Friday, September 15, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Tobor the Great (1954) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

TOBOR THE GREAT (1954) is an entertaining sci-fi film just released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

Tobor ("robot" spelled backwards) is the creation of Professor Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes), who has designed a robot capable of participating in space exploration, protecting human lives from being at risk.  Tobor can be remotely controlled not only by mechanical devices but telepathically.

Dr. Ralph Harrison (Charles Drake) has just quit the U.S. space exploration department to protest lives being risked. He visits the professor to learn about his creation, and he also meets the professor's widowed daughter Janice (Karin Booth) and her son Gadge (Billy Chapin). It appears likely Dr. Harrison will soon have a ready-made family!

A foreign spy (Steven Geray) and his henchmen kidnap the professor and Gadge to get their hands on the "Tobor" plans, but they're not counting on Tobor coming to the rescue...

TOBOR THE GREAT is a fun little movie which runs a quick 77 minutes. It's a bit cheesy, insofar as it has fairly low production values and earnest yet not very good performances; somehow the viewer is always aware they're actors saying lines. At the same time, the movie's slight creakiness is part of its charm, and I had a good time watching it. I suspect other fans of '50s sci-fi will enjoy it as well, especially if they go into it not expecting a genre classic.

Favorite moments included location shots of the exterior of the Griffith Observatory and the appearance of William Schallert as a reporter. Schallert turns up in many '50s sci-fi films, and his appearance thus gives the movie a pleasing connection to other films in the genre such as THEM! (1954) and THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1957).

Fans will also enjoy Lyle Talbot popping up as a general in the closing scenes; it seems as though no part was too small for Talbot in the '50s, but it's to the film's benefit as he quickly gives his part a (slightly pompous) stamp of authority.

The climax of the film was shot at Iverson Ranch, a Southern California location which turns up in countless films. I wrote a little about Iverson last November; scroll down toward the end for the info and photos. I think the next-to-last photo in my Iverson post may have been taken at the same spot as in the TOBOR still at the right.

Amusingly, there's nothing in the film like the scene used on posters with the robot carrying a beautiful woman. Tobor does carry the little boy at the end of the movie, though!

TOBOR THE GREAT was directed by Lee Sholem and filmed in black and white by John L. Russell.

The Kino Blu-ray is a nice crisp print of a film shot in straightforward fashion, with nothing especially notable or flashy about the film's look.

Extras include a sci-fi trailer gallery and an informative audio commentary by Richard Harland Smith. Smith shared many interesting factoids, including information on stock and special effects footage and trivia such as that the film was originally rumored to star sci-fi stalwart Richard Carlson. I thought it was an especially good commentary track.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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