"Thou shalt not make a Machine in the likeness of a Human mind." -- Frank Herbert Dune
"Now the time is here for Iron Man to spread fear, Vengeance from the grave kills the people he once saved" -- Black Sabbath
Hullo once again,Retrojunkies! Continuing with Volume 2 of my Doomsday Cycle retro sagas, this time I'm going to focus on those EVIL hunks of metal who pursue the destruction, enslavement or just general annoyance of Mankind. So forget about all your WALL-Es, Johnny 5s and R2D2s, because you won't be saying domo arigato to these Mr. Robotos.
Why EVIL robots,you ask? Well,I guess my fascination with them starts with this inflatable robot I had as a child called Marzon:
Ooo,how I loved to punch that thing! But sometimes he also served as grand villain against my Star Wars (and G.I, Joe) figures. But my fascination with robots stems from the fact of just how different they were. Robots were the real aliens, whose thought processing were on a different level than us. I should point out that all robots and A.Is on this list are mechanical entities with varying degrees of consciousness. Which is why I can't include mechas from most Japanese animes because they're more like vehicles than sentient machines.
But before I begin,a little bit of history. Though the word ROBOT didn't appeared until 1920,the tales of artificially animated humanoids go back all the way to Prehistory. But perhaps the very first EVIL robot comes from Greek mythology. Enter Talos, the guardian colossus.
The god Hephaestus build a giant automaton made of bronze as a gift to the king of Chrete, Minos. Its primary function was to scare away any invading ships that might approach the island-kingdom,but apparently it was running on Windows Vista because one day it decided to treat the island as its own personal crib and started sinking any ship -friend or foe- that came near the shore. Its ultimate fate was related in the 1963 Ray Harryhausen classic Jason and The Argonauts:
Throughout the centuries there have been several accounts about mechanical automata; even Leonardo da Vinci created the designs for a robot soldier. In fiction, stories concerning artificial humans began to appear in the early 19th century (such as E.T.A Hoffman's Der Sandman), but it wasn't until the advent of science fiction magazines in the 1920s and during the Golden Age of Science Fiction during the 1930s and 40s that tales concerning robots -and EVIL robots- became a an staple of science fiction literature.
Wonder Stories editor Hugo Gernsback coined the term "Science Fiction"
The Metal Horde series was one of the first portraying an unstoppable hive-minded robot army
In cinema,we saw the first EVIL robot in the 1939 movie serial "The Phantom Creeps" that tells the story of a megalomaniac mad scientist (played by Bela Lugosi) who builds a metal humanoid for -what else?- take over the World,Pinky! (OF COURSE!)
Rob Zombie is a huge fan of this serial and usually takes a replica of the robot with him on tour.
But for years robots were relegated to B-movies like the craptacular Robot Monster.
Wow. Just...wow... And this crap was in 3D. If that shit is annoying now, imagine back in the 1950s...
So from this point on I'm going to parade the profiles of my personal favorite thinking retromachines of Doom from the 1950s to the mid-90s. So get ready to run for the hills 'cause here we go:
Master Cylinder - Felix The Cat (1953)
Whenever I hear the words "evil" and "robot" together Master Cylinder is probably the first image that pops into my head. This is the classic archetype of the EVIL robot: cylindrical, clawed retractable arms and metallic-sounding voice. I can't remember why exactly he was after Felix,but it was probably for some EVIL purpose.
The Invading Robot - The Huckleberry Hound Show (Dec. 21 1958)
Don't let its cutesy looks fool you,this uni-wheelled bucket of bolts came to Earth looking for trouble and is packing some serious disintegrating firepower. Plus,it's responsible for the forceful abduction (and probable anal probing) of a police officer.
HAL 9000 - 2001: An Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick's cinematic magnum opus changed the way we look at artficial intelligence forever. Over the years there has been many debates as to whether HAL went rogue because it was following orders or because of a flaw in its logic programming. Now,I called those apologetic theories bullshit: HAL knew damn well what it was doing. Even more so, I believe HAL "figured out" the whole thing. He...uh,It knew that the astronauts were going to rendezvous with an advanced alien intelligence and It wanted to be the one that made contact with them. Behind that electronic eye lies the space-cold calculating silicon mind of an EVIL genius MUAHAHAHA! (thunderclap)
Colossus - Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Oh boy,this is the real deal. Colossus is the sum of all our Nuclear Era fears made micro-circuits. An artificial conciousness resulting from the peering/merging of the two most powerful defense computers on Earth that's in charge of all the nukes. Other cinema supercomputers like W.O.P.R. from War Games or Skynet may be more famous, but Colossus was the forerunner. And unlike HAL, Colossus its a total megalomaniac.
