Tobor the Great
Kino // Unrated // $29.95 // September 12, 2017
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 15, 2017
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The Movie:

Directed by Lee Sholem in 1954, Tobor The Great introduces us to one Dr. Ralph Harrison (Charles Drake), a high ranking scientist in the employ of The Civil Interplanetary Flight Commission. When he gets into an argument with his associates about the perilous potential of sending an actual human into space, he winds up resigning… it's just too dangerous and he doesn't want that on his conscience. This leaves the aging Professor Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes) to come up with a solution in the form of a robot he dubs Tobor (read it backwards) that he can remotely control... with some help from Harrison. Nordstrom does hope to make a few revisions to Tobor soon, however, that will allow him to control the robot via ESP! The intention here, in case it wasn't clear, is to have Tobor replace the human pilot and travel into space in his place.

Tobor is revealed to the public at a press conference but the powers that be are sadly unaware that there is a spy (Steven Geray) in their midst. This leads to the kidnapping of Nordstrom and his grandson Gadge (Billy Chapin) being kidnapped, much to the dismay of his pretty daughter Janice (Karin Booth). Thankfully for Nordstrom and Gadge, Tobor was designed to deal with all sorts of emergency situations and before you know it, our mechanical friend is off to save not only their lives, but the country's secrets as well!

A fairly quick watch at just under eighty minutes in length, Tobor The Great isn't deep but it is fun. The robot is the star of the show, a fairly massive mechanical being with pincer claws for hands and a big glass dome on his head through which we can get a peek at its circuitry and what not. He's a pretty capable robot too, zipping around with rollers on his feet and able to take down pretty much any enemy spy he comes across and do things like blast through electric fences and even drive a jeep! Tobor's a good guy to have on your side in a fight for sure. And of course, this being a fifties sci-fi movie, it only makes sense that Tobor and Gadge would become fast friends. The design work on the robot is fairly well done. He's not as cool as some robots we've seen in movies before and after this was made, but he's hardly the embarrassing mash of cardboard boxes and dryer tubing that we've seen in others. He moves in the stilted sort of manner that you'd expect. He's fun to watch, and that's really all that matters in a movie like this.

The performances here are fine. The good guys are all likeable while the villains, pretty much just spies and various spy affiliated henchmen types, are all hiss-worthy. There are no grey areas, this is just a simple tale of good versus evil. Taylor Holmes comes across as a nice guy, he cares for his family and has a nice relationship with his grandson. Billy Chapin, as said grandson, is hokey in the exact way that you expect a kid character in a sci-fi movie from this period to be, he's wide eyed and innocent, quick with a ‘Golly!' whenever something surprises him. It's a hokey performance but you can't help but like him in the part. Supporting work from Charles Drake and Karin Booth are also fine, while Steven Geray as the spy who sets all of this nonsense into motion is plenty fun to watch as well.

There are a few spots where the pacing lags a bit in the first half of the movie but the second half makes up for that. Again, this isn't deep but it is easy to see why Tobor The Great has maintained its cult following over the years: it's a lot of fun.

The Blu-ray:


Tobor The Great arrives on Blu-ray from Kino on a 25GB disc framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The black and white image generally looks pretty nice here. There's some minor print damage, small white specks and the occasional small scratch, but nothing too distracting or really all that noticeable if you're not looking for it. Detail is solid, not quite reference quality but definitely very good, while contrast looks fine. Black levels are pretty deep and there's a fair amount of depth and texture in the image.


The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional closed captioning is provided in English only, there are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. There are no issues here. The single channel mix offers clear dialogue and properly balanced levels on a track that is free of any audible hiss or distortion.


The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary from Richard Harland Smith. Like most of his commentaries, this one is a fun listen jam packed with facts and critical analysis. He offers up lots of information about the cast and crew, where some of the film's stock footage inserts came from, some of the effects work featured in the film and quite a bit more and he does it in a very listenable tone and with a good sense of humor.

No trailer for the feature to be found but we do get bonus trailers for Donovan's Brain, Gog, Journey To The Seventh Planet, The Magnetic Monster and Invisible Invaders as well as menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Tobor The Great is pretty fun stuff, as goofy as it might be, particularly if you have an affinity for fifties sci-fi and robot movies. Kino's Blu-ray presents the film in very nice shape and with a genuinely interesting audio commentary as its main feature. Genre fans should consider this one recommended.

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