GIBEL SENSATSII - "The Robots Of Ripley" - (Loss Of Feeling) (1935)
Greg Goodsell here! It's 1936 -- all the promises of a "Worker's Paradise" in Russia has gone down the porcelain convenience as the entire globe is gripped in the Great Depression! People are going hungry and morale is at an all-time low. What to do? Well comrades, the thing to do is to rush out a bit of agit-prop that combines science-fiction and melodrama into a project called THE ROBOTS OF RIPLEY in order to placate the proletariat!
Yes, the fine folks at Sinister Cinema have made this long-forgotten Russian sci-fantasy film available to the English-speaking peoples of the world for the first time! But as we shall soon see, there are some issues to be found with this presentation -- with all apologies to Mr. Greg J. Luce.
NOW -- here is the problem I have with this version of the film: there are no subtitles, but merely inter-titles such as these that vaguely explain away the film's action! How half-assed can you get? On the other hand -- since the majority of this film's dialogue is long, dry, political diatribes, maybe that's a good thing!
It's Russia in an indeterminate near-future, and factory workers are at their wit's end! In a bit of interesting set design, in lieu of the expected assembly lines as invented by that capitalist exploiter Henry Ford, the workers in this film work on spinning Lazy Susans! As expected, they get dizzy pretty darn quick and productivity suffers!
A little mechanical assist is needed … The gentleman at the extreme left is our erstwhile inventor, Ripley! Playing a most American musical instrument, Ripley controls his army of mechanical men with hot jazz riffs!
And here is the big boy! Ripley's robots are about one-and-a-half stories tall and emit a sound like a lawn mower going over gravel! They're UGLY and NOISY things!
Music soothes the savage automaton!
A machine of many talents, this robotic prototype entertains the capitalists with a version of the Hawaiian hula dance!
Indeed, while speaking out against capitalistic decadence, there are a lot of nightclub scenes in ROBOTS OF RIPLEY -- almost as many as in a Jess Franco film! There seems to have been a bit of Weimar Berlin going on in Moscow at this time! Sure beats community sing-alongs and conversations revolving around tractors, I guess --
OOoooops! I take that back! As this hideous little homunculus proffered by a nightclub vendor proves that there was a lot of surrealistic art going on at this time as well! The Nazis, up and running at the time this film was made would have snatched this puppet out of the vendor's arms and thrown it into a bonfire, a foremost example of "degenerative art!"
It wasn’t always this way. Ripley first introduced his mechanical men with this cute little prototype to meet with labor's approval at the worker's colony. Since this is a communist film, the workers are SUPPOSED to be the good guys – but I don’t know --
This tiny robot dances merrily and knows his way around a sewing machine. The Forces of Labor react with great anger -- this robot will take away jobs from humans who toil for 12 hours a day without rest for 15 cents an hour! NYET! they say, and send the cute little feller tumbling to the ground, whereupon he breaks into a million pieces.
Poor little prototype robot, thrown to the floor by the forces of labor!
So they up and squeeze in another nightclub scene. Hey, where else are we going to fit in some music, pretty girls and long legs to hold the audience's attention?
The Russian version of Joel Grey exhorts his countrymen to drunken excess and debauchery!
Ripley addresses his troops after dark after a riotous night on the town!
Soused to the gills, Ripley leads his robotic army in a surrealistic dance -- Cue The Music!
Here we go! A very important part of the plot -- a telegram -- is presented in Russian, with NO subtitles! GRRRRRRRR.
A giant worker robot is introduced to a member of the general public -- aaaaaaaaand it doesn't end well. No, it doesn't.
HOOOO-kay, here is where things get a little weird. In perhaps a nod to Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1925), the wicked greedy capitalists now send out the robots to destroy the worker's colony! The question, as in Lang's film is -- WHY? So they can destroy the infrastructure which has ensconced the bad guys in luxury all these years? Please 'splain.
Ripley tries to turn back the tide -- but his sax is broken and he gets trampled by his army of automatons! AAAAAH!
Yup yup yup. This is what happens next. The robots trounce all the capitalist pig dogs and the world is left in chaos, in much the same way as the Bolshevik Revolution did way back when. But seriously folks, 14 years into the 21st century and the issues surrounding labor and management remain highly complex ones, not served by the simplistic cowboys-with-white-hats versus the cowboys-with-black-hats arguments as proffered here. Back to the drawing board, comrades! This is Greg Goodsell -- signing out.