Target Earth (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sherman A. Rose|
|Produced by||Herman Cohen|
|Story by||Paul W. Fairman|
|Music by||Paul Dunlap|
|Edited by||Sherman A. Rose|
Abtcon Pictures, Inc.
|Distributed by||Allied Artists Pictures Corporation|
Target Earth is a 1954 independently made American black-and-white science fiction film, produced by Herman Cohen, directed by Sherman A. Rose, that stars Richard Denning, Kathleen Crowley, Virginia Grey, and Whit Bissell. The film was distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation.
Set in a deserted Chicago, the film's storyline follows a small group of people overlooked during a mass evacuation of "the city that never sleeps", carried out because of a sudden invasion by hostile robotic beings believed to be from the planet Venus.
After a failed attempt at suicide, Nora King (Kathleen Crowley) regains consciousness and discovers that her building has no electricity or water, and she then wanders out into the empty, quiet streets of Chicago. Stumbling over the body of a dead woman, she encounters Frank Brooks (Richard Denning), who has just recently revived after being beaten in a robbery.
The two of them try to find others in the deserted city. Hearing music from a nearby restaurant, they come upon a couple, Jim Wilson (Richard Reeves) and Vicki Harris (Virginia Grey), who are still drunk and tell them they were incapable of joining an evacuation of Chicago's population which has taken place. Proceeding as a group, they continue to search the deserted streets, coming upon a car that will not start. Another survivor, Charles Otis (Mort Marshall), sees them and tells them that the same applies to all the other cars he has tried.
A growing apprehension takes hold as they begin to appreciate that they are alone with an unknown menace that has caused everyone to evacuate the city. Charles finds a newspaper in a hotel lobby that proclaims that a "mystery army" is attacking the city. In a panic, he runs out into the street, only to be killed by a death ray from a nearby alien robot.
While attempting to defend the city, a military force, led by Lt. Gen. Wood (Arthur Space), sets up a command post. After Air Force bombers are easily destroyed by the advancing invaders, the use of atomic weapons is contemplated. A group of scientists, including the chief research scientist (Whit Bissell), are finally able to work on a captured robot to find out if the alien machines have any vulnerabilities.
While trying to escape the attacking robots, the small band is joined by Davis (Robert Roark), a psychotic killer who has his own plans for survival. The survivors realize that there are enemies within their group as well as from outer space. Several deaths occur as they flee for their lives from the alien menace. An army unit eventually arrives that is fully equipped to effectively dispatch the invading robots, halting the invasion.
- Richard Denning as Frank Brooks
- Kathleen Crowley as Nora King
- Virginia Grey as Vicki Harris
- Richard Reeves as Jim Wilson
- Robert Roark as Davis
- Whit Bissell as Tom, Chief research scientist
- Arthur Space as Lt. General Wood
- Steve Pendleton as Colonel
- Mort Marshall as Charles Otis
- House Peters Jr. as Technician
- Steve Calvert as the Robot
The screenplay for Target Earth is based on the 1953 science fiction short story "Deadly City" by Paul W. Fairman, which first appeared in the March 1953 issue of If magazine under Fairman's pseudonym, "Ivar Jorgensen".
Principal photography began mid-July 1954 at Kling Studios, for a shooting schedule of a tight seven days that also included outdoor shooting. While the story is set in Chicago, Target Earth was actually filmed in Los Angeles. Empty street scenes were filmed during early morning hours before normal traffic began.
Actor Robert Roark was given a role because his father was a large investor in Target Earth.
Even though a "robot army" is mentioned several times during the film, only one robot was constructed for the production, which was then used in all scenes to depict the invasion. When actor Steve Calvert, who played the robot, was not working on B films, he regularly worked as a bartender at Ciro's on the Sunset Strip. He also played the apes in Bride of the Gorilla (1951) and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952).
Target Earth was a typical product of 1950s-filmed science fiction but could never rise above its low budget underpinnings. One of the few notable aspects of the production was that the film was one of the first to explore the subgenre of alien invasions, following the success of George Pal's The War of the Worlds (1953). Target Earth was also produced by Herman Cohen, making his producing debut, who would become one of the most prominent B movie producers of the 1960s. Director Sherman A. Rose, who was a prolific editor in both television and film, would go on to make only two other films.[Note 1]
TV Guide later rated it 1/4 stars, writing, "The robots are just plain disappointing." David Maine of PopMatters rated it 6/10 stars and called it "a tight, engaging little thriller that focuses more on character than special effects."
- Stafford, Jeff. "Video Reviews: 'Target Earth'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 7, 2015.
- "Original print information: 'Target Earth'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 7, 2015.
- Weaver 1994, p. 69.
- Walker 1997, p. 94.
- "Target Earth." TV Guide. Retrieved: April 9, 2015.
- "Sherman A. Rose." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 16, 2015.
- Maine, David. "Don’t Open That Door! #33: 'Target Earth' (1954)." PopMatters, March 7, 2013. Retrieved: April 9, 2015.
- Walker, John, ed. Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies (14th ed.). New York: HarperResource, 1997. ISBN 0-06-093507-3.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching The Skies, American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Vol I: 1950–1957. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1982. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
- Weaver, Tom. "Herman Cohen Interview". Attack of the Monster Movie Makers: Interviews With 20 Genre Giants. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1994. ISBN 978-0-7864-9574-0.
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