80 Years of Robots in Hollywood

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

Fritz Lang's silent masterpiece set many of the ground rules for the sci-fi
epics to come, not just in the way it depicted a dystopic future, but also the
way it dealt with mad scientists and of course, their creations.
Depicting a world in which the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are literally
divided by the Earth's surface ˜ the elitists living above ground and the
workers living in the dark, dank caverns beneath the surface ˜ Maria is a robot
used by those in power to pry their way into the workers' world. A silver
machine created in a secret lab, Maria takes on the face and characteristics of
the female leader of that underground world, the one who the workers trust and
rally around. By controlling the robot, the surface-dwellers manage to control
the underground populace, turning Maria's words of uprising into words of
reassurance: Get back to work, and be happy.
One of the very first big-screen depictions of a robot in this, the first great
sci-fi film, is that of a mole and an imposter; of an enemy that can't be
defeated, much less identified. For so many of the movie robots to come, Maria
was the defining transition from the robots of sci-fi literature to the
artificial intelligence of the sci-fi movie.

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