BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Tobor the Great (1954) - Blu-ray Review

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Tobor the Great - Blu-ray

3 beersWhat’s he building in there?  What the hell is he building in there?  Now, before I go too far down the Tom Waits rabbit hole, you should not be alarmed.  It’s only Tobor the Great being constructed!  Esteemed among men and future space explorer, Tobor, even before the fame, gets a movie all to himself.  Pop and pour!.  This movie is proof enough that even robots need attention, too. 

Tobor the Great might be silly and slight.  It might even be stupid.  The b-movie; however, remains a sort of a kid-friendly testament to what originally fascinated us about the future in the Atomic Age and that, at least to me, makes up for a lot of the flick’s talkie dullness.  And, dudes and dudettes, let me tell you, a lot of melodrama and words come flying at you early in this one.  It’s a killer.

Produced by Republic Pictures (the king of the b-serial), Tobor the Great is a black and white picture that is best viewed by your 12-year-old self.  Switch those lenses, Buckaroo!  To survive this atomic-minded misadventure, you really need to find the curious in early space exploration super freaking cool! 

Tobor is a robot.  He’s pretty huge and, as he remains hidden from the smallest of eyes in both the movie and the audience, he becomes the film’s massive (and only) tease.  We hear the sounds of his creators assembling him.  We just never know what it is they are doing down in the lab.  His revelation then must be met with starry-eyed wonder. 

To the shock and awe of those who get to see the reveal (including a spy), Tobor is a huge hunk of metal and tin and, with glowing gadgets going all over the place, is capable of showing human compassion.  Wait.  What?  That’s right, Tobor gives great hugs.  Adults just need to leave the room on this one.  Toss logic out the window. 

You know, the version of you that was fascinated by cool toys, amazing inventions and shouted “Hot dog!” and “Golly gee whiz” while running around the house with a towel as a cape?  If you remember him, then that’s the spirit this film requires.  That little boy or girl will certainly get a buzz from this story about a robot who saves the day while some pretty bad spies do some pretty bad things involving guns and kidnapping.

Spies, robots, and gadgets!  Oh my!  Director Lee Sholem (Superman and the Mole Men) tackles this film in a rather juvenile point and shoot manner and this makes the heavy conversation at the beginning a bit of a slog to get through.  Tobor the Great begins when Scientist Dr. Ralph Harrison (Charles Drake of It Came From Outer Space) up and quits a secret part of NASA due to their continued insistence on using humans to pilot experimental rockets as the space race heats up.  Use dogs, monkeys, anything!   Spare the humans!  

It’s not until he meets Professor Arnold Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes) that his thoughts on having anyone but humans pilot these exploding rocket ships across the heavens becomes reality.  He helps Nordstrom make Tobor work and they develop the robot in secret, away from both Nordtrom’s daughter-in-law Janice Robertson (Karin Booth of Jungle Man-Eaters) and her son Gadge (Billy Chapin of Night of the Hunter).  But there are spies in this house of love, Comrades.  And they have their sights on Tobor and the professor and his grandson, too. 

It’s Tobor to the rescue!  The robot has a wickedly solid design, by the way.  That’s part of the fun is watching this b-grade flick.  Designed by Robert Kinoshita, Tobor’s body and arms gives audiences their first peek at the basic frame of what would become Kinoshita’s master creation of Robbie the Robot.  But artists need a starting point and, for a lot of people, that’s exactly what this b-grade flick is. 

The Iron Giant of the 1950s has finally arrived on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics and their newly remastered HD transfer.

Tobor the Great - Blu-ray

MPAA Rating: Unrated
77 mins
: Lee Sholem
Philip MacDonald
Cast: Charles Drake, Karin Booth, Billy Chapin
: Horror | Sci-fi
Man-Made monster with every human emotion
Memorable Movie Quote: "Gee, Tobor, you're wonderful!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Republic Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 1, 1954
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 12, 2017
Synopsis: To avoid the life-threatening dangers of manned space exploration, Professor Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes, Quicksand) creates a highly advanced form of artificial intelligence capable of piloting a starship to other worlds. In order to transmit alien data, the extraordinary robot is infused with a powerful telepathic device that enables it to instantly read and even feel emotions. Danger strikes when a sinister band of covert agents kidnaps Gadge (Billy Chapin, The Night of the Hunter), the professor's 10-year-old grandson. But Gadge has a powerful ally, for he has developed a psychic, emotional bond with his grandfather's robot, Tobor. And now Gadge's captors must suffer the wrath of his protective friend and face a mechanical monstrosity bent on a killing rampage of revenge and destruction.

Tobor the Great - Blu-ray


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- Septemer 12, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A


Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents the 1080p encode with a 1.67:1 aspect ratio.  There is nothing inherently flawed with the transfer.  Black levels are strong throughout.  The light and grey images are equally strong.  Details are clear.  And a film grain remains visible throughout the MPEG encode.  The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix is, as expected, a little tinny but solid enough for this release. 





    Film historian Richard Harland Smith waxes as poetically as he can about Tobor in this feature length commentary.


Special Features:

A trailer, as well as other trailers for Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases, is included.

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Tobor the Great - Blu-ray

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