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Killers from Space

Killers from Space (1954) Movie Poster
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USA  •    •  71m  •    •  Directed by: W. Lee Wilder.  •  Starring: Peter Graves, James Seay, Steve Pendleton, Frank Gerstle, John Frederick, Barbara Bestar, Shepard Menken, Jack Daly, Ron Gans, Ben Welden, Burt Wenland, Lester Dorr, Robert Roark.  •  Music by: Manuel Compinsky.
       Atomic scientist/pilot Doug Martin is missing after his plane crashes on an reconnaissance mission after a nuclear test. Miraculously appearing unhurt at the base later, he is given sodium amethol, but authorities are skeptical of his story that he was captured by aliens determined to conquer the Earth with giant monsters and insects. Martin vows to use existing technology to destroy them.

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Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
Image from: Killers from Space (1954)
"Killers From Space" seems to attract a lot of negative reviews but I'm not sure why. It's not that bad, as cheesy, sleazy, poorly acted, and egregiously written science fiction movies go.

The first thirty five minutes, in fact, have nothing to do with aliens or space anyway. It's a anti-communist spy plot. The remaining eighty minutes or so owe something to "Plan Nine From Outer Space." A scientist, Peter Graves, manages to survive a calamitous airplane crash after an atomic bomb test. He shows up in perfect health and evidently unchanged except for a new surgical scar over his heart. He's all set to go back to work. But the other high muck-a-mucks in the atomic bomb business claim he's acting strangely. That's an example of poor writing because, in fact, he's his usual self -- earnest, loving towards his wife, and friendly. Someone points this out to Graves' superior, played by Frank Gerstle, the only other recognizable face in the cast. Gerstle's riposte: "How do you disprove that scar?" I, for one, don't know. How DO you "disprove a scar"? Another interesting dilemma arises when the Air Force colonel sternly orders Graves to go home and relax. How can you relax when someone is ordering you to do it? That's known as a double bind. The logical paradox would have been clearer if the colonel had ordered Graves to be spontaneous. If Graves were then to be spontaneous, he would be following an order to do so and would therefore not be acting spontaneously.

But enough of these rational caprices. Graves discovers that he's been saved by aliens who retrieved his body from the crash site, then hypnotized into digging up all sorts of classified information and delivering it to the aliens in the cave where they're hiding out, preparing to take over the world. Graves demurs. "You're asking me to betray three billion people." The writers didn't do any homework. In 1954, the world's population was a bit less than one billion. Today it's about 6.3 billion. (In 40 years it's estimated at 12 billion, something to think about when it comes to taking over the world.) The aliens are dressed in black sweat suits with hoods and have ping pong balls for eyes. That's pretty curious in itself. The director was Billy Wilder's brother and the story was written, I think, by Billy's nephew. Couldn't they have done better with the aliens? It would have been an improvement if, instead of trying to make them look strange and failing, they had simply used ordinary actors in ordinary period clothing.

But -- even that problem is small compared to another that the film must prompt in the mind of any thoughtful viewer. Where did these aliens learn to speak English? Did they learn it from watching other cheap movies about aliens from space? It's a reasonable question because they speak the same in every such movie. There are only American accents to begin with, devoid of any regionalisms. No alien has ever said anything like, "I weren't listening," as a resident of Appalachia or Yorkshire might. No, their