The Creation of the Humanoids

The Creation of the Humanoids. 1962. Dir. Wesley Barry. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.

Supposedly Andy Warhol’s favourite film, so…

It starts with smokey red then blue screens, people arguing in different languages – which may or may not be an editing mistake – then a nuclear mushroom cloud along with a soprano practising scales in the bathroom or something, and then the title credits in splurgy horror-sci-fi font.

Apparently Don Doolittle is Dr Raven. Can’t wait to meet him.

On the cast list is the actor Dudley Manlove, which I nominate as my favourite name today.

The credits go on for a surprisingly long time, with lots of stock footage of nuclear explosions. It’s strangely relaxing, what with the soprano doing her scales and the funky colour scheme. It has a strangely anaesthetic effect, and may in fact prove to be a cheaper way of putting people under than propofol.

The first thing you get is a disembodied voice describing how mankind tried to avoid a nuclear war but were unsuccessful… no-one’s fault, really…. a nuclear war that was ‘…short…. lasted about 48 hours….’ which is about as long as this monologue, then.

The upshot is that there are so few people left in the world they look to robots to make up the difference. Which mightn’t be so bad if it wasn’t 1962.

Still the monologue goes on. Now it’s describing the first attempt at electronic brains (shows a picture of what looks like a console at a freight depot). Apparently they needed large buildings to house them. And large hats.

A big step was a neuron replicator, the voice says, showing a picture of what is clearly a golf ball.

I beg your pardon. They’re using the golf ball for scale. Awks.

Things go well and they get the first R1 robot. Cut to what looks like a giant silver vibrator with arms and legs. ‘Quite ungainly …. its functions were limited’. Yep. Been there.

‘Refinements came in rapid succession….’ showing a guy dressed in cardboard boxes… looks happy though.

Soon they had the R20 – ‘capable of all the thought processes and functions of a man…’ showing another guy in boxes and giant flower pots turning to the right then the left. Which I’ll admit is pretty much your average guy.

Honestly – you have to see this film just for the robots. They’re adorable.

Finally we get the R21 – a major leap from the R20 – being basically anyone from Kraftwerk.

They’re disparagingly called ‘The Clickers’. Which I’ll admit would be hurtful (if you had the hurtful update downloaded).

Into the action proper. Two clickers – sorry, R21s – are strolling through a futuristic plaza. They get stopped by two guards who want to see their assignment cards. The first R21 looks quite easy about it. Probably happens all the time. Apparently they’re on their way to the temple to get recharged. The guards are mean – say they’ll keep them there till they run out of power. The first R21 says he’ll report them to the police, which convinces them to let them go. Politically quite edgy so far.

Apparently the guards are representatives of the Order of Flesh and Blood – which, going by their sexist and racist attitudes so far, means that post-apocalyptic society is no better than the pre, and cause for more despair.

Inside the temple, a bunch of R21s stand around saying how long all this is going to take, asking about the new R21, where he came from &c – the whole scene hyper-coloured and stilted – which is maybe why Andy Warhol loved it so much.

The extremely robotic acting reminds me of some productions I’ve been in. At school I was Guenelon in Tristan & Isolde. When Tristan jumped out the window I had to go over there and say the line ‘300 feet!’ I think I performed that role pretty much as an R21.

More R21s emerge from some lifted perspex tubes. One of them almost falls over. Which is either great method acting or general klutziness, or both.

An R21 that’s been made up to look like a human is brought in. ‘The structure is excellent!’ says the head R21. I’m glad something is. Honestly – this film is only eight minutes in and I’m already thinking nuclear war mightn’t be such a bad thing.

‘He needs a little more hair,’ says the R21. Ouch.

The way he slowly puts his hand up and says ‘he needs a mole behind the left ear’ is very creepy. But also extremely dull, at the same time. Which is a strange combo, and almost lethal.

I think one of the drawbacks is that they’ve decided robots would speak & move slowly. Which means the film does the same thing. If the technology’s there to make humanoid robots, surely it could cope with a little more action? Just saying.

Apparently the robot who needs more hair and a mole behind his ear is an R34 – with no fear circuits. (Hopefully he got the ‘move & talk a bit quicker’ upgrade, too).

