Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Q reclaims his title as the first movie robot (kinda)

While we're on the subject of Houdini's movies, back in 2012 I ran a post with the unfortunate news that "Q The Automaton" from Houdini's 1918 serial, The Mastery Mystery, was not the first movie robot as often credited. That's because I found a blog about an Italian film with a robot called The Mechanical Man, said to have been made in 1913.

But now reader Janne Wass has corrected my correction! I'll let the clearly knowledgeable Mr. Wass deliver the news himself:

"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."

Robot from The Mechanical Man (1913) (1921).

Thank you Janne!

I'll be discussing this and more about Houdini's life-long involvement in cinema during my talk at the Hollywood Heritage Museum on Wednesday, October 8 at 7:30 pm. Click here for more details.


  1. “The Great Gray Mystery” still gets my vote.

  2. Oh - and I have to correct myself here:

    As I was doing some research on the German film Herr der Welt for my blog ( I found a mention of a film called Die Grosse Wette (The Great Bet) made in 1915. The film revolves around action star/director Harry Piel as a man who makes a bet that he can live three days in isolation along with an "Elektromensch" - an electrical man, or a robot, or more precisely an android. So as far as I can tell - that film (61 minutes long) - is actually the first feature film involving a robot.

    Here it is on IMDb:

    1. Thanks Janne. We might need to start calling Q the first robot in 'American' movie history.