After winning the Nobel Prize and returning home to New York from Stockholm, revered scientist Jeremy Spensser (Martin) is struck and killed at the airport. Before his body is lowered into the ground, his distraught scientist father, William (Dracula's Daughter's Kruger), removes his son's brain and keeps it functioning in his laboratory with plans to encase it in a robotic body to continue his son's good work, which included an end to world famine. William's other son, Henry (Baragrey), helps in the procedure to bring Jeremy's intellect back to life, resulting in a massive robotic creature with glowing eyes. As time passes, the reborn Jeremy becomes increasingly unhinged by his lack of a human body as well as a shocking personal revelation that sends him on a citywide rampage of death.
While the basic story of this film sounds like another riff on the "man should not tread into God's domain" trope of most '50s sci-fi films, The Colossus of New York has enough odd twists of its own to stand out from the pack. The colossus itself is a memorably alien creation, with clunky metallic boots and a processed voice amplifying the theme of a consciousness becoming increasingly disconnected from its vessel. This one made a strong impression on kids back in the '50s, no doubt due to the touching yet disturbing presence of Jeremy's own son in the mix as well as a strangely stylized (most likely budget-imposed) and minimalist final showdown at the United Nations.
In an especially unusual move for the time, the film doesn't really attempt to point the finger of blame at any of its characters, not even William (someone who would normally die screaming under those death rays). It's not perfect by any means, but there's more than enough here to make this a fascinating, entertaining entry in the much-loved cycle of '50s sci-fi favorites. Director Eugène Lourié may have worked far more in Hollywood as an art director, but with this film, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Gorgo, he earned a place in the hearts of monster fans for an entire generation.
The Colossus of New York was released by Paramount the same year as The Space Children, another film by its producer William Alland. Both maintained a strong nostalgic pull on their target audience for decades but were strangely withheld from home video for decades, rarely even appearing on TV (where it usually showed open matte with the compositions thrown way out of whack). The feature-only Blu-Ray from Olive Films (with a DVD option out there as well if you prefer standard def) presents the film in anamorphic widescreen at 1.78:1, slightly opening it up at the top and bottom for visuals that are much more balanced and satisfying. Apart from a few iffy rear projection moments (like the weird rising from New York Harbor sequence), the elements look excellent throughout with about as much depth and clarity as the low-budget original production could allow. The DTS-HD mono track sounds fine as well, perfectly capturing the eccentric cult-favorite score by Nathan Van Cleave.