"Killers From Space" (1954)
      [Posted by: Nolan B. Canova, March 2, 2012, 7:31 am ]

Three Stars

Studio: Planet Filmplays/RKO     
Starring: Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar, James Seay, Steve Pendleton, John Merrick, and Ben Welden
Directed by: W. Lee Wilder
Rated: None
Running Time: 71 minutes

Synopsis: A military pilot, forced down in the desert following an A-bomb test, discovers an underground lair of aliens plotting to conquer the earth, and is subsequently forced to help them.

Nolan B. Canova
Dr. Doug Martin (Peter Graves) is co-piloting a mission to drop an experimental A-bomb in the desert, specifically, Soledad Flats, Nevada. After a successful deployment, however, his pilot and he notice a strange glow coming from the ground unrelated (or maybe not) to the test. They suddenly suffer a control lock-out which results in a seemingly fatal crash in said desert. At least it is for the pilot. Dr. Martin, however, soon shows up to the local Air Force Base, walks right in, still in his flight suit, and none the worse for the wear. Well, save for a mysterious medical scar that criss-crosses his rib-cage---and never appeared before he is examined by base doctors.

Unable...and unwilling...to recall his whereabouts during his bout of missing time, Doug is injected with a truth serum by base doctors, with the brass nearby to deliver interrogation. After the serum takes hold, however, Doug is all too willing to give up the sordid details with no resistance.

Seems Doug actually did die in the plane crash after all, but an alien race, the Astronians from Astro Delta now hiding in caves underneath the desert, captured him, revived him and coerced him into helping them with their plan for conquering Earth. Why? As leader Daneb-Tala (John Merrick, aka, John Frederick) tells him, their race is slowly dying due to problems with their Sun (long story). They've also developed a way to "gigantify" bugs and lizards to create havoc topside. Doug must be sent back to gain top secret information about America's nuclear program to deliver back to the aliens. Since they seem to live solely on electricity (their basic food and power, I think) maybe they want to build a nuclear reactor or something, not a lot of this makes sense, admittedly. But it's vitally important. It's also important that their electricity -- supplied by a local power plant, presumably in Nevada -- not be interrupted. Doug tries to escape through the expansive cave system (basically, California's Bronson Caves), but is unable. The aliens return him to the surface, but have wiped his memory and planted a post-hypnotic suggestion to find the government's secret atomic files.

As Doug recounts this part of the story to the officials, he becomes driven to defeat the aliens by somehow cutting off their power supply. Since no one seems to believe his story, he's a man alone on a mission.

The shots of him running wild around the streets outside in his hospital gown and pajamas trying to save the world must be seem to be believed. Despite all this, he must find the power plant and convince them to cooperate.

Killers From Space is a quaint golden era sci-fi schlockfest whose most notable image is likely the bug-eyed aliens, basically men in jump-suits wearing ping-pong balls over their eyes. A plethora of grainy military stock footage sets the initial tone of the film as radio transmission voice-overs use tech-talk to attempt some authenticity. As so many early sci-fi films did back then, this aspires to a "message" regarding unintended consequences to nuclear testing. I appreciate the documentary-like approach much of the film has to this end, despite its meager budget.

Most offices on the air force base -- whose interiors look alternately like an apartment building, a school hallway, and your basically-lit movie set -- sport a framed portrait of President Eisenhower, just to show a little patriotism, doncha know.

Peter Graves is a much younger and fitter Graves (his character is 32 years old, I'm assuming Graves is close to that here) than the "Mr. Phelps" Graves of TV's Mission: Impossible fame. Here, in one of his early roles, Graves, all buff, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, could just as easily pass as a surfer dude! My favorite line of his is repeated at least twice, "I'm gonna blow 'em to pieces!"

I didn't spot all that many recognizable faces outside of Graves, save possibly for Steve Pendelton, a guest on many cop and western shows of the '50s and '60s, and the wonderful Ben Welden, known to this writer mostly as a regular heavy on the '50s TV classic, The Adventures of Superman. Unfortunately, Ben's face is covered with an oxygen mask during all flight scenes, so barely counts as an "appearance".

If you're lucky, you can find a print of Killers From Space that has the "alien" scenes tinted green (as is the shot of the initial desert "glow"). I saw my review copy via CrazedFanboy.com's Radioactive Television: "Killers From Space", currently also available on YouTube.

At only 71 minutes, it's a low-investment trip to entertaining retro-cinema nostalgia!

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