Also known as: L’uomo meccanico (original Italian title)
Release Date: November, 1921 (Italy)
Directed by: André Deed
Cast: André Deed, Giulia Costa, Gabriel Moreau, Mathilde Lambert
Milano Film, 80 Minutes, 26 Minutes (surviving footage)
Most of this movie has been lost to the sands of time.
26 minutes have survived and instead of fan made trailers or clips, I put a video featuring all the remaining footage at the bottom of this review.
What gives this film a unique place in motion picture history is that it was one of the very first science fiction movies from Italy and it was the first film in the world to feature a battle between robots.
The entire film was considered lost for decades but some reels of the Portugese version were found. These were eventually combined into the 26 minute cut that can be seen today.
This film’s director (and lead actor) had experience in slapstick comedy, so he brought that into this picture. Now his skills aren’t quite on the level of the greats like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton but he still brought a certain energy to the production.
The story revolves around a scientist who has made a remote control robot. This robot, as would become a sci-fi trope, possessed superhuman strength and speed. Some criminals end up killing the scientist in an effort to steal his robot making secrets. They are caught but eventually, the gang leader gets out and kidnaps the scientist’s niece, forcing her to give up the blueprints. The robot is then used for crime and even commits murder. However, the scientist’s brother creates a second robot to face off with the now evil one. The big robot battle takes place in an opera house.
While the film isn’t superb, I like it a lot because of the premise, which was pretty far ahead of its time. Also, the special effects for 1921 are top notch. For this era, this really is a blockbuster.
Nowadays, this movie is in the public domain. So you can easily find it online (see the video below) or find cheap copies of it on DVD.
Pairs well with: other silent films like 1922’s The Headless Horseman, 1910’s Frankenstein and 1918’s The Ghost of Slumber Mountain.