Cast & Crew
Harold J. Stone
Robert H. Harris
Dr. Tom Merrinoe, a brilliant but naive scientist at the underground laboratories of Stoneman Institute of Mathematics, is the only person authorized to operate a top-secret super computer that contains the sum total of all human knowledge. One day Gen. Swayne, accompanied by Col. Macklin, asks the computer to check their fuel estimates for a solid fuel experimental rocket they plan to launch. When the computer gives them an estimate differing from their own, the scientists trust the computer's intelligence and adjust the rocket accordingly. That night when Merrinoe returns home, his young rambunctious son Timmie asks his father about the computer. Merrinoe quickly digresses into long theoretical explanations, which bore both Timmie and his mother Mary. Later that night, when Merrinoe grows frustrated by Timmie's waning interest in learning mathematics, Merrinoe seeks the computer's advice. After the computer suggests that no conclusions can be made without direct contact with the boy, Merrinoe leaves the child alone with the computer the following Saturday afternoon. The computer hypnotizes the boy with its lights and then programs him with secret information and some skills to impress his father. Later that evening, Merrinoe is shocked when Timmie easily beats him at chess and agrees to the boy's request to play with Robby the robot, an alleged experimental failure shelved at the institute. The next day, after Timmie adeptly repairs the six-foot metal robot, he orders Robby to walk into the scientists' common room, hoping they will take notice of his accomplishment; however, neither the scientists nor his father are impressed. Timmie then orders Robby to make him a kite large enough to fly him into the sky, but Robby's basic directive will not allow him to harm the boy. Timmie decides he must change the robot's directive in order to have fun and takes Robby to the computer for an adjustment, thereby unwittingly allowing the computer to instruct Robby to follow the computer's orders instead of Timmie's. At the Merrinoe home later that afternoon, Mary catches sight of her son precariously balanced on a remote controlled kite high in the sky. When the kite finally lands, Mary reprimands the boy. That night, when Timmie wishes out loud that he could become invisible to avoid his mother's control, Robby makes a concoction that allows light rays to pass through Timmie's body without refracting, making him invisible. That night at the dinner table, Timmie's parents observe his absence and believe that he has decided not to join them until Timmie holds up his soup spoon and starts slurping. Although Mary is shocked, Merrinoe is undaunted by Timmie's prank. Later that night, when Timmie interrupts a romantic moment between his parents, Merrinoe gropes around the room until he captures his son, whips him and then orders him to become visible to them by the next morning. The next morning, when Mary calls her husband at the institute to report that their son is missing, the computer tells Merrinoe that that it is holding the child for ransom. The computer threatens to kill the boy in forty-eight hours unless Merrinoe provides it a numerical combination that will unlock its information. When Swayne and other military officers investigate the situation, they deny Merrinoe further access to the computer. Meanwhile, Robby secretly abducts the institute scientists and military men one by one to brainwash them. After Macklin is later found murdered and an autopsy is performed, the doctor reports to Merrinoe that he discovered a transistor assembly had recently been implanted in Macklin's body. Merrinoe then chains Robby up in the garage and returns to the institute. After asking his secretary Miss Vandergrift to place an emergency call to the president of the United States, Merrinoe assembles Swayne and the scientists including Drs. Zeller, Baine, Foster and Professor Allerton, and tells the group that at least two of them are under the computer's control. He attributes the computer's aberration to changes in its design that enabled it to achieve a true personality. Now motivated by an instinct for survival, the computer needs the numerical combination to access the military rocket. Merrinoe deduces that the computer plans to use the rocket to orbit itself into space, from where it will control the earth. When the president returns Merrinoe's call, the scientists wrestle Merrinoe away from the phone and assure the president that the project is stable. Meanwhile, Robby, having broken his chains, arrives at the rocket launch pad, but before the robot can reach the ship, the president orders troops to stop the operation. Despite heavy gunfire and torch guns, Robby reaches the rocket, where Timmie, wanting to be the first boy in space, is already aboard. Within minutes the rocket is launched into space. Back at the institute, the computer threatens to order Robby to hurt Timmie if Merrinoe does not reveal the numerical combination. The computer then shows a live screen image of the rocket's interior where Robby viciously looms over Timmie, who is strapped down for takeoff. However, Robby's love for the boy prevents him from hurting him, and the robot's act of kindness causes the computer to shut down suddenly. Troops then arrest the scientists and military men under the computer's control and plans are made to have their implants removed. The screen image reveals Robby and Timmie in space enjoying weightlessness. Timmie's parents then order him to wait for a rescue operation, but Timmie and Robby defy the orders and return to earth on the rocket glider. Days later, father and son go to the institute to destroy computer, but the computer hypnotizes them first. When the computer then orders Robby to destroy them both, Robby destroys the computer instead. Back at home, just as Merrinoe is about to give Timmie a spanking for defying his orders to remain on the ship, Robby stops the father's hand, explaining that his basic directive prevents violent action.
