Sunday, March 22, 2020

Killers from Space (1954)

I honestly wonder how bad the average movie was back in the 1950s.  Plenty of great movies were released in that decade.  There were also some pretty crappy movies released in that decade, as well.  I realize that I’m getting a lot of my movies from boxed sets of public-domain material.  That’s going to skew the quality of films that I get.  That’s no excuse for a title like Killers from Space.

It starts innocuously enough.  The military is conducting experiments.  Dr. Doug Martin is being flown around the test site for an atomic bomb.  When the plane crashes, the pilot is found dead, but Martin is completely missing.  He returns a few days later with an unexplained scar on his chest.

This is where things get strange.  Martin is given a dose of truth serum.  He tells a strange story of being taken by aliens, who are operating out of nearby caves.  They help him (and not the pilot) because Martin can get information on the tests being conducted.  The aliens are harnessing the power from the tests and any details would be helpful.

They even show him some mutant animals that will be used to kill humans.  Why?  So the aliens can take over the planet, of course.  They have everything figured out.  They just need some figures so they can adjust their equipment.

The last third of the film is Martin trying to save humanity by shutting down a nearby power plant.  He worked out that the aliens have a shield that protects them, but it requires so much power that they had to tap into a reactor.  (Come to think of it, I find it odd that the power company didn’t notice the increased usage.  It’s implied that it’s a lot of power.)

Martin’s story is fantastic, to say the least.  I mean, these are some strange aliens.  Their eyes are basically the part of the egg carton used to hold the egg.  It leads to some unusually stiff acting.  I wouldn’t believe it if I were there.  However, a burst of light lets us know that Martin was successful and telling the truth.

I have just a few questions about this movie.  The most notable aspect is that several military pilots used the code name Tar Baby for their planes.  Is there a non-offensive usage that I’m not aware of?  I know there are some words used by the British that Americans would find offensive.  In Spanish, mariposa literally means butterfly, but can also be used to refer to a gay man.  Is there something I’m missing?

It also seems odd that the hero can take matters into his own hands.  Martin is able to run into a power plant and find the control room rather easily.  You’d think they’d have better security.  Maybe they did.  I don’t know.

I also wonder where they got the footage for the animals.  They were all animals that could be found on Earth, meaning that the aliens were probably mutating local animals rather than bringing their own.  That allowed the effects department to find some footage rejected by a nature documentary and edit it into the movie via green screen.  (I know it looks obvious by today’s standards.  I wonder how it looked in 1954.)

There’s a lot about this movie that makes it look like minimal effort was put into it.  Even made-for-TV movies and straight-to-video productions have better standards on average.  I do wonder about production standards of the era.  I suppose someone will be looking back in 70 years at today’s stuff and wonder the same thing.

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