I saw this a long time ago, and would love to see it available for purchase or online. Regrettably, German TV stations do not treasure much of their great productions like other countries' stations do, so entirely too much has been lost already.
Today, the presented idea is more relevant and more of a threat than ever, as we basically already have all necessary pieces for this technology, which was a possibility, but not yet real 40 year ago.
This TV movie had believable acting and great real looking remote controlled robot models. Some modern serious university grade research and the latest combat prototype robots in insect or crab shapes don't look much different from this fare back then.
If my memory isn't completely wrong, this TV movie was about a scientist contracting for "defense". His mad invention was a machine that could replicate itself using metal scavenged from weapons on a battlefield. The utopistic, idealistic thinking was to have a wave of ever multiplying little robots that simply eat the enemy's hardware, until the war has stopped, and people don't get killed. The machines were small and looked like crabs, so they had 8 legs, were thus stable, and had simple programming: Find gun metal, eat it, use it to make more robots, go on get more metal, make more robots, and so on. A test was made on an uninhabited island, observed by a small group of people. The whole idea was of course flawed, so the tiny machines grew bigger with each cycle, looking for ANY metal, including the observers' gear right down to their watches and their rings on their fingers. A horror scenario unfolds.
In the end, for lack of metal on the small island, the larger robo-crabs cannibalize the smaller ones, until just one giant crab is left, the size of a tank. In a way, the experiment is a military doomsday success, far more effective than anyone could have imagined or feared. Will the final giant armoured tank-crab, now watching the beach, simply overwhelm any ships with its torches and cut them apart to build an even bigger machine, as they are trying to land attempting to save the human survivor? Will the technology be used by unscrupulous businessmen and military? Will the survivors ever get off the island?
There is a lot to digest here, mainly the exponential reproduction of the robots, that can simply swamp the planet. They would just eat away and multiply as armoured pests, as long as any metal is available. This would of course mean an end to all modern civilization and would condemn us to a permanent new stone age.
It was almost 40 years ago, and I was about 11 or 12, when I saw this on German TV, so I will refrain from any attempt to laud or criticise this movie. The story however was one of those that burnt itself in, its lessons were sound. This is a thought provoking concept. Thoughtful contemplation is too often lacking in modern big budget Science Fiction productions, and ironically I keep going back to older, cheaper, often "campy" pieces packing more punch.
Oh ZDF, please make this available for viewing! The BBC makes it possible for fans to watch old productions, even if the video is half shot. I have read many comments about replies to rerun and video requests from German TV stations that older productions were not rerun, because of poor quality and the high cost of restoration or updates. Never mind all that updating stuff! Just make the materials available and let the viewers decide, if a cosmetic cure is called for!
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