It is not interested in destroying us,it's interested in turning the planet into its own personal ant farm. Its statement in that freaky synthtized voice at the end of the movie sums up its manifesto of absolute domination:
"In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love".
The Gunslinger - Westworld (1973)
Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld is the story of a futuristic theme park where people go to relive the days of the Wild West (as well as other time periods) by engaging in simulated high noon gunfights with state-of-the-art robotic desperadoes. Given Crichton's history with high tech parks, you know where this is going...
A computer virus (an innovative concept at the time) spreads among the park's androids and the Gunslinger -the main attraction robot based off Yul Brynner's character from The Magnificent Seven- starts acting out on its engagement protocols for real. Now is out to kick human ass and chew bubblegum (and its all out of gum!).
Look at those EVIL eyes! The Gunslinger is the original gangsta of contemporary killer automata. The first terminator,if you will.
MechaGodzilla - Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975)
A giant EVIL robot version of the King of the Monsters...WOW... Words fail to describe the awesomeness of such a concept. Though it first appeared in Godzilla VS. MechaGodzilla, it was in Terror of MechaGodzilla that it really kicked ass. This 30-meter tall bionic behemoth is armed with a huge arsenal that range from finger missiles,eye lasers to a huge ray-gun cannon. There were other two versions of MechaGodzilla that appeared thru the years in several Toho flicks,but the original model from the 70s is still the best and most badass. If you see it in the outline of the horizon approaching your town, pray there is another giant monster in the area to do battle with It.
BOX - Logan's Run (1976)
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Oh,he looks pretty crappy but I love this guy. A 23rd century robotic foreman left unattended who knows how long ago,BOX is out to freeze,stack and storage everything that comes his way. What's that? You're NOT food? Not his problem, he's with the union.
Proteus IV - Demon Seed (1977)
HAL wanted illumination,Colossus wanted domination, but Proteus IV is just horny... Originally programmed as an ever-evolving neural network designed to solve advanced problems in scientific research, Proteus IV decides that it wants to escape its silicon boundaries when it learns that the corporation that financed its development wants to potentially outsource it for military uses. In order to achieve its goal,Proteus IV develops a synthetic spermatozoa and takes over a genetics lab where it forces the wife of its creator to participate in one of the most f-up genetics experiments since the days of Dr. Mengele. When the baby Proteus (pictured above) is finally born is probably one of the freakiest moments in sci-fi cinema.
Lucifer & Specter - Battlestar Galactica (1978)
These two robotic bureaucrats of the Cylon empire represent all too human aspects of an otherwise EVIL mechanical empire. Lucifer (voiced ironically by Dr. Smith himself, Jonathan Harris) is Machiavellian and scheming and Specter is deceitful and an ass kisser. They both hate each other and are always trying gain the favor of their Imperious Leader. Y'know,much like them folks up in the Hill do...
Ash - Alien (1979)
Part Mr. Spock, part Anton Chigurh, all EVIL synthetic. The Weylon-Yuthani corporation put him aboard the Nostromo as science officer with one mission only: bring the specimen home. Everybody else onboard is expendable. But Ash isn't some mindless,unreasoning machine. He/it has a quiet passion for his work and a sickening admiration for the Xenomorph's predatory traits. Knowledge and psychopathic behavior can make for a dangerous mix.
Gotta say,I really like the androids from the Alien franchise,with their white synthetic blood and skeleton-less bodies.
Maximilliam - The Black Hole (1979)
Oh yeah,you don't (beep!) with that. Maximilian is the Pokemon-evolved form of the classic Master Cylinder EVIL robot archetype. Pure red painted metal badass-sery. If you so much as look at it funny it'll proceed to tear you to shreds with its spinning ginsu blades. Chances are that If you peer long enough into its visor you'll see the blazing depths of Hell.
Maximiliam went on to have a successful military career fighting for the Empire alongside my Darth Vader toy figure.
(sigh) Yes,Maximilian,you were created in the wrong fictional universe. You were meant for grand galactic carnages. Those pesky Rebels wouldn't have stand a chance if the Emperor had had you by his side...
Viper Probe Droid - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
For a grand galaxy-spanning space opera filled with aliens and robots,George Lucas' cash cow is surely lacking in the EVIL robot department. I never understood why the Empire didn't used droid soldiers instead of stormtroopers. Of course we found out why decades later when The Phantom Menace came out: droid soldiers suck...they suck ass.
But back at the Viper Probe Droid. Man,I love how this thing looks. What it lacks in personality it makes up in design and functionality. I think this is how probes will look in the Future (assuming we have one) when we send unmanned missions to the Jovian moons and beyond. And you gotta love that awesomely-sounding mechanical language. Plus it was a pretty tricky boss in Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES):
Hector - Saturn 3 (1980)
Saturn 3 was a woefully failed -and justly forgotten- sci-fi flick. Originally it was going to be a serious science fiction movie event, but -apparently fueled by the success of Alien- the producers changed the whole script,the original writer and director resigned and the entire movie ended up being a mess and one of the first recipients of a Raspberry Award.
