- The Invisible Boy movie (1957) review: First seen the previous year in Forbidden Planet – like the more modest The Invisible Boy, an MGM release produced by Nicholas Nayfack and written by Cyril Hume – Robby the Robot is the de facto star in Herman Hoffman’s low-budget Armageddon-themed sci-fier with elements in common with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, James Cameron’s The Terminator, and John Badham’s WarGames.
The Invisible Boy movie review: Low-budget Robby the Robot vehicle explores concepts later seen in 2001 & The Terminator
A low-budget, black-and-white production directed by Herman Hoffman from a screenplay by Cyril Hume – itself from a “story” by Edmund Cooper – The Invisible Boy is a cute little movie that has moments as silly as Robot Monster while also offering some intriguing concepts that predate later sci-fi classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Colossus: The Forbin Project, and The Terminator and its sequels.
Besides, like Robot Monster or Invaders from Mars, The Invisible Boy may all be the dream of the title character, for so much of it is propelled by a young boy’s boredom and much of it fails to make any sense.
Routine invisibility & time travel
The title is based on the invisibility that Robby the Robot – back on the big screen the year after Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet – accords to Timmy (Richard Eyer) so the ten-year-old can take revenge on a bully.
There’s more: Timmy must stop a supercomputer bent on world control.
Built by the boy’s father (Philip Abbott), who works at an ultra-secret lab where his son can inexplicably roam around unhindered, the room-sized supercomputer has slyly encoded seven wrong answers over 29 years (beginning in the 1950s, which means The Invisible Boy is set in the 1980s) to somehow gain consciousness.
But it would have to be conscious in order to plan such a thing, no?
Despite its apparent 1980s setting, The Invisible Boy has a number of 1950s-type moments. One example: When Timmy’s dad longwindedly tells him that a computer would have to be larger than Jupiter to be as capable as the human brain. Another one: When Dad looks at his wife as he explains that being a man – rather than a boy – has its “compensations.”
Oddly, no one notices or cares that Timmy has built Robby, supposedly from plans brought back in time by a mad scientist who had traveled to the future at the time Forbidden Planet’s United Planets Cruiser C-57D returned home with Robby from Altair IV. All the while, Timmy’s parents believe his newfound invisibility is just a phase devised to “get attention.”
Despite its narrative flaws, The Invisible Boy is, generally speaking, a technically well-made film, especially in its use of rear projections and matte paintings.
As for the absurd adult reactions to Timmy’s and Robby the Robot’s exploits, it borders on Dalian surrealism. Even so, it’s all played straight – thus making it even funnier.
The Invisible Boy (1957)
Director: Herman Hoffman.
Screenplay: Cyril Hume.
From a “story” by Edmund Cooper.
Cast: Richard Eyer. Philip Abbott. Diane Brewster. Robby the Robot. Harold J. Stone. Robert H. Harris. Gage Clark.
Uncredited: Helen Kleeb.
Cinematography: Harold E. Wellman. Film Editing: John Faure. Music: Les Baxter. Art Direction: Merrill Pye. Producer: Nicholas Nayfack.
“The Invisible Boy: Robby the Robot in Low-Budget Sci-Fier Predating 2001 & The Terminator Movies” review text © Dan Schneider; image captions & brief summary © Alt Film Guide.
“The Invisible Boy: Robby the Robot in Low-Budget Sci-Fier Predating 2001 & The Terminator Movies” is a condensed/revised version of Dan Schneider’s original text found here.
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The Invisible Boy movie cast and crew info via the AFI Catalog website and other sources.
Richard Eyer and Robby the Robot The Invisible Boy movie image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
“The Invisible Boy Movie (1957) Review: Robby the Robot Vehicle Predates 2001” last updated in March 2021.