Russian born Eugène Lourié had a long prosperous career as an art director as well as director, working in cinema since his time in France in the 1930s. Arriving in Hollywood in the 1940s, Lourié would become a household name among sci-fi movie devotees, becoming associated with his direction on a series of now-classic giant monster epics: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959) and GORGO (1961), the latter two which were produced in Great Britain. Lourié’s other genre directorial effort doesn’t quite deal with a four-legged reptile of mammoth proportions, but it's a notable smaller-scaled Frankensteinian story for the Atomic Age.
Dr. Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin, “The Wild Wild West”) is a brilliant 34-year-old scientist who has just been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on stopping world hunger. After landing back from Stockholm at Idlewild Airport, a freak car accident causes his premature death. As Jeremy’s father Dr. William Spensser (Otto Kruger, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER) is also a brilliant scientist, he’s constructed a 7-foot tall fully automated robotic shell just waiting for a human brain to harbor it. With the help of his other son, Henry (John Baragrey, GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE), Dr. William transplants the brain of Jeremy into said robotic shell, and he is alive once again, at least in mind.
Unbeknownst to his grieving wife Anne (Mala Powers, THE UNKNOWN TERROR), as well as his little boy Billy (Charles Herbert), Jeremy is now existing as a brain inside his father’s creation, a too-tall android with an unearthly voice, a circular cranium, bulb eyes, an expressionless fabricated face and brace-like hand and leg apparatuses that no doubt cause frequent clunking noises. The Colossus may have Jeremy’s mind, but certainly not his humanitarian soul and the sub-human powers that he possesses (foretelling the future, mind control, walking underwater, laser zapping from his eye sockets) are used for the absolute worst. First the Colossus controls the mind of his father, and then he has sights on destroying his brother in a fit of jealousy (Henry and Anne are now romantically involved), but it’s a climatic U.N. meeting in Manhattan where he’ll cause the most havoc!
With its though-provoking intentions, THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK is one of those flicks that has its fair share of admirers (those who saw it as a kid when it was first released, or later on television), as well as those who don’t see what all the fuss is about, but if you’re a fan of 1950s monster movies, you’ll find this one irresistible. Shot with an obvious shoestring budget (though released by a major studio… Paramount), the Colossus of the title is still one of the most memorable cinematic fantasy creatures of its decade (looking to be inspired by Karloff’s Frankenstein monster and possibly the robot in METROPOLIS), and its various abilities allow for some impressive (for the time) special effects and boisterous doohickey sound effects. New York is for the most part represented by typical Hollywood sets and unconvincing rear projection shots, and the exterior of the Spensser family estate is stock footage from some other movie.
The Colossus is played by 7-foot tall Ed Wolff, who years earlier played an awkward robot opposite Bela Lugosi in THE PHANTOM CREEPS serial, and also played the big-headed insect in RETURN OF THE FLY, as well as an alien mutant in INVADERS FROM MARS. Charles Herbert was one of the most popular child actors of the time, probably best known to horror fans for his role opposite Vincent Price in THE FLY, and he also starred in William Castle’s enjoyable 13 GHOSTS and Bert I. Gordon’s charming THE BOY AND THE PIRATES. Robert Hutton also appears, but as is the case with most of the numerous B movies he had supporting parts in, he really offers nothing to the film. The piano score by Van Cleave is both unusual and haunting, especially during the tense scenes between creation and creator/father.
Languishing in the Paramount vaults for ages, THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK has never been released on home video (even though it’s been an frequently requested title) and has hardly been seen over the last 20 years, except for a few TV airings here and there. Olive Films comes to the rescue by licensing it from Paramount, presenting it in on DVD in a beautiful 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The well-detailed black and white image appears clean and extremely sharp, with very little in the way of speckling or debris, so anyone who has waited ages for this to finally be released will be more than pleased. As for audio, the original English mono track is crisp and free of any noticeable distortion. (George R. Reis)
BACK TO REVIEWS