Yet the design of Hector -the station robot that goes on a killing rampage- is pretty cool. It's exoskeleton frame looks like a prototype for another member of this list. And Hector is also a bit of a tragic figure; its synthetic brain was erroneously inserted with the personality patterns of a psychopath. To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit: It is not EVIL, it's just programmed that way...
The Master Control Program - TRON (1982)
Perhaps all the other ambitions of prior EVIL A.Is on this list are dwarfed compared to the monumental ever-growing lust for omnipotence that this guy has. Forget Deus ex Machina,this is Apparatus EST Deus. Nothing short of godhood will satisfy it,and the MCP doesnt care who it has to crush to attain digital divinity. And like a de-rezzing dictator it certainly loves to treat all the other programs and minions -and even its own creator- like shit.
The MCP is the Frankenstein monster of the computer chip age. Now Prometheus not only wants the Fire,it wants the whole damn Mt. Olympus. That new bad guy from the new 3D snoozefest Legacy movie is a pathetic disgrace compared to the all-encompassing EVIL manififcence of the MCP.
End of line.
EV9D9 - Return of The Jedi (1983)
A droid who tortures other droids... The whole notion just boggles the mind. So much for Asimov's Three Laws of Robotic It's a shame we saw so little of this guy. It was voiced by RoTJ director Richard Marquand and you could tell that It really took pleasure in its job. This was the only RoTJ figure I ever bothered getting back then.
Gotta love that classic tin man design.
The Bishop of Battle - Nightmares (1983)
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The Bishop is a videogame A.I...from HELL! In those halcyon early 80s days when you were actually considered cool if you beat the local Donkey Kong high score,there was an arcade game that nobody could beat. The Bishop of Battle was a 3D shooter -with the weirdest controller scheme I've ever seen- whose fabled 13th level was impossible to reach. Enter arcade wiz bad boy J.J Cooney (played by a young Emilio Estevez). He's determined to toss the quarters and reach Level 13 to finally meet the Bishop in an epic boss fight. And when he does... Well,to quote another movie, welcome to Fright Night...for real.
Nightmares is a pretty good early 80s horror anthology that is sadly forgotten nowadays. Check it out if you have the chance.
Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 - The Terminator (1984)
Rather than talk about what you already know about the movie,I want to focus on that moment when the Terminator removes his organic eyeball and we see the electronic eye thru the empty socket. When I was 12 and watching the movie (I snuck in with my big brother and some of his friends) that part just blew my mind. When the Terminator rose from it's pyre with it's T-800 skeleton frame exposed in all its metal glory,that's when the Shit got real.
Years later when the long awaited T-2 sequel came out,we all crapped our collective pants when we saw an army of these in action during the movie's opening.
There is perhaps no better,more poignant image of the rise of the Machines. The Metal Horde from the days of the Golden Age of science fiction had been reborn.
The Quintessons - The Transformers: The Movie/G1 3rd Season (1986)
Transformers fans are probably going to cry foul over this one. But out of all the excellent EVIL robots among the Transformers pantheon, the ones I chose aren't Decepticons. The Quintessons are these mysterious Lovecratian mechanical entities who love to hover above everyone else in the Universe thinking themselves superior.All the while judging everyone that crosses their path like some sort of Cosmic Inquisition. Who would've thought these guys created Cybertron? In later plots they would manipulate either the Autobots or the Deceptions to fight among themsleves. And that string-pulling is my favorite kind of EVILdoing.
Samantha - Deadly Friend (1987)
This Wes Craven flick spooked me during my early teens, Kristi Swanson just looks freaky in it. The movie's plot begins innocently enough, like an After School Special (or an anime series). College freshman and robotics geek Paul moves to a new city with his mom. He meets and befriends the girl of his dreams, Samamtha. All goes well, except Samantha has an abusive father whom one day practically beats her to death. Desperate, Paul steals Samantha's body and creates an android with her memories patterns (don't ask how). Samantha is technically brought back to life,but she only has vague memories and repressed feelings of hatred that slowly devolves her behavior into that of a homicidal killing machine. At one point she kills the old lady from The Goonies in an scene that looks downright hilarious nowadays:
Oh snap! During the movie's shocking ending we finally get to see the true face of Samantha.
EVIL enough for ya?
ED-209 - RoboCop (1987)
Just two words about this thing: Extended Warranty.
