Only a fragment survives of the silent film The Mechanical Man (L'Uomo Meccanico, 1921), well under half its original length.
To be able to follow the plot from what remains required an inferred script/scenario to be read beforehand. Just such a scenario, based on contemporary reviews, has been provided in the dvd's introduction.
Plus there is a new musical soundtrack which is simple but a delight, unlike most such modern impositions which tend to be annoying in a silent film.
Although the footage itself doesn't come close to telling a coherent story, the images are so cool that it's worth watching. Chances are, even when it was complete, it didn't make a whole lot of sense, being a primitive Italian take on the Saturday Matinee Serial Cliffhanger style popular in the America & France, a genre for which coherence was never that important.
Although derivative of serials, I'm not sure there were lumbering nine-foot robots in the silent film serials, so Mechanical Man must also have been inspired by science fiction pulp magazine cover art. So in its own way this film could be regarded as groundbreaking.
Waiting for the wonderfully no-budget robot to appear makes it all barable. A masked female criminal mastermind, Mado (Valentina Frascaroli), obtains the plans for an electrical robot. She builds the remote controlled mechanical man with which to instigate her reign of theft & terror.
She also emulates male masterminds in terrorizing a damsel in distress, Elena D'Ara (Mathilde Lambert), whom the hero must save.
Said leading man is played by director Andre Deed as Modestino known as Salterello, which means something like "the leaper" or "tumbler."
Though Deeds is a little squirt & funny looking for a romantic lead, it does seem the film was intended to be comedy sci-fi & he's right for the job.
Salterello is out to avenge the murdered inventor, taking comic pratfalls along the way. He awakens the professor's daughter Elena from the mesmeric trance induced by Mado by being a clown for her, doing his tumbler bits, & then they go to a party.
In his youth the director had worked with Georges Melies cinema's true father of science fiction. Pathe hired Deeds away from Melies specifically to obtain some of Melies FX secrets.
During his prolific acting & directing career in France & Italy he became a huge star. So despite the later obscurity & loss of all but about half an hour of Mechanical Man, it did have world-wide distribution in its time, so might easily have been influential to contemporaries who would later use similar boxy lumbering robots in cheap sci-fi films.
The robot makes for a campy sci-fi monster & Deeds possibly intended it to be funny. The silly special effects as the robot chases a car is especially amusing. The robot posing as a costumer at a costume ball is also rich in humor, as it strives to be a real party dude before going psycho.
A second mechanical man built by Professor D'Ara (Gabriel Morceau) arrives in the nick of time to do battle with Mada's destructive robot. They dance around in a clunky manner for a while, more probably-intentional humor.
The two robots go sumo on each other amidst smoke & sparks. And in the end Mada is electrocuted when the reomote control short-circuits.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl