- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Claudia Barrett, who was hounded by a post-apocalyptic alien dressed in a gorilla suit and diver’s helmet (complete with antenna) in the 1953 film Robot Monster, considered one of the worst movies ever made, has died. She was 91.
Barrett died April 30 of natural causes at her home in Palm Desert, her family recently announced.
In Robot Monster, shot in 3D and distributed by Astor Pictures, Barrett portrayed Alice, the elder daughter of a scientist and one of eight surviving humans on Earth after a creature, Ro-Man (stuntman George Barrows), invades the planet with a deadly cosmic ray. To be expected, Ro-Man becomes attracted to Alice.
“What astounding technical developments are being made to protect mankind,” the narrator shouts in the trailer. “Robot Monster brings you an actual preview of the devastating forces of our future … unsuspected revelations of incredible horrors that will terrify you with their brutal reality.”
In 2009, Leonard Maltin called Robot Monster “one of the genuine legends of Hollywood — embarrassingly, hilariously awful,” though he did “dig that bubble machine with the TV antenna.”
Still, reports said the Phil Tucker-directed film — which was made in four days, employed footage from earlier movies and featured music from future Oscar-winning composer Elmer Bernstein — grossed $1 million on a $50,000 budget, quite a return on its investment.
In an interview for the 2000 book Screen Sirens Scream, Barrett noted that Barrows supplied his own gorilla costume. “He made a good Ro-Man. He was easygoing, and I felt perfectly safe in his arms,” she said. “Running up and down those hills [in Bronson Canyon in L.A.’s Griffith Park], George could have dropped me several times. Fortunately, he didn’t.”
Barrett was born Imagene Williams in West Los Angeles on Nov. 3, 1929. Her parents, Arvilla and Iman, ran a lunch counter on Sepulveda Boulevard near the Veterans Administration headquarters.
After the family moved to Van Nuys to start a business processing and wholesaling eggs, she won a Miss Sherman Oaks pageant, studied acting for a year at the Pasadena Playhouse and signed with Warner Bros. following a screen test in 1949.
She appeared in such films as White Heat (1949), The Story of Seabiscuit (1949), Chain Lightning (1950), The Great Jewel Robbery (1950) and Rustlers on Horseback (1950), also featuring George Nader, her Robot Monster co-star.
Barrett went on to work in such other movies as Chain of Evidence (1957), Seven Ways From Sundown (1960), The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961) and Taggart (1964) and on TV shows including Highway Patrol, The Lone Ranger, The Millionaire, Death Valley Days, Peter Gunn and 77 Sunset Strip. She could ride horses and did lots of Westerns.
Barrett quit acting in the mid-’60s and worked in film distribution and publicity before joining the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the division that awards scientific and technical achievements. She also taught Method acting at a drama school started by Mickey Rooney.
Survivors include her niece, Bonnie, and nephew, Ron. She was married to actor Alan Wells from 1953 until their 1957 divorce.
In Screen Sirens Scream, Barrett said she revisited Robot Monster when it played on television and “laughed through the entire movie.”
She added: “When you decide to make a movie, the decision is made for various reasons, [including] money, fame or working with a particular star or director. I just wanted to act. I was a professional actress for 14 years, and I really loved the business. And Robot Monster was a movie I enjoyed making.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day