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In The Middle of this vast, expanse of TV Film Noir, which was Superman's First Season; We have this little gem of an Oasis of Lightness & Levity!
John T. Ryan (firstname.lastname@example.org) from United States
12 November 2008
OUR society has long had a great fascination with Robots. They have
been great fodder for many a Sci-Fi author for decades; ever since the
Czech playwright, Karel Capek coined the word in his play, R.U.R.
(1920), from the Czech Language 'robata', meaning compulsory. In this
case, it's being a compulsory worker.
WE need only look back to the great German Film, Fritz Lang's
METROPOLIS (UFA. 1927) to see the outstanding rendition of the female
robot. The fertile science fiction era of the 1930's gave us the Pulp
Magazine ADAM LINK Stories by Eando Binder ("Eando" being a pen name
for brothers Earl & Otto Binder). There've been at least 2 adaptations
of Adam, both on THE OUTER LIMITS TV Series (one in the 1960's
original, the other on the 1990's revival.) Saturday Afternoon Matinée
presentations weren't devoid of these mechanical men with examples like
those living/exploding bombs in FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE
(Universal, 1940). The animated SUPERMAN Cartoon Series put in its own
entry with THE MECHANICAL MONSTERS (Fleischer Studios/Paramount
Pictures, 1941); brilliantly rendered in Technicolor, Hi-Fidelity
Sound, Rotoscoped Movement and the Table Top 3 Dimensional Processes
that made the Fleischer Productions so well known.
IN the great 1950's Post World War II Sci-Fi explosion, we saw CAPTAIN
VIDEO on the DuMont TV Network devote a whole multi-week series to a
good guy-bad guy Robot named "Tobor". (Just spell it backwards,
Schultz!) Meanwhile, on the big screen we were treated to Anne Francis,
Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen all sharing the screen and the
billing with "Robbie the Robot" in FORBIDDEN PLANET
ACCORDINGLY, it should come as no surprise to anyone that these Robots
should make appearances in many of our other popular entertainments,
Television Series included.
NATURALLY we would have an episode on the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN which
would feature a storyline having a Robot as a main character. After
all, the Superman Comic Feature was spawned in the tradition of the
Science Fiction genre of the 1930's and its Daily and Sunday Syndicated
Newspaper Comic Strip had adhered closely to the format.
OUR Robot in the TV Series was sort of one conceived and designed on a
much less grand scale. Instead of being an overpowering and seemingly
invincible a foe, he was the small scale invention of a rather
self-taught, eccentric and somewhat child-like inventor, one Professor
Horatio Hinkle (veteran of silent movies, character actor, Lucien
Littlefield). The good inventor, along with his cohort, drawling
hillbilly 'Marvin' (Robert Easton, expert dialectician, fine supporting
player & comic actor), communicate by way of Short Wave Radio; as it's
just too easy to use a telephone. Besides, it's more in keeping with
the adventure and sci-fi aspects of the storyline and series.
INTENTIONS for the Robot may well have been all good, but an
intervening bunch of typical comic book-type crooks have the idea of
muscling in on the Amateur Einsteins. A terrible trio of crooks*,
'Rocko' (Dan Seymour), 'Mousey' (John Harmon) and Russell Johnson)
force the Good Prof Hinkle into turning the mechanical man into a super
robbery and burglary machine; utilizing the robot's TV system, remote
control and built-in acetylene torch to cut through doors and safes.
SUPERMAN catches up with our unwilling menace and 'The Runaway Robot'
is soon reduced to a stack of disconnected parts; all stacked in a
'THE RUNAWAY ROBOT'; although having this popular and high level
science fiction topic at its core, has a decidedly comic tone and
overall amusing effect to it. This is especially unusual in that first
season of the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN; which has most usually been
castigated as being too brutal, violent and even noir.
NOTE: * This is a most interesting troika of wrong-doers. We have John
Harmon, which is not very remarkable in it self; but the other two guys
call for a little extra mention.
First, we have Dan Seymour, who cast in his third Superman episode in
'The Runaway Robot' (Episode 17); the previous 2 having beer 'The Mind
Machine' (Episode 8) and 'The Stolen Costume' (Episode 13). The Late
Mr. Seymour was one of the last surviving actors from CASABLANCA
(Warner Brothers, 1942), in which he was cast as the Doorman, Abdul.
Secondly we have Russell Johnson as 'Chopper'. Mr. Johnson is best
known as whom? Do you give up? He was The Professor on GILLIGAN'S
ISLAND (Gladysya Prod./United Artists TV/CBS Network, 1964-67).
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