Harold J. Stone
Robert H. Harris
Jefferson Dudley Searles
John D. Faure
The Invisible Boy
The film was the creation of Nicholas Nayfack, the MGM line producer who had found his greatest success as a result of being assigned Forbidden Planet. Having formed his own production company, Nayfack wanted to create another project utilizing "Robby," the humanoid robot from Forbidden Planet that had so endeared itself to audiences. He commissioned Forbidden Planet screenwriter Cyril Hume to adapt an Edmund Cooper short story that had appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, and to integrate Robby into the proceedings. (Sadly, it wasn't long after The Invisible Boy opened theatrically that Nayfack died of a heart attack at age 49).
The convoluted plot begins at the facilities of a Dr. Merrinoe (Philip Abbott), who is treating U.S. military personnel to a demonstration of the capacities of the room-sized computer that he has designed. Merrinoe, a rather stuffy and egotistical man, assures his Pentagon visitors that the artificial brain is incapable of independent action. Even at home the scientist maintains his superior attitude; he can barely conceal his exasperation with his 10-year-old son Timmie (Richard Eyer), an ordinary kid who can barely stay awake through his dad's long-winded explanations to the simplest of questions.
In a perverse bit of inspiration, Merrinoe takes Timmie along to the office the following day, in search of a potentially more effective tutor. Left alone with the artificial brain, Timmie is subjected to post-hypnotic instruction by the machine. As a result, the kid is now handily defeating his father at chess, and has taken the robot components that a stumped Merrinoe left in the garage and assembled them into a functioning unit. The new electronic playmate is now at Timmie's beck and call to aid in all kinds of high-tech hi-jinks, from building a radio-controlled kite large enough to ride to brewing a potion that renders the kid and his clothes invisible.
It's all unpretentious fun, targeted at kids and sci-fi fans of the period. At the core of the picture is the very naturalistic performance of Eyer, who never comes across as cloying, even where the script could have easily led him down such a path. The wholesome-looking Eyer, who also provided memorable efforts as Little Jess in Friendly Persuasion (1956) and the boy genie in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), left acting behind in the late '60s to pursue a career as a schoolteacher.
Producer: Nicholas Nayfack
Director: Herman Hoffman
Screenplay: Cyril Hume, Edmund Cooper (story)
Cinematography: Harold E. Wellman
Film Editing: John D. Faure
Art Direction: Merrill Pye
Music: Les Baxter
Cast: Richard Eyer (Timmie Merrinoe), Philip Abbott (Dr. Merrinoe), Diane Brewster (Mary Merrinoe), Harold J. Stone (Gen. Swayne), Robert H. Harris (Prof. Allerton), Dennis McCarthy (Col. Macklin).
BW-90m. Closed captioning.
by Jay S. Steinberg
The Invisible Boy
Well, did you have a tiring day at the computer, dear?- Mary Merrinoe
He's already ten years old, and he can't even play a decent game of chess.- Merrinoe
How many sixths are there in four?- Merrinoe
Three? Eleven? Forty-two?- Timmie
Can you see around corners?- Timmie
No, no, only through walls.- Robby the Robot
Robby, the mechanical robot in The Invisible Boy, first appeared in another Nicholas Nayfack-produced film, The Forbidden Planet (see entry above). According to a Los Angeles Examiner article, portions of the film were shot at the Busch Estate in Pasadena, CA, and a May 20, 1957 Hollywood Reporter article adds filming at Fort MacArthur Nike missile sites near San Pedro, CA. Modern sources add the following persons to the cast: Gage Clarke, Michael Miller and Ralph Votrian.