Yes, we are talking Maria in Metropolis, some are probably only surprised its taken me this long to get here! In a sense, so am I lol!
One thing is for certain, she wasnt the first to be described as a robot, Capek certainly mentions them several years beforehand in R.U.R (Czech play), though I suspect as they were factory workers, they were all male back then. Plus, thats used more as a derogatory term for workers, not strictly anyone turned into a robot per se.
But then again, when you think about it, Maria as such wasnt really turned into a robot either! To be strictly correct, Rotwang has created a metal robot (though the body was actually some form of wood), and its more a case of he mentally downloads Maria’s mind into the robot body, and it somehow transforms into a mirror image of her. Of course, as any film buff knows, it doesnt all go to plan from there as the robot ends up only causing more chaos amongst the lowly workers of Metropolis. But all the same, its generally regarded as a transformation, even though later in the film the real Maria appears intact, both mentally and physically, and helps to save the day, even confronting her robot self at one point.
So it could be said, that mentally Maria was the first robot, though it was more strictly replicant in all honesty than a true robot. But all the same, whether you call it robotisation, transformation, or just mental download, its an amazing scene, especially with the rings of electricity, given there was no CGI or anything back in those days! I suspect it wasnt real electricity, but I wouldnt put anything past Fritz Lang in all honesty.
As a concept, of transformation, mental download or whatever, I find it all very hot, and would love to replicate it sometime from within that magical box, tube or whatever that Maria is placed into. Its all the more incredible when you think this film was made about 85 years ago!
I’ve managed to find what is literally just the transformation scene on You Tube, which will cut down on the viewing time for some. To paraphrase a Bonnie Tyler song, ‘I’m holding out for a Rotwang’ lol! Would love to fond his ancestor! 😉