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Killers from Space

Entry updated 6 October 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (1954; vt Aliens from Space). Planet Filmways, Inc/RKO Radio Pictures. Produced and directed by W Lee Wilder. Written by William Raynor from an original story by Myles Wilder. Cast includes Barbara Bestar, John Frederick (credited as John Mitchell), Frank Gerstle, Peter Graves and James Seay. Narrator: Mark Scott. 71 minutes. Black and white.

While observing an atomic bomb test at Soledad Flats in the western US from an US Air Force fighter jet, Scientist Dr Douglas Martin (Graves) and his co-pilot crash suddenly for unknown reasons. Both are presumed killed, but Dr Martin reappears seemingly unharmed, to the bewilderment of his wife Ellen (Bestar) and senior base medical officer Dr Kurt Kruger (Gerstle). Martin can remember nothing of what happened after the plane started down, but now has an unusual scar on his chest. Given a truth Drug, he relates a bizarre tale of having been abducted by bug-eyed Aliens from a dying world called Astron Delta who have established a secret Underground base, and of being revived by them after the aeroplane crash. He also says the lead alien (Mitchell) told him they plan to conquer the earth soon using giant insects and reptiles enlarged with radiation from the bomb tests. Due to his strange claims, he is told to rest, but becomes agitated when another nuclear test is carried out without his knowledge. Martin steals data on the tests, and hides them beneath a rock near where his aircraft crashed. Having been followed, he is to be arrested for espionage, but flees in his car until crashing; he is only slightly injured when taken into custody. Confined at the base hospital, Martin realizes the aliens are using energy drained from the local power plant to power their base (see Power Sources), and that an interruption in its flow will cause their base to self-destruct. He therefore escapes, goes to the power station and turns off the power while holding everyone at bay with a stolen handgun. The alien base is destroyed as he had predicted, and everyone realizes his story was true.

Killers from Space has a reputation, not entirely undeserved, as one of the worst US sf films of the 1950s despite its solid performance from Graves. This is partly due to the ludicrous make-up, including what seem to be ping-pong balls cut in half for the aliens' eyes; the script is poor throughout. The blast which destroys the alien base is apparently a nuclear explosion, yet it leaves the military base completely undamaged. This, the third sf film Wilder made in the 1950s, is easily the worst of the trio. [GSt/DRL]


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