The Bad Movie Report

Killers From Space

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by Special Guest Dungeonmaster

Timothy L. Fox

Is there such thing as a Bad Seed?

No, I'm not talking about the film about the little girl who commits heinous murders and in the end gets a spanking as a punishment (he, he), I'm talking about the idea of that film: murderous qualities are inherited.

But is this what this film is about? you're asking me. No, that comes later. What I'm trying to postulate is how it deals in the holy realm of Bad Movies. Did Roger Corman's brother have the Bad Seed as well as his brother? One must only watch Attack of the Giant Leeches to find out. Did the Woolner Brothers share this quality? Watch Hercules in the Haunted World for more of the same. But now this brings us to Billy Wilder, one of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood, and his amazingly untalented brother, W. Lee Wilder. Where do these genetics come from? Is this selective?

"But Tim", you say, "How can you prove that what you say is true?" My friends, we need look no further than Killers from Space.

The film begins with an extremely sober sounding narrator telling us that were are in "Soledad Flats, the time, 6:15." We are then treated with stock footage of people rushing to their positions and jet planes flying around. You guessed it: an atomic bomb test. Meanwhile, as we are treated to more narration that would make Criswell proud, the stock footage atom bomb explodes as the bystanders watch.

In one of the jets circling the cloud is Dr. Douglas Martin (Peter Graves, the busiest guy in the crap business of the time) making tests. But they spot something on the ground, like a flashing light. But when he and the pilot try to see what it is, the plane malfunctions, and crashes. Rescue helicopters and jets rush to the rescue, but it's too late. The pilot was found dead in the wreckage, and no one could've bailed out.

The next day, however, Doug arrives back at the gate of the base. After a thorough checkup, the only thing strange about himEarth BOREDOM! is that scar on his chest shaped like a T. The FBI is worried enough to send a Mr. Briggs (Steve Pendleton) to meet with the head of the base, Col. Banks (James Seay) and the base's chief surgeon, Maj. Clift ("Shep" Menken). Briggs suggests to the gentlemen that perhaps this man is an impostor, but after some more stock footage of people working in an office, we find this to be untrue. Banks decides that the best thing to do is to give Martin that vacation he always wanted and sends him back home with his wife, Helen (Barbara Bestar).

Turns out Doug didn't want a vacation; he wants to go back to work at the base and sees strange images of eyes (remember this, it's important later.) Although Helen manages to keep Doug home for one night by engaging in love with him (This is the 50s, we only see them kiss), he is revolted the next morning to find that they detonated a nuclear bomb without him. Going to the base and telling off the commanders, poor ol' Doc Martin does nothing more than put his foot in his mouth. So he goes to his office, gives his secretary the day off (after some truly bizarre lines about his insanity), he hides there for four hours until his good friend and assistant scientist on the test, Dr. Kruger (Frank Gerstle) stops by to load off the information on the atomic tests. After leaving, Doug goes into the room (through the unlocked door!) And opens the safe, retrieving all the information and high-tails out of there. Unfortunately, he drops his pipe on the floor (not too handy when you're a spy . . . OOPS! I've said too much!) And the tobacco is all over the floor. Mr. Briggs, investigating the crime scene, hypothesizes that Doug did it, and alerts the police, who send out a stock footage police squad.

Doug, out near Soledad Flats, gets out the papers, but Mr. Briggs arrives there to stop him, but gets soundly beat up. Doug runs off again, but the images of eyes are too much for him; he crashes into a tree and is knocked unconscious.

When he wakes up, he is surrounded by Banks, Clift, Kruger, and Briggs. They ask him what happened, but he just keeps repeating that "They're going to kill us all! We've got to stop them!" Unsatisfied by this "lie", Maj. Clift injects Doug with a truth serum to "derive the mind of any imagination" (like the screen writers). Then, Doug goes into detail about how he was rescued from the plane crash and brought back to life by bug-eyed alien creatures (to best describe them, they look like Marty Feldman possessed.) He is brought to the head alien, who describes that the aliens hail from Astron Delta, a planet in trouble of dying due to their sun. They built an "electron bridge" (?) So they could be transported to our world. They plan to destroy our civilization using the power from the recent atomic tests (as explained by a kindly alien, who speaks in the "Nanoo, Nanoo" tongue). Doug will have no part in this, and makes a run for it, but he gets caught in a cage with gigantic monsters (this scene "We can rebuild him.  Make him.... stronger.    NAH!"lasts WAY too long) before the head alien brings him back. Turns out those creatures were created with the atomic power they stole, and they are to devour every living thing on the face of the Earth. Doug wants to know why he's still alive, and it's because they want him as a spy to get this information. At first, he disagrees, but then he is hypnotized into a stupor by "The Tala, the leader from the Space Station." 

