How would you rate the first episode of Houdini & Doyle?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Automaton loses his title as first movie robot (update)

There isn't much to brag about when it comes to Houdini's movie career, but one point of pride has always been the fact that his 1919 serial, The Master Mystery, featured the very first movie robot (even though "The Automaton" was revealed to contain a man in the end). This is a fact that is often cited in articles on movies and sci-fi cinema history.

But now it looks like we can no longer award this seminal sci-fi moment to The Master Mystery. The blog The End of Being has posted photos and a clip from a lost 1913 Italian film called The Mechanical Man, featuring with a pretty spectacular movie robot -- dang-it.

But I guess we can still say The Mastery Mystery contained the first robot in American cinema history. That's still pretty good.

By the way, I often wonder what ever happened to the Automaton costume, or even just the head? Wouldn't this be a wonderful find in 2012?

Robot from The Mechanical Man (1913)

UPDATE: Not so fast! According to reader Janne Wass, The Mechanical Man was made in 1921, not 1913. Read: The Automaton reclaims his title as first movie robot (kinda). Thank you, Janne.


  1. Aw, and the "Mechanical Man" robot even looks way awesomer than the "Master Mystery" one. Dang!

    And yes, I wish we could see the "Master Mystery" automaton costume on display someday. Maybe some collector is waiting until they die for it to be auctioned off. Or, more likely, it was trashed. :(

    1. I know. The fact that he looks way cooler than the Automaton just adds salt to the wounds.

  2. John, funny you should bring up this topic, as I was just casually researching this a week or so ago. "Gugusse et l'Automate" (translation: "The Clown and the Automaton"), a short French film made in 1897, might be *the* first film robot since it featured a life-size automaton chasing, well, the clown. :)

    1. Oh, that's interesting! Thanks, Tom.

  3. Hold your horses! L'uomo meccanico, or The Mechanical Man wasn't made in 1913 (don't know why that date keeps popping up). It was made in 1921 in Italy by French acrobat/comedian/actor/writer/director André Deed as a planned trilogy of full length feature films. Only 26 minutes of it remains.
    Q the Automaton still is the first robot in a lengthy production - the Houdini series was over 230 minutes long all in all.
    Gugusse et l'Automate by Georges Méliès was, indeed the first robot on screen, but as most films back then, it was only about a minute long. The Mechanical Man, on the other hand, is the first robot in a full length feature film.

    1. Oh, my, thank you, Janne! I am very happy to hear this. I will do an updated post. Appreciate you visiting and sharing your expertise.



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