One of the R21s gives a cute little speech about how much the R34 will be giving up, being more human. I don’t know why he’s so arch about it. Anyway, he says once it’s done they’ll have ‘10 males and 6 females’. And the females will get paid less.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not, whatever you do, watch this film. A bunch of robots standing around talking about humans and other robots, who can do this or that, who can’t, pressure groups, blah blah. One of the R21s tucks his ridiculous thumbs into his belt, like he’s going to do some line dancing or something. No such luck. On they blather about the way things are in robot world. It’s like an anti-film. The opposite of drama. Nil interest. No WONDER Warhol went for it.

‘We’re filling key positions with R96s as fast as we get them.’ True story.

‘By the end of the month we will outnumber the humans.’ The big closing line of this interminable scene.

…. and we’re back to people walking pointlessly in the futuristic plaza. I’m SOoooo tempted to skip forwards. My life is worth more than this. AND I’m hungry.

The R21 is walking with the R34. They stop outside a door. The R21 knocks. They step back. The door opens.

‘Yes?’ says a voice.

Honestly – I can’t believe how dreadful this is. I always thought I’d be able to withstand a certain amount of torture. I have cold showers. I can sit in a chair and stare at a wall for literally MINUTES. But THIS? Whatever it is you want to know, I’ll tell you. I’ll even make something up. But please God make this stop….

‘Dr Raven?’ says the R21.
‘Yes’ says Dr Raven.

Jesus Christ.

Anyway, we know that Dr Raven is played by Don Doolittle. It’s so tempting to say Dr Doolittle. But it’s not. It’s Dr Raven, played by Don Doolittle. I am now becoming a robot. Observe how I type these comments, and pause as I review the action. I use the alt-tab function to flip between windows. I am efficiently using my time in this way. Thank you.

Hold the phone! Dr Raven looks amaven. I mean, amazing. He looks like a cross between John Malkovich and Patrick Magee. With Christopher Lloyd’s hair. In a dirty lab coat. Fantastic! Worth the price of admission (not).

I particularly like the way Dr Raven (Don Doolittle) comes out of the doorway to show off his costume. He obviously took a while over it in makeup. Great work, Doolittle! Nice.

Dr Raven has a slight limp, which may or may not be part of his character. In the foreground of his laboratory is a human skeleton on a pole, which is totally how I feel right now.

On Dr Raven’s workbench is an arm and a giant stick of celery. The arm is a real arm poked through the worktop. When the R21 tells Dr Raven to reverse the polarity (always worth a shot) the arm moves. They all watch it judder, clench its fist and so on. I’d love it to flip them the bird.

The giant celery turns out to be some green cloth that Dr Raven uses to cover up the arm (for some reason). Dr Raven pays the R21 for bringing the R34 to his lab. 10,000 credits. Which seems cheap, but shrug

Oh – apparently this robot is an R58 (the one paying Dr Raven 10,000 credits). Keep up.

‘….perhaps we should hurry,’ says the R58. Yes. Perhaps we should (my finger poised over the ESC button).

Actually, the R58 pronounces it ‘row-buts’ when he talks about robots. Maybe I’ve been saying it wrong all these years. It’s not important. Nothing is important anymore.

Dr Raven gets the R34 on his bench and starts fiddling with it (less exciting than it sounds – especially as you only have a close-up on his pointy face, frowning and saying he doesn’t like the sight of blood).

I can’t imagine who this film was supposed to appeal to (other than graphic artists on LSD). There is no action WHATSOEVER. The whole thing is dialogue, talking about things – things that aren’t even interesting to begin with. I’m guessing the budget must have been somewhere around ten dollars – four of that for Dr Raven’s prosthetic chin. It’s utterly hopeless. My circuits are imploding. I’m feeling something you humans would call IMPOTENT RAGE. Soon I will burn out, and become as nothing.

‘Men hate what they fear…’ says Dr Raven. Well, that may be true, doc, but they also hate films WHERE NOTHING HAPPENS. The Creation of the Humanoids? More like haemorrhoids.

There’s some pretty zippy dialogue between Dr Raven and the R58.
‘We don’t refer to our father and mother as a brain’
‘Your father and mother’s an electronic computer!’
‘Your parents were machines’
‘You came off a production line’
‘I know who created me. Hollister Evans and Mark 47. You have to accept your creator on faith…’
‘Who created your creator…?’

