'The Invisible Boy': Robby the Robot in Low-Budget Sci-Fier Predating '2001' & 'The Terminator' Movies

The Invisible Boy: Robby the Robot + Armageddon threat predates 2001 + The TerminatorThe Invisible Boy. One of the cast members in Fred M. Wilcox's 1956 classic sci-fier Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot gets the Special Guest Star treatment in the poster for The Invisible Boy – the bot's name is displayed in letters much larger than those for the low-budget sci-fier's human actors, director, writers, and producer. Also of interest, plot elements from The Invisible Boy – e.g., the supercomputer, the young male hero, out-of-control technology, the potential destruction of the planet – can be found in John Badham's 1983 sci-fi thriller WarGames, toplining Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, and John Wood.

'The Invisible Boy': 'Cute little' Armageddon movie in the mind of the protagonist?

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.

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 while much of it fails to make any sense. The title is based upon the invisibility 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.

If that weren't all, Timmy must stop a supercomputer bent on world control. The computer in question has been built by the boy's father (Philip Abbott), who works at an ultra-secret lab where his son can inexplicably roam around unhindered.

Seemingly routine time traveling & invisibility

The Invisible Boy is apparently set in the 1980s, for the supercomputer – the typical room-sized models of that era – has slyly encoded seven wrong answers over 29 years (beginning in the 1950s) to somehow gain consciousness. But it would have to be conscious in order to plan such a thing, no?

Then there are the 1950s-type moments, like the one in which 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 while explaining that being a man – rather than a boy – has its “compensations.”

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 when Forbidden Planet's United Planets Cruiser C-57D returned home with Robby from Altair IV. The scientists treat all this with a shrug. Meanwhile, Timmy's dim parents believe his new-found invisibility is just a phase devised to “get attention.”

Technically accomplished

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's exploits, it borders on Dalian surrealism. Even so, it's clear that the filmmakers had no concept of the sublime nonsense their film conjures, for it's all played straight – thus making it even funnier.

The Invisible Boy” review text © Dan Schneider. “The Invisible Boy” image caption © Alt Film Guide.

Note: This review of Herman Hoffman's The Invisible Boy is a condensed/revised version of Dan Schneider's text, which can be read in its original form at cosmoetica.com. The views expressed in the review are those of Mr. Schneider, and they may not reflect the views of Alt Film Guide.

The Invisible Boy (1957)

Dir.: Herman Hoffman.

Scr.: Cyril Hume & Edmund Cooper.

Cast: Richard Eyer. Philip Abbott. Diane Brewster. Robby the Robot. Harold J. Stone. Robert H. Harris. Gage Clark. Uncredited: Helen Kleeb.

 

The Invisible Boy cast info via the IMDb.

The Invisible Boy poster: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The Invisible Boy: Robby the Robot in Low-Budget Sci-Fier Predating 2001 & The Terminator Movies” last updated in August 2018.

'The Invisible Boy': Robby the Robot in Low-Budget Sci-Fier Predating '2001' & 'The Terminator' Movies © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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