50's sci-fi movie, Alien threat, Aliens, Atom bomb, Drama, Peter Graves, Review, Sci-fi, Thriller, W. Lee Wilder
D: W. Lee Wilder / 71m
Cast: Peter Graves, James Seay, Steve Pendleton, Frank Gerstle, John Frederick (as John Merrick), Barbara Bestar, Shepard Menken
Following an A-bomb test, scientist Dr Doug Martin (Graves) goes missing when the plane he was in collating data about the blast, crash lands, killing the pilot. A while later he returns to the base where he works overseeing the bomb tests. He can’t remember what has happened to him after the plane went into a nose-dive, or how he got a surgical scar on his chest that he didn’t have before. Given an initially clean bill-of-health by both the military – represented by Colonel Banks (Seay) and medic Major Clift (Menken), as well as FBI agent Briggs (Pendleton) – Martin is sent home with his wife, Ellen (Bestar) to recuperate. Instead, Martin becomes anxious about being able to work on the next bomb test, and attempts to get himself back on the team. Still considered a security risk by Colonel Banks and Briggs, Martin resorts to breaking into the safe where his colleague Dr Kruger (Gerstle) keeps the test data – well, he doesn’t exactly break in, as he knows the combination; as a perceived security risk, you’d have thought someone would have changed it straight away to avoid such a thing happening.
Martin then takes the information – on a scrap of paper, no less – out into the desert where he is surprised by Briggs. Following a short sequence where Martin tries to evade everyone looking for him, he is taken back to the base and given sodium amytal in an attempt to find out what happened to him after the plane crash. What Martin reveals is the presence of aliens on Earth, aliens with a plan to take over our planet, and who are hiding in the caves near the test site; they need the energy from the atomic tests to further their plans. Even after this, Martin isn’t believed. Can he save the day and thwart the aliens?
The answer is obvious; this is a 50’s sci-fi movie after all. And yes, it is as laughable as it sounds, and yes, the acting and the script and the direction and the photography and the sets and the dodgy rear projection and the aliens themselves – bug-eyed men who do become unsettling the more you look at them – all border on the dire, but Killers from Space, like the majority of 50’s sci-fi movies, plays everything straight, no matter how absurd or loony it looks and sounds. There’s no irony involved, no campy humour (such as began creeping in in the 60’s), and no attempt to make any more of its basic premise than it does. In short, it’s not aiming to be profound.
It’s fitfully entertaining, suffers from an extended sequence where Martin, trying to escape from the caves where the aliens are hiding out, encounters all manner of giant insects and lizards and tries to look suitably horrified (but fails), and has too many scenes that are stretched to ensure the movie doesn’t run at least fifteen minutes shorter (Martin, while hiding in his office until Kruger leaves, opens the door so many times to look out that you almost wish someone would see him, just to put an end to it all). As noted, the acting is borderline dire with only Pendleton and Graves showing any aptitude for the material, though not consistently. The ultra-low budget scuppers any attempt at making the movie look halfway professional, and Wilder’s direction proves that that his younger brother Billy definitely inherited the talent gene.
Rating: 3/10 – woeful, woeful, woeful, why fore art thou woeful? KIllers from Space wouldn’t have turned out quite so bad if anyone on the production side had had any idea of what they were doing; alas, they didn’t, and while Peter Graves and 50’s sci-fi completists should track it down, there’s nothing here for pretty much everyone else, even if you treat it as an unintentional comedy.