Honestly, this is gold.

Okay – I HAVE to skip forward. For my mental health. I can only apologise and say it’s beyond my capability as a C59 to assimilate this bunch of crap. I’ll skip five minutes ahead each time and describe the scene. I’m sure Warhol would approve.

22:44 The R34 is strangling Dr Raven whilst there’s angry knocking at the door. Generally I approve of this development. Should’ve happened earlier.

25:07 The main guard is giving some kind of speech (no shit), uplit like someone’s holding a torch under his chin.

29:13 He’s joined on stage by two other people. One of them says that ‘mankind is no more than a state of mind’. As states of mind go, mine just went.

34:39 The main guard is talking to another guard about how expensive something is. I’m guessing the scriptwriter had money on the brain. Maybe if I had the emotional wherewithal to sift through this stuff more carefully, I’d find subliminal messaging about how little scriptwriters get paid, the value of human labour and so on. But the truth is, I don’t care one way or the other.

40:12 An R58 (I think) is serving tiny glasses of wine to the main guard and a woman in a fifties ball gown, sitting on some patio furniture spray-painted to look futuristic.
‘I don’t understand you, Craigus’ says the row-butler.
‘You’re not supposed to’ says Craigus.
Meow.

48:34 (which is more than five minutes, I know, but c’mon – I’m only human). Craigus (as we now know to call him) is drinking more wine on the same shitty furniture, this time with a woman dressed like Tippi Hedren in Vertigo or something. The woman in the ballgown is sitting a little way off now.
‘I understand’ she says.
‘See what I mean?’ says Craigus.

58:39 Craigus is sitting in front of a big potted plant, so that the leaves poke out all around him, which is nice. He’s talking to a woman in a beret (who I recognise from the plaza earlier on in the film, but didn’t mention because I didn’t think it would be this important).
‘From now on, Rule One can no longer exist’ says Craigus.
She sighs and stands up.
‘Are you always so gloomy?’ she says.

Yes. I can say with robotic accuracy – he IS always this gloomy. The only one with even the slightest amount of fun was Dr Raven, and he’s dead. DEAD, I TELL YOU!

1:03:43 Back to the Kraftwerk lineup. One of them presses a button. In walks ….
‘I’m Dr Raven. A younger Dr Raven, as you promised…’

Whaaaaaaaat?

I’m still skipping forward, though. It’s too little, too late, I’m afraid.

1:13 The young Dr Raven is talking to Craigus.
‘You died,’ he says.
‘I….died?’ says Craigus.

I think the scriptwriter was SO pleased with this concept he HAD to use it again.

1:18:16 Close-up of the young Dr Raven. I can’t wait to un-pause the frame and see what he has to say. He looks so dashing, and .. well… fresh.
‘When I perfected this thalamic transplant technique, these clickers knew about it in a day and a half….’

Oh. Okay.

1: 21:15 Craigus has both hands on the shoulders of the woman in the beret, whilst an R whatever looks skyward and Dr Raven looks, well… like Dr Raven.
‘I love him very much,’ says the beret woman.
Who she means I’ll never know. And I’m happy with that.

1:23:41 The closing moments of the film. Dr Raven is pleased (me, too). I wonder what his last words will be?

Craigus is with the beret woman.
‘A pretty sloppy way of doing business,’ says Dr Raven. ‘But it fulfills a certain psychological need.’
‘Paradoxical, isn’t it?’ says Craigus. ‘I spend my life seeking immortality on one hand…. seeking to destroy it on the other.’
‘I love you Craigus’ says the beret woman.
Dr Raven does a direct-to-camera address.
‘Of course, the operation was a success,’ he says. ‘Or you wouldn’t be here…’

Soprano practicing scales in the bathroom.

The End.

And that’s it!
So what’ve I learned?

  1. Andy Warhol looks a scream, hang him on my wa…aaaa..alll
  2. Nuclear war must be avoided at all costs otherwise we’ll find ourselves in a world of excruciating inaction
  3. 10,000 credits is about average for a row-but
  4. If you’re having trouble with your row-but, try turning it off and on again. Or reversing the polarity.
  5. For best acoustic effects, why not practice your soprano scales in the bathroom?

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