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Tobor the Great

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1954). Dudley Pictures Corporation. Produced by Richard Goldstone. Directed by Lee Sholem. Written by Philip MacDonald from a story by Carl Dudley. Tobor designed by Robert Kinoshita. Cast includes Karin Booth (Janice Roberts), Billy Chapin, Charles Drake, Steven Geray, Taylor Holmes and J Lewis Smith (uncredited). 77 minutes. Black and white.

The US government wants to attempt manned Space Flight, but Dr Ralph Harrison (Drake) feels it is too early and resigns in protest from a thinly disguised NASA. Professor Arnold Nordstrom (Holmes) has come up with a seemingly perfect answer, Robot astronauts to make the first voyages: the subtly named Tobor (Smith) is the first of these, a powerful Machine (with some measure of human emotion) which can be controlled from a distance by Telepathy. Nordstrom's grandson Brian "Gadge" Roberts (Chapin) discovers the robot on a visit. Wise beyond his years, Gadge soon gains the ability to communicate with and to some degree control Tobor despite being forbidden to have contact with the machine after a dangerous first encounter. Foreign spies working for an unnamed but obvious Communist power learn of Tobor's existence: the spymaster (Geray) and his henchmen and soon steal the robot, at the same time endangering Gadge. When Nordstrom secretly activates the robot's psychic communication link, help soon arrives at the spies' hide-out and Tobor – once operating normally again – makes quick work of the Villains. Finally the robot leaves aboard a Rocket at the end – apparently on a one-way voyage, to Gadge's sorrow – but it is implied that more robot pilots are on the way.

This film is fairly routine, though it has a somewhat downbeat ending for an sf film aimed primarily at the juvenile market. The robot's creator Kinoshita later designed Robby the Robot for Forbidden Planet (1956), and the robot in the infamous Irwin Allen television series Lost in Space (1964-1967). [GSt]


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