I Cannot, Yet I Must: The True Story of the Best Bad Monster Movie of All Time
by Anders Runestad
Published by Radiosonde Books, 2015. 680 Pages.
“I cannot – yet I must. How do you calculate that?
At what point on the graph do “must” and “cannot” meet? Yet I must – but I cannot!”
I dont think that there has been any greater line of dialogue spoken in movie history than the above quote. Okay…so maybe I’m wrong, but to me, that is just pure gold.
It is hard to believe that there would be someone out there who felt compelled enough to not only write a book on the infamous turkey day movie, Robot Monster, but that this massive volume would hit almost 700 pages! But author Runestad did just that. But let me point out right from the beginning, this book isn’t just about this particular movie, but about the people behind it as well, especially director Phil Tucker, giving us a pages and pages of information on their other work too. It boggles my mind at how much time and effort Runestad must have spent doing research for this project, especially since he knew this wouldn’t be topping the New York Times’ Best Sellers list. I think this just shows the kind of passion that he has for the film and director Tucker as well, really wanting to shed some light on this man. For that, I can’t give him credit enough. What he gives us here is so much information about the movie, Tucker, the actors, producers, as well as a good look at what the bottom of the basement style of filmmaking was. During these tales, we get to hear from actors like Claudia Barrett, Gregory Moffett, as well as George Barrows, who played the alien invader himself, Ro-Man!
Runestad goes into a lot of details about Tucker’s other films (yes, he made more than just Robot Monster), such as Dance Hall Racket (1953), Stardust in Your Eyes (1953), Bagdad After Midnight (1954), and the rest of the films that he was involved with. With the cooperation of Tucker’s son, we really get an incredible insight to this man who just wanted to be in the film business. You’ll learn more details about this man, including his “attempted suicide(s)”, as well as just how hard he worked at getting a film together….or at least tried to get one together.
We also get to learn more about Wyott Ordung, who may or may not have written Tucker’s space epic, depending on who story you believe. But we learn about his involvement in the film business, such as directing the first movie Roger Corman ever produced, The Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), as well as other titles in his small career. We find out quite a bit of detail about producer Al Zimbalist, who didn’t seem like the most trustworthy character in Hollywood back then, but I’m sure there were plenty like him. But these are just the tip of the people you will learn about, including Tucker’s connection with bad-boy comedian Lenny Bruce.
With the help of Harry Medved and an unused (for the most part) interview with Tucker, as well as using some of the many interviews from Tom Weaver that he’s done over the years, we get one hell of a history lesson. Runestad also points out the influence and impact this movie had on other filmmakers and fans, such as Joe Dante, who recalls finding the movie “surreal and scarifyingly bleak, especially in its total destruction of the family unit”. Dante would also give a cameo to Ro-Man in his film Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Sure, this movie might always be making a list of “Worst Films” and “Turkeys”, but I’ve always said that at least it is being remembered. There are a ton of films out there that have completely gone by the wayside.
Besides all that…I still think it is a damn entertaining film. So logically then, it can’t be that bad, right? For the price, it is more than worth every penny. You cannot deny the urge! You Must!