Killers from Space

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Killers from Space
Killers from space.jpg
Directed by W. Lee Wilder
Produced by W. Lee Wilder
Written by
Starring
Narrated by Mark Scott
Music by Manuel Compinsky
Cinematography William H. Clothier
Edited by William Faris
Production
company
  • Planet Filmplays, Inc.
  • RKO Radio Pictures
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • January 23, 1954 (1954-01-23) (U.S.)[1]
Running time
71 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Killers from Space (a.k.a. The Man Who Saved the Earth) is a 1954 independently made American black-and-white science fiction film, produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder (brother of Billy Wilder), that stars Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar, Frank Gerstle, James Seay, and Steve Pendleton. The film originated from an original, commissioned screenplay by his son Myles Wilder and their regular collaborator William Raynor.[2]

Lee Wilder's production company, Planet Filmplays, usually producing on a financing-for-distribution basis for United Artists, made this film for RKO Radio Pictures distribution.

Plot[edit]

Dr. Douglas Martin (Peter Graves) is a nuclear scientist working on atomic bomb tests. While collecting aerial data on a United States Air Force (USAF) atomic blast at Soledad Flats, he loses control of his aircraft and crashes. He appears to have survived, unhurt, walking back to the air base with no memory of what happened. On his chest is a strange scar that was not there before the crash.

At the base hospital, Martin acts so strangely that the USAF brings in the FBI to investigate, thinking he might be an impostor. He is eventually cleared but told to take some time off. Martin protests being excluded from his project while on leave.

When an atomic test is set off without his knowledge, Martin steals the data, then goes back to Soledad Flats and places the information under a stone. An FBI agent follows him, but Martin is able to elude him until he crashes his car. Now back at the hospital, he is given truth serum. Deep under the drug's influence, Martin tells a story about being held captive by space aliens, led by Denab, in their underground base. The aliens, with large, bulging eyes, are from the planet Astron Delta, ruled by a being called The Tala. They had revived his lifeless body as he had died in his aircraft.

The aliens plan to exterminate humanity using giant insects and reptiles, grown with the radiation absorbed from our own atomic bomb tests. Martin intuits that the aliens use stolen electric grid power to control their powerful equipment. This so that the A-bomb's released energy levels can be predicted and then balanced. The aliens wiped his memory and hypnotized him into collecting the data for them.

The FBI agent (Steve Pendleton) and the base commander (James Seay) are skeptical of this incredible story and keep him confined at the hospital. Nevertheless, the attending physician says that Martin genuinely believes that what he told them is true.

With calculations made with a slide rule, Martin determines that if he shuts off the power to Soledad Flats for just 10 seconds, it will create an overload in the aliens' equipment. So he escapes from the hospital and goes to the nearby electrical power plant, where he forces a technician to turn off the power. After 10 seconds, the alien base is destroyed in a massive explosion, saving the Earth from conquest.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Under the working title of The Man Who Saved the Earth, production took place from early- to mid-July 1953 at KTTV Studios.[3] Scenes featuring the cavern hideout of the aliens were shot in Bronson Canyon in Los Angeles.[4]

Reception[edit]

Killers from Space was released as a B-movie, hampered by low production values and minuscule budget.

Film reviewer Thomas Scalzo also noted: "Killers From Space is an enjoyable, if slow-going, sci-fi / horror diversion, and if these killers from space had somehow found a way to stop their yammering long enough to get on with some actual killing, the combination of Peter Graves, mutant insects and amphibians, a palpable atmosphere of ’50s atomic fear, and the directorial efforts of Billy Wilder’s brother, would have been enough to bump the film into the upper echelon of early sci-fi essentials".[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Detail View" 'Killers from Space'." American Film Institute. Retrieved: June 1, 2014.
  2. ^ Johnston 2011, p. 78.
  3. ^ "Original print information: 'Killers from Space'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "Notes: 'Killers from Space'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 3, 2016.
  5. ^ Scalzo, Thomas. "Review: 'Killers from Space'. NotComing.com, 2006. Retrieved: May 3, 2016,

Bibliography[edit]

  • Johnston, Keith M. Science Fiction Film: A Critical Introduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011. ISBN 978-1-8478-8476-3.
  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.

External links[edit]