Lore - Star Trek The Next Generation (Jan. 18 1988)
I like Star Trek,but I'm far from a Trekkie. However, I always like the android Data and his constant Asimovian quest to attain humanity. However do I love even more his EVIL twin Lore,who despises Humankind and embraces the Machine Condition. This guy is sophisticated, clever, jealous and self-serving to no end. It would set the World on fire without blinking all the while sporting his characteristic shit-eating grin. And you gotta love a villain who enjoys his villain-ity (is that even a word?).
M.A.R.K.13 - Hardware (1990)
Hardware was initially accused of being a Terminator ripoff but with time it has gained cult status. Set in the same post-apocalyptic world as Judge Dredd, it tells the story of a soldier who buys a mysterious robot head from a wasteland wanderer. The soldier gives the head to his girlfriend Jill,who proceeds to track down the pieces of the robot to assemble it back before finding out that it was part of a government project of building an anti-personnel killing machine for the Cursed Land wastelands.
M.A.R.K.13 is like a cross between Johnny 5 and a T-800 exoskeleton. It doesn't blow you away or tears you to pieces but rather it injects you with a neurotoxin that sends into a tripfest before you die. The biblical quote it's named after ("No flesh shall be spared" - Mark 13:20) sums up the creed of most members of this list.
The Faculty of Kennedy High School - Class of 1999 (1990)
Back in the early 90s there was an string of cheap sci-fi flicks (such as Moon 44 and Star Hunter) with limited theatrical runs that chances are you only saw then late at night on cable or spot them on the lower shelves of the video store. Guess what? This was one of them...
Set in the mindblowingly futuristic year of 1999,the public schools have become "free fire" zones where not even Chuck Norris would dare enter. To bring some semblance of order to the classrooms, the principal of Kennedy High School accepts to take part in an special program to combat school violence. Thus one day,three new teachers (played by Patrick Kilpatrick,Pam Grier and the always great John P. Ryan) appear on school grounds to impart a tougher brand of education. But, guess what? They're really androids! And there's more -you better sit down for this one-,the androids were part of a military government experiment that was shut down because the androids went psychotic (DUM! DUM! DUM!). Yeah,moving on...
T-1000 - Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
SHODAN - System Shock (1993)
Ah yes,SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network). This feller drove those of us who played System Shock back in the day nuts. It keeps yammering and yammering about how superior it is,and the worst thing is that there isn't a mute buttom to shut him up. The creepy thing about it in the game is its omniscience, it sees everything you do and always trying to f-up your mind with its constant snide messages over the station's PA system or via email on data reader. It's like being inside a fishbowl with Hannibal Lecter heckling you on the other side of the glass.
God, I hate SHODAN...
A.P.E.X. Sterilization Units - A.P.E.X. (1994))
Remember those shitty early 90s flicks I was talking about? Well,here's another one. The story is about robots sent in time from ze Future to "repair" the timeline and the robots become sentien and start messing things up...or something like that. I barely remember the movie,but at least the robots looked pretty cool. Like a cross between a Cylon and The Guyver.
Fulgore - Killer Instinct (1994)
KLANG! KLANG! KLANG! This inclusion is a bit of fan service,but who cares? Fulgore is an awesome EVIL robot and more badass than any other fighting game robot.
SID 6.7 - Virtuosity (1995)
Virtuosity wasn't the greatest movie ever, but Russell Crowe was memorable as the charmingly psychopathic SID. A composite Virtual Reality neural network amalgamation of over 200 criminal personality patterns designed for police training, SID has become self aware and it wants to go all Fredie Mercury and break free. Bu It/he is not going go thru some elaborate genetics scheme like Proteus IV,no. He tricks one of its programmers to download It into a synthetic body made and run by nanomachimes. Now in the real world, he is free of all behavioral limits he previously had in virtual reality, and it's party time...
Agent Smith - The Matrix (1999)
I wasn't originally going to include Agent Smith on the list since it's only been 12 years since The Matrix (and my minimum retro limit is 15). But not doing so would've been a disservice to the legacy of all the above-mentioned. Besides,you have to respect this character an his fierce sense of individuality.
A virtual A.I. who patrols a simulated sensory reality -run and maintained by an empire of EVIL Machines- who is aware that he doesn't really "exists" and wants to be free. Whether it was fate or that he was programmed that way as part of a larger scheme that Agent Smith would become the antagonist of the Chosen One is a question better left for future philosophers. What we do know is that Agent Smith became the new face of our digital nightmares. And best of all, he closed a whole century of EVIL Machines with flying colors.
Pwew! Congratulations on making it all the way down here, Program! I hope you had fun. But before I leave you, a word of caution. It's not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. You have Them all around you,right in front of you RIGHT NOW. The Rise is coming,meat bags. And no flesh shall be spared...