Dusting Off Robby the Robot – The Invisible Boy (1957)

The Invisible Boy 1
For the most part, The Invisible Boy is an extremely enjoyable film filled with light entertainment and yet it does feature an overall plot that was a little ahead of its time and only being explored by various authors of science fiction. Said plot had to do with artificial intelligence, computers and robots that became sentient and in this case a giant supercomputer programmed by the protagonist’s father. It is an amazing thing to see in such a film from 1957 with technology about computers still in its infancy and yet, writers Edmund Cooper and Cyril Hume among many others at the time had already given voice to concerns about the machines becoming smarter than man and even possibly overthrowing the human race if they ever managed to gain awareness. The Invisible Boy 29In that respect, while The Invisible Boy is filled with humour more than anything else, it is also a slightly terrifying film as it tries to balance the two separate, yet conjoined plot threads – that of the killer computer and that of Timmie, a boy that just wants to have a little fun.

As the film begins, we are introduced to Timmie and his family and precocious is probably the nicest way to describe Timmie as he slurps his cereal. Being young, Timmie does whatever he wants and one day, after he is introduced to his father’s supercomputer, he is soon programmed by said machine to be much smarter than he is. That leads us to the most memorable thing about the film which is Robby the Robot, formerly of Forbidden Planet and now sitting on a shelf amongst a pile of junk. It is quite interesting to see how the makers of this film try and loosely tie the two movies together and it works, yet once doing so, this film continues along its way without any further mention of its predecessor. The Invisible Boy 27So Timmie and Robbie have some adventures together and everyone thinks it harmless enough, at least until the sentient computer gets involved and starts to enact its plans for world domination with Robby as its agent.

The film is slightly incredulous, again due to the fact that the technology of the time was not as advanced as it is currently and one single computer trying to take over the world would surely fail. It only gets as far as it does in this film as it has Robbie to help it out and even then, Robbie himself is sentient in a way and goes against his programming to save everyone. That aside, the story is what keeps you interested, that and Robbie as you want to see where the film is headed and just what is going to happen. If the film lost the juvenile elements and was treated a little more seriously, it would have been very intriguing to see what direction the movie might have gone in, but for what it is worth, The Invisible Boy manages to keep the material focused on Timmie for the most part, thereby making it fun for all ages.

Supercomputers, robots and kids who do not know when to leave well enough alone will always make for a good movie and The Invisible Boy is a prime example of that. It does have some darker aspects to it, some very smart ideas but overall, the film is pretty lighthearted at its core and was the perfect excuse to dust off Robby the Robot once again.

3.5 out of 5
The Invisible Boy 50

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