Picks and Pans Main: Screen

updated 07/02/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/02/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Films starring creatures with rivets, relay switches, transistors or circuit boards where their hearts should be aren't new. Cinematic robots go back at least as far as Maria the mean machine in Metropolis or those glorified trash cans that Gene Autry fought in the '30s serial Phantom Empire. The bloodline runs from Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still to the protagonist in Gog to Tina Louise in The Stepford Wives, R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars, Dot Matrix in Spaceballs, Number Five in Short Circuit, Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator and cyborg Alex Murphy in RoboCop. (This list doesn't include robotic TV performers such as Tobor—"robot" backward—on Captain Video or the android Jean Marsh played on The Twilight Zone.) The most charming, still, is Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, the 1956 sci-fi classic. Any self-respecting answering machine today is higher tech than Robby was, but he was user-friendly, served drinks, helped fight the monster without being a slaughterhouse on wheels and didn't have any lines. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

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