It’s unfortunate that Wesley Barry’s honorable director-producer ambitions through his Genie Studios—portraying a post-apocalyptic society that, to save humanity, fuse man with machine to create human-like androids from freshly dead human corpses, then deals with their creations’ development of cyber-theology and a subsequent worker’s revolt—grossly exceeded this film’s restrictive budget.
Ultimately, Creation of the Humanoids, an entry from the first wave of post-apocalyptic films, which predates the ‘70s second wave initiated with the dual-tent poles of The Omega Man and Soylent Green (1971/1973), introduces interesting—and now familiar—concepts regarding racism, the state of marriage, and man’s loss of humanity. So, courtesy of its financial shortcomings, instead of a sci-fi classic (well, it is; in its own, strange way) in the vein of the groundbreaking black-and-white post-apocs Metropolis (1927) and Things to Come (1936), which it seems Barry was attempting to achieve, we’re left with the ambitious, cardboard incompetence of Journey to the Center of Time (1967) and In the Year 2889 (1968). It’s a stale, Aldous Huxley vision of a not-so-Brave New World.
Is Creation of the Humanoids beyond the mediocre to the point of being lifeless? Does the constant “human drama” yakety-yak set against the lack of special effects kill the film’s subtextual sophistication? Is the acting hackneyed to the point of the actors being mere cardboard cutouts against the Irwin Allen-styled ‘60s TV series stage play accouterments of obvious matte paintings, floor-to-ceiling drapes, and black-void backgrounds to nowhere? Do the humanoids look like they’re wearing latex bald-wigs and matching-color rubber gloves? Are those Confederate Army caps left over from the Gone with the Wind costume stockpile? Did Academy Award-winning camera-man Hal Mohr and Universal Pictures’ chief makeup artist (of Frankenstein fame) Jack Pierce do the best they could with the budget they didn’t have?
Director Wesley Barry was a 1920’s child star whose acting career began in the silent film era alongside its biggest stars: Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson. While he directed eight films, including several ‘50s TV series episodes, and a slew of ‘60s and ‘70s TV series as an assistant director (he even worked on Roger Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre)—he’s best known for Creation of the Humanoids, his final feature film as a director. And it’s all thanks to his sci-fi “connection” to the post-apoc masterpiece, Bladerunner.
To deny the similarities of Creation of the Humanoids to Blade Runner—the 1982 film drew from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was published six years after Creation and also deals with androids not aware they’re androids—is to deny the narrative similarities of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (1981) to Equinox (1970). And we sci-fi buffs remember the infringement and eventual settlement issues between The Terminator (1984) and Harlan Ellison’s ‘60s The Outer Limits episodes “Soldier” and “Demon with a Glass Hand,” don’t we?
It’s sometimes incorrectly reported that Creation of the Humanoid is an adaptation of a 1948 novel, The Humanoids by Jack Williamson. However, as with Ray Milland’s blatant “pinching” of John Christopher’s The Death of Grass for Panic in the Year Zero (1962), officially adapted as No Blade of Grass (1970)—the script for this Blade Runner precursor brazenly borrows elements from Williamson’s novel.
In today’s litigious society: lawsuits would fly fast and furious between book publishers, producers, directors, novelists . . . it’s all cinematic déjà vu (just like in the ‘70s submarine romp, The Neptune Factor).
This post-apocalypse tale concerns itself with the themes of racism and man’s loss of humanity against the scornfully referred “Clickers,” a man-made race of bald, blue-gray, synthetic-skinned, silver-eyed humans (read: blacks) whose population is increasing, while humanity—who’ve developed a technological codependency on their robot slaves—sees their own birth rate decreasing. This triggers the creation of the human-terrorist paranoia-organization (read: the ‘50s “Red Scare”) “The Order of Flesh and Blood” (read: the Klu Klux Klan).
Amid the sociopolitical upheaval, a scientist faces resistance in expanding the “labor force” Clickers’ programming for emotions—going as far as to transform them into human replicas (read: Ash from Alien). Dr. Raven, with mad-scientist tenacity, intends to “thalamic transplant” the personality and memories of recently deceased humans into a robot-replica of that person. However, the human-humanoids have one flaw: like their “Clicker” brethren, they must go to “temple” (recharging stations), which also serves as information exchange terminals with the “father-mother” central computer (read: cyber-theology/church).
Of course, all stories need a romance subplot: Captain Cragis, a leader in the Order of the Flesh and Blood resistance, falls in love with Raven’s assistant, Maxine, who opposes the Order’s manifesto. And Cragis is jealous of Maxine’s “love” for her grey-blue skinned concierge. And Cragis and Maxine come to discover they’re both android-replicants. And that the “human” Maxine died in a terrorist attack perpetrated by Cragis.
While Creation occasionally appeared on U.S UHF TV stations beginning in the late ‘60s, the hungry-for-product home video market released the film on Beta/VHS in 1985 (complete with a bogus rendering of ol’ Doc Brown from Back to the Future as a “mad scientist” with a captured babe-in-a test tube; cover), along with the eventual DVDs issued in the early 2000s.
Hey, wait! Where are you going? There’s another (production) plot twist!
Do you remember how wee young pups drooled over Andrea Marcovicci as Chalmers—the hottest android in the Universe (she puts Pamela Gidley’s android in Cherry 2000 to shame)—in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)? Remember how we drooled, I mean, noticed she was reading a copy of the book, R.U.R, in bed? Remember how, like with Mike’s copy of My Name Is Legion by Roger Zelazny (Damnation Alley) in Phantasm (1979), we, the bullied sci-fi/horror fan and comic book collecting freaks n’ geeks searched out copies of those books?
No? Well, pull up a Chalmers, I mean, a chair.
All of this robot, genetic-biological engineering exposition we’ve enjoyed in Blade Runner and other sci-fi films begins with one man—who really did “create” the humanoids: Nobel Prize-nominated and award-winning, Hungarian-Czech writer, Karel Čapek. His 1920 stage play/book R.U.R (Rossum’s Universal Robots) introduced the word “robot” and many of the concepts used in today’s science fiction. You can read the free eBook online at Gutenberg.org or buy a copy at Amazon, then watch Creation of the Humanoids for free on You Tube.
We discuss the use of A.I in cinema with our “Exploring: The ‘Ancient Future’ of A.I” featurette, in which we also discuss the three, official film versions of R.U.R.