Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bruce Sterling and robot "found footage"


I hope that you have already read about my consulting gig.

It’s non-paying of course, but that suits me.  As the link above demonstrates, I am volunteering as a “creative consultant” to my good friend Bernard as he heads up a high school production of R.U.R., the play in which the word “robot” was first coined.

Now, thanks to Bruce Sterling and his blog Beyond the Beyond over at Wired, I have learned that there was yet another opus dealing with robots produced in Europe…and only one year after R.U.R.  Instead of a play, this was an actual film entitled L’Uomo Meccanico or “The Mechanical Man” in Italian.  It, along with R.U.R., marks the first in a very long line of productions dealing with metallic, killer robots.  In fact, the meme survives into a cumulus to this very day.

Interestingly enough, only about 40% of the original film survives and it was found in an archive in Brazil.  Bruce Sterling posts the footage in its entirety on Beyond the Beyond.  Don’t have the patience to sit through the entire 26 minutes?  And once you start, are you thinking it’s too disjointed and abstract?  Fine.  Sterling has gone through and pointed out the highlights for you.  The man has been a scholar and a gentleman for your lazy ass.

1:34 The first onscreen appearance of L’Uomo Meccanico, the Mechanical Man.
12:04 Uomo Meccanico, who is about nine feet tall, busts into a cocktail party by bashing in some glass patio doors with his colossal iron arm.
My Note: The shot of Uomo Meccanico with darkness in the foreground save for the glowing eyes is really rather impressive, especially considering what the creators had to work with at the time.
12:34 Uomo Meccanico traps a victim inside a wooden wardrobe and carries him off to be thrown from a castle tower.
12:45 Uomo Meccanico bashes his way straight through a brick wall.
14:49 Uomo Meccanico busts headlong into lady’s private boudoir and rips her safe out of the wall of her home.
15:50 Bullets bounce off him.

There’s even a car chase.  Err…a car being chased by Uomo Meccanio.   Crude special effects give the robot its speed, but again it’s impressive for the times.  It’s not like I know how to do that with today’s tech.

I really like the "Golden Age" design of the robot.  It was a critical choice to make, furthering separating it from the androids in R.U.R.   I'm wondering how Bernard and I could fit a mechanical-looking 'bot into the play.  Doesn't look like it would be too tough to take lightweight metal or even cardboard and give the material a "riveted" look.  More to the point, I'll have to see if it would even fit the script.

Much to do...much to do...


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