Directed by Eugene Lourie in 1958, Paramount's The Colossus Of New York has been pretty tough to see since it originally played theaters. Never having been released on VHS or DVD domestically it did pop up on TV every once in a while but aside from that, it's been a tough one to see and this is in spite of a fairly recognizable monster and some iconic poster art keeping it reasonably easy to identify, at least for those of us who paid attention to monster magazines and what not. Thankfully Olive Films, as part of a recent licensing agreement with Paramount Pictures, has made the movie available again and it can justly enjoy new life on DVD.
As to the movie itself, it tells the tragic tale of Dr. Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin), a kind and caring scientific genius who loves his pretty blonde wife, Anne (Mala Powers), and his young son Billy (Charles Herbert). When the film begins he's won the Noble Peace Price for his work in science and technology which focuses on ways to make food more readily available for those who need it. He heads to Europe to collect his award and once he arrives back in New York City, he's promptly run over by a giant truck while trying to retrieve poor Billy's toy plane when it falls into a roadway. His family is understandably devastated, no one more so than his father, a neuroscientist named Dr. William Spensser (Otto Kruger) who, unbeknownst to Jeremy's widow, takes his son's brain out of his body and keeps it alive until he can place it inside a hulking metal body (Ed Wolff - who also played a giant robot in The Phantom Creeps) so that he can continue his important work.
Despite a few kinks, William's experiment works and a semi-resurrected Jeremy soon resumes his studies, content to stay in the laboratory inside the family estate and keep his identity secret from the world outside. What William doesn't realize is that while the robot may have Jeremy's mind, he doesn't have his heart and so when it comes to pass that Anne moves on and starts to get involved with Jeremy's brother, Henry (John Baragrey), something snaps inside him and he becomes insanely jealous. At this point, the previously docile robot starts using his abilities to control people's minds, shoot lasers out of his eyes, and generally start wreaking havoc.
Set to a score composed solely on a single piano by Van Cleave and clocking in at a brisk seventy-two minutes in length, The Colossus Of New York is a bit on the predictable side in that we won't have any trouble seeing where it's all heading as the storyline very obviously shows its cards in the first fifteen minutes or so. That said, the film plays with some interesting themes and ideas, that of family and paternal relations specifically, in interesting ways particularly when Jeremy in robot form decides to befriend his own son, Billy having no idea that the 'friendly giant' is his own father. John F. Warren's cinematography is slick, helping to create a good bit of tension in the big finale where it all hits the fan but also doing a good job of capturing the subtle movements of the robot and the quirky gear in the laboratory. Stock footage inserts used for the airport, the external bits of the family estate and some inner New York City footage are easy to spot and take us out of the picture a bit but for what was likely a modestly budgeted B-picture things shape up rather well as far as the production values go. The robot stands out as a genuinely eerie creation, seemingly soulless and capable of using his powers and size for great destruction.
Made with an interesting cast (Wolff also appeared in Return Of The Fly while Herbert appeared in the original The Fly), The Colossus Of New York isn't the most original horror movie ever made but it's a fun one with an excellent ending and a lot of character.
The Colossus Of New York looks surprisingly good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, its home video debut at least in this country. The elements used for the transfer appear to have been in very good shape as the black and white image shows only very minor wear or damage. Contrast is good, black levels are strong and detail is nice and crisp. The image shows good sharpness and doesn't appear to suffer from any digital flaws like edge enhancement. The picture is clean and very pleasing.
The only audio option on the disc is a fairly simple English language Dolby Digital Mono track, no alternate language options are offered nor are there any subtitles of closed captioning options. As far as the quality of the track goes, generally it's pretty good though there are a few spots where the levels of the effects spike a bit, which might cause you to reach for the remote and turn it down only to have to turn it back up once things get more dialogue centric again. This isn't a frequent issue, however, and generally the track is level and clean.
A simple menu and chapter selections are provided but there are no extra features included on this release.
The Colossus Of New York, rarely seen until now, could certainly have used some extra features given its interesting history - that didn't happen. That complaint aside, this is otherwise a very nice release of a genuinely obscure but also very interesting monster movie that's languished in a vault for far too long. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.