhem at the end, as the rest of the flick could have done with the excitement. Music by Howard Jackson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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