3D Blu-ray slight return: Killer robot edition
It wasn’t even 100 years ago that the term “robot” was coined. Hats off to Czech playwright Karel Capek and his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which premiered in January of 1921.
Flash-forward to 1952 and the second wave of 3D moviemaking caught filmmaker’s fancy. For the next couple of years films of all genres were made in 3D, from John Wayne movies (Hondo) to killer robots. The latter subject was main plot of Gog, made at the end of the ‘50s 3D cycle and basically buried upon release and not seen in its pristine 3D form until now.
Gog 3D (3/1, Kino Lorber) was produced by Ivan Tors who was known for his sense of scientific accuracy in his productions. Of course even the most fastidious modern sci-fiers like Apollo 13 or Gravity or The Martian will have detractors that point out how this or that couldn’t happen. Previously Tors had made similarly themed atomic generation tales of wonder The Magnetic Monster (1953) and Riders to the Stars (1954) and all three films constitute a trilogy known as the Office of Scientific Investigation. During this period Tors also was the showrunner for the television series Science Fiction Theatre.
The 3D process gives Gog a very deep look. Every scene has its layers and the bright colors used for costumes only add to the sense that things are popping out of the screen and into your eyes. The cameras used for the 3D effects are different that one used for contemporary films and subsequently the look is divergent. Watching Gog I never felt that sense of staring into a forced perspective like modern 3D so much as being thrust into the space that the characters, and robots, inhabit.
A group of scientists are planning space travel research from an underground laboratory. When an accident occurs the investigators come up against the mind of a supercomputer (NOVAC) and its robots Gog and Magog that really seem to run the secret base. Destruction with a camp sensibility ensues. Richard Egan and Constance Dowling (who later married Tors) star. Themes are played out that would become a staple in later sci-fi movies from Colossus: The Forbin Project to The Andromeda Strain to The Terminator.
Extras are superb and include audio commentary by film historians Tom Weaver, Bob Furmanek and David Schecter. At one point they mention that actor William Shallert makes his first appearance in a sci-fi film here but Shallert also co-stared in The Man From Planet X, a cult classic helmed by Edgar G. Ulmer from 1951. There’s also an excellent interview with the director Herbert Strock as well as a 20-minute featurette with Natural Vision 3D co-creator (also the director of photography on Gog) Lothrop Worth that contains as much lore about Hollywood as you can cram into a reel.
As for Gog the robot, the mechanical fury moves around more like one of those automated vacuum cleaners than a humanoid C-3PO. And that fact alone moves Gog a few notches up on the essential viewing list.
— Michael Bergeron