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  Killers from Space World Staring Championships
Year: 1954
Director: W. Lee Wilder
Stars: Peter Graves, James Seay, Steve Pendleton, Frank Gerstle, John Frederick, Barbara Bestar, Shepherd Menken, Jack Daly, Ron Gans, Bert Welden, Burt Wenland, Lester Dorr, Robert Roark, Ruth Bennett, Mark Scott
Genre: Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: The awesome power of the atomic bomb has been realised on Planet Earth for some time, but only now is mankind waking up to its potential for fuelling our endeavours. However, we may not be alone in noting this, nor utilising it, as one test out in the desert seems to go successfully, or the scientists believe so at least until one of the observation aircraft, a jet fighter, is somehow caught up in the blast and heads straight downwards into the ground, apparently because of something there which has drawn them in. The boffin onboard, Doctor Doug Paul Martin (Peter Graves), should really have perished... so why is he stumbling back home shortly after?

For all the claims about UFOs and space aliens in real life made down the years, more or less starting the abduction narrative with the Betty and Barney Hill case in the mid-sixties, the suspicion that they could all be the product of an overactive imagination or hallucination dogs any serious attempts to examine them. And no wonder when a film like Killers from Space exists, for about a decade before the popular notion of how these invaders, visitors, call them what you will, took over from the contactee movement of the fifties, there was an obvious precedent, and they were contained in the science fiction of the age, not the science fact.

This was a prime example, and despite not being any good in any way, indeed it was perfectly terrible, there was a tendency to go back and pinpoint it as the inception point of a whole cultural phenomenon. Invaders from Mars, from the previous year, may be the bona fide scary cult flick for the Baby Boomers that really seemed to kick it all off, but Killers from Space provided one of the most obvious templates for abductions as they came to be related by the supposed victims of such an uncanny incident. It was all here, from the mysterious encounter, the missing time, unexplained wounds and the hypnotic regression to find out what "really" happened.

In the context of the movie, what really happens is that aliens arrive from across the universe seeking to use up Earth's resources and we have no say in the matter, and plucky humans do their best to counter them. Throw in the atomic angle, which everyone wanted to know about since the world had woken up to the idea that these weapons could destroy the entirety of the human race, and you had the ideal nineteen-fifties science fiction B-movie, or it would have been had it been in any way entertaining. We could regard the villains as stand-ins for the Communists out of the Soviet Union, but when did Communists ever look like this? The costumes for the enemy were body stockings and balaclavas, with the hapless actors sporting ping pong ball eyes and huge eyebrows, about the only amusing element in the whole thing.

They looked like something The Muppets would have dreamt up some time in the future (perhaps for Pigs in Space?), and in no way were capable of being taken seriously, which is another reason why this film is intermittently returned to: pure camp. Alas, even at an hour and ten minutes, Killers from Space was a drag, with the tiniest of budgets (never mind the special effects, including that favourite of the desperate, closeups of spiders, insects and lizards, check out the echo in those interiors) typical of its director W. Lee Wilder. He was the opportunist brother of Billy Wilder, the far more successful movie director, and to all intents and purposes there was no love lost between them as W. Lee blatantly applied himself to the cinema in an "anything you can do" manner. Nevertheless, despite its slender means, anyone interested in ufology would be intrigued to witness how this sad, shoddy little effort illustrated a concept, heck, it laid out the ground rules, for an industry of the imaginative - or gullible - for decades to come. Graves' career survived, anyway. Music by Manuel Compinsky.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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