Of course, no one believes this, except the doctor, who believes that the truth serum worked. But after a thorough search, nothing is found of the caves. Doug, still delirious, thinks he can destroy them if detonates an extremely powerful bomb, but no one will let him out of his room. He comes up with a better (and much cleaner) solution. He remembers that the aliens also worked partially on electrical power to control the atomic power (?) And that the only place they could get the power is the local generator plant. If he shuts off the power, their electrical equipment would malfunction and explode. No one else takes this lightly, saying that turning off the power would cause "untold damage for miles around" (!?). Therefore, It looks like Doug's going to have to do it himself, him having nothing to lose, and puts on his robe and drives out to the station to turn off the power.

Little does he know that the cast of players is not far behind, but they do not arrive in time to stop him from turning off the power. (Oh, yeah, one wimpy guy tries to shoot him, but Doug merely takes the gun away. Sheesh.) As the power goes off, Doug keeps counting, but as he reaches eight, there is a blinding flash of light. They all run to the window and witness the stock footage explosion of the Killers' hideout. The End.

Yes, Sunset Boulevard it ain't, but it has its moments. Remember this is the same man who brought you Phantom from Space, in which the titular character is invisible, and The Snow Creature, in which the beast is poorly constructed from a shag rug. The aliens in this are hilarious - they wear track and field jump suits covered with foil and their eyeballs look like dissected ping-pong balls*.

The special effects department is your usual low budget 50s sci-fi movie type, what with flying saucers and space stations, except for the cave of monsters, which is nothing more than stock footage from a nature documentary rear projected on to the screen! I should probably also mention that the cave the aliens are in is none other than Bronson Caverns, which any bad movie fan should recognize as the filming site for The Brain from Planet Arous or Robot Monster.

The script is okay. The idea would've worked better with more talented hands, (and thank God there was no comedy relief, except for the scene in which Peter Graves describes his insanity, you have to see it to disbelieve it), but it is strangely prophetic; the spy idea from Mission Impossible, as I previously said, is obvious, but at one point, one of the monsters he sees in the cave is a grasshopper! The writers, coincidentally enough, went on to become TV writers, mainly on The Dukes of Hazzard (!). The best thing in this film is the cinematography. The close-ups and focusing on each characters eyes is ominous; the scene in which Doug wakes up to see the aliens is extremely spooky, if not scary. Sort of Sci-fi noir, perhaps.

The editing, however, is probably the worst until The Beast of Yucca Flats would take that title. Most scenes end right in theAAAAA!  Scary hand puppets! middle, even during conversation. In one of the funniest, Banks is talking to Helen when suddenly Dr. Kruger appears in the room out of nowhere (literally) and Banks states that everyone was dead in the wreckage. Talk about non sequitur.

The acting is really much to write home about, but I guess Peter Graves is the best actor in the whole film (W. Lee probably "borrowed" him from his brother after Stalag 17), although Frank Gerstle went on to play the mad doctor in the equally turgid The Atomic Brain.

There is one thing I must note about seeing this and other movies before I continue. As you all know, there are three major rules of you know you're going to have a bumpy ride: 1. Nudity is shown in the first part of the film. 2. Stock footage is shown during the first segment of the film. 3. The monster is shown in the first reel. Well, I have one I would like to add to this list - You or anyone else with you can identify the year and type of car it is. (And I am not talking about totally obvious stuff like the Batmobile.) Example: A ‘68 Camero in the cinematic turd Mutant. A classic Oldsmobile in The Abductors. A Studebaker and a Station Wagon in Bride of the Monster (I can't really remember what they were, oh well.) And remember the little Arch Hall vehicle Eegah, claimed as being the first film with a dune buggy? It's now considered one of the worst films of all time! And our piece de resistance today features A 1954 Ford Station Wagon, A 1953 Studebaker, and a 1953 Nash. So think first next time before watching a film with hot-rodding teenagers and wonder, "Will I be able to identify the cars in this film?"

Finally, my opinion. This film nearly breaks the first law of Bad Movie Physics - never be boring - but it has enough moments in its 71 minutes to save itself. Perhaps on a boring Saturday night, you and a pal or your signifcant other can pop some popcorn, settle down with a drink, and enjoy this film.


The Edsel of Bad Movies

- November 14, 1999