A scientist creates the plans for a mechanical man that is controlled by electrical waves. The mechanical man or robot is large with super human strength and speed. A criminal element led by a woman called Mado (Valentina Frascaroli) kills the inventor. Her aim is to obtain the plans for building a mechanical man. Before they can accomplish this the gang is captured.
Mado escapes by injecting herself with something that makes her appear sick. She is taken to the infirmary where she causes a fire. She then poses as a nurse and walks out of the prison. She then kidnaps the niece of the scientist, Elena D’Ara (Mathilde Lambert). She forces the niece to fork over the blueprints for the robot. Mado builds her own mechanical man. She uses it to commit various crimes including robbery and murder.
The dead scientist’s brother Professor D’Ara (Gabriel Moreau) creates his own mechanical man to attack the one Mado controls. The two machines do battle at a masked ball at an opera house.
“The Mechanical Man” was released in 1921 and was directed by Andre Deed. It was an Italian silent science fiction/comedy film that is basically a lost film. A few reels of the Portuguese release were found in Brazil which is believed to be about 30% of the film. The original film is supposed to be about 80 minutes long. The footage available is about 26 minutes and consists of different cuts put together. It is also believed that it represents most of the second half of the film and it includes some special effects and action sequences.
It does have some unique aspects to it. It is one of the first Italian science fiction films and it is the first to feature a battle between two robots. Despite that fact that part of the robot battle looks more like a waltz.
An explanation of the plot is probably the closest you’ll get to understanding the film. Even then there are sections of the film that are not explained in the official synopsis. The director Andre Deed also stars in the film as a character named Modestino D’Ara or Saltarello. He’s a main character of the film, and the comic relief, but the synopsis that I’ve seen ignores him totally. I’m not sure if he is Elena’s brother or cousin.
There is also a detective named Ramberti (Ferdinando Vivas-May) that is also not mentioned in the synopsis but I assume captured Mado and her gang at one point. Then there is a gypsy woman that factors in there somewhere but I’m not sure how. My assumption is that Elena is depressed about her father’s death and Saltarello goes to her for a cure. Between the cure and his slapstick antics Elena is cured. Or something like that. There is also a car chase where our heroes try to escape the robot that all of a sudden can run as fast as a car.
You really can’t watch it as if you’re watching a normal movie. I would look at it as a really long trailer with no sound. The draw of the film is more for science fiction or silent movie completists. Perhaps even for the curiosity factor. Or even if you just want to see a couple cool looking robots slowly beat the crap out of stuff and each other. I watched it because I couldn’t resist. It’s what I do. If it’s out there I must find it and I must watch it.