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arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / Cinematic Robots: Robot Cops, plus implants and mind control

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o Cinematic Robots: Robot Cops, plus implants and mind controlJack Bohn

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Cinematic Robots: Robot Cops, plus implants and mind control

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Subject: Cinematic Robots: Robot Cops, plus implants and mind control
From: jack.boh...@gmail.com (Jack Bohn)
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 by: Jack Bohn - Thu, 6 Oct 2022 15:27 UTC

[Posted before the movies, because part of the reason is to alert those who can watch them.]

We have THX 1138 by George Lucas. (Presumably another movie of his with robots would have been too expensive to get, while this one had been co-produced by Warner Brothers.) The robot police officers are a minimal effort, hiring physically imposing actors such as Robert Feero and Johnny Weissmuller, Jr and dressing them in uniforms that cover the whole body except the face, which has a metallic mask. We meet a man who says he is a hologram; I've never decided whether he just means a hologram star, and only as unreal as a TV star, or whether he means he is a total fiction. We do get to see the state of early 1970s technology, as he filmed operation of remote manipulators for radioactive material -- that in-story these are building the robot policemen is slightly worrisome. Is the population of this future roboticized? Do you see a difference between being roboticized and being sheepified? I see them not as being forced to do things they otherwise wouldn't do, but being kept from doing things they otherwise would do. The main computer, OMM (voice of James Wheaton) seems to have happiness --within the order of society-- as a goal.

Robocop and the wonderful Enforcement Droid ED 209. But it does show the need for a better expert system about law enforcement, and also a unit more compact and humaniform. If it were easier to interface with a mind than it would be to program, the answer would be easy: use the brain of a slain officer for its knowledge and run the rest by computer. Eventually the other life experiences also come to the fore, and the Robocop becomes a cybernetic full-body transplant for the man.

Tuesday we have "Mad Love" (1935), not really involved, but about a hand transplant in the genre "it has a mind of its own." (There's gotta be a joke there about having more brains in its little finger than in the rest of the body.) Thematically, such a story is stronger when the intrusive part of the body is an operator, like the hand, a witness, like the eye, or a motivator, like the heart. The concern may be harder to express over the liver or a knee. Simple artificial replacements don't seem to have this problem: a pirate's hook or pegleg doesn't seem to make him more a "man of oak" than another sailor, but as they start getting more complex, although not even close to a biological unit, the fear creeps back in. I'm trying to think of a movie or show where a person's mechanical parts "took over," or were even taken over from the outside, but nothing's coming to mind. There's "The Terminal Man" owned by WB that could have been thrown into this month, but there's a couple minute segment in "THX" that covers about everything in that 107 minute movie except the approach to a pun on the word "terminal."

Thursday and not part of the celebration is "The Devil-Doll" (1936). Let me see if I can keep this short: a businessman framed for embezzlement was sent to Devil's Island. He escapes back to France with a somewhat mad scientist who was probably suspected in disappearances of persons as his test subjects. They go to his house, where his wife has been carrying on their work: shrinking living creatures; she thinks she has made the breakthrough tonight, so they test it on a servant, alas, no, still when the brain gets too small it can no longer think for itself, although the body will respond to strong mental impulses of others. "But that's murder," says the businessman in unironic horror, until he realizes how he can use this in his own plan to kill those who set him up. He will borrow the collection they've amassed of tiny animals and people, and sell them as lifelike performing dolls.. When he gets them into the houses of his targets, they will perform a task for him!
My whole post has been about the subject of actors playing robots. This movie shows small automata imitating humans and being faked by humans -- portrayed by actors! Admittedly, the technology allowing humans to portray dolls here is probably further out of reach than just building a mechanical toy, but it's the concern behind it that counts, isn't it?

Score: THX's robotic cops (like Metropolis's Maria, there does not seem to be a name given in the film, there doesn't seem to be a half dozen alternatives vying to be the "official" one, I guess obsessively giving names and backstory to background characters is reserved to a different Lucas film) a minimal effort, but still a detectible effort, with less money or thought, the actors could have just tried to keep their faces impassive; somewhere just above 0.1.

Robocop: in-story it is a man in a tin suit... well, parts of a man. Still, my rating system can be used on cyborgs as well as robots: The Six Million Dollar Man's limbs being portrayed by the actor's, with an occasional wire sticking out, versus this half-million dollar costume. Of course, all cyborgs have a built in excuse for looking as human as the story's tech level allows. (Eventually I'll get to the rant on the naive "I built a robot, so of course I gave it skin, and a nose, and individual hairs.") Robocop was designed to be a robot, but able to use the existing stock of cop weaponry, and drive a cop car, with a cop motor, cop tires. cop suspension, cop shocks. (Actually, the Robocop suit couldn't sit in the cars they had. Peter Weller merely wore the top half that could be seen through the window; an insert shot of the door opening and a mechanical foot planting itself on the pavement, then a cut to Weller standing up in the full suit gave the impression that the robot was functioning in the human-sized world. I'll score Robocop around Maria's 0.3.

ED 209: Well, it's not a person in a tin suit. I think I heard that there was a full-scale mockup, but in action it was a stop-motion figure. So 1.0? No, there's still the aspect of believing it's a robot. I want to leave a little room above the ED for others. There's still people-in-robot-costumes above Robby's 0.5, and I haven't really explored these higher reaches, so I'll slot ED-209 around 0.9 or 0.95.

--
-Jack


arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / Cinematic Robots: Robot Cops, plus implants and mind control

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