The Creation of the Humanoids has ideas bigger than its script.
One of Andy Warhol’s favourite films, according to [source].
This morning I caught this article by Christopher Campbell at FilmSchoolRejects, recommending 12 films to watch after seeing Ghost in the Shell. I still haven’t seen the remake yet, and only just saw the anime a few days ago. But one particular film title on the list caught my eye: 1962’s The Creation of the Humanoids.
In the movie, a nuclear war has wiped out most of humanity, and radiation is causing birth rates to drop rapidly. We’ve invented intelligent robots to handle most of the hard labour — through multiple iterations they’ve been slowly designed to look more and more like us. Something which an organisation called the Order of Flesh and Blood is opposed to. They fear a robot uprising and would prefer it if robots stayed robots, thank you very much.
A robot is discovered that looks and acts EXACTLY like a human. It’s then discovered that a scientist has experimented with transferring a person’s consciousness over to a robot body — the person, now a human-like robot, is completely unaware that anything has happened. Who’s a robot? Is he a robot? Is she a robot? Am I a robot? And is it the only way to truly save humanity as we sink towards extinction?
The Creation of the Humanoids is classic cheap 60’s sci-fi where most of the time is spent standing around in small cardboard-walled sets talking. It’s funny when you compare this to something like 1964’s The Earth Dies Screaming, which is vibrant and action-packed compared to this.
Production is laughable, even from the perspective of science fiction in the early sixties. The sets themselves are just… sets. Barely more elaborate than theatre sets, with the occasional table to really jazz things up. And the costumes are right out of the least imaginative episodes of Star Trek.
On top of that, the actual performances and dialogue are tedious. There’s no… drive, no excitement to anything delivered. When one of our characters discovers that he is in fact a “robit” not a human, he reacts like he’s just found out that he’s got nits or something. Mildly perturbed and curious, but no existential crisis. While the ideas in the movie are very interesting, they’re very. Slowly. Explored. Which kind of works for the silvery robots themselves, but not for the paranoid humans.
But the ideas themselves are thought provoking and are a clear influence on later sci-fi properties. What makes a person a human? What about the soul? This is discussed (at great, sloooooow length) in the climax of the film. Does a person with an amputated leg lose part of their soul, a robot asks? No of course not, they just get a prosthetic leg. Well, a person in a robot body simply has a prosthetic body then. It’s an elegant way of explaining the idea.
There’s nuclear war. There’s the idea that one day, humanity might make an AI so intelligent that it knows what’s better for us more than we do. There are even some themes bubbling around about racial prejudice — the robots are derogatorily called “Clickers” and the “Order of Flesh and Blood” has clear parallels to real life, racist, fascist organisations. Considering that this movie was released in 1962 (the Civil Rights Act had not yet passed) the movie deserves some recognition.
It’s one of those movies where the movie itself isn’t all that great, but the ideas in it are powerful enough to stick in the brain and inspire later filmmakers. Well worth a gander, but for everyone except Andy Warhol, it probably won’t make your Top 10. Though the movies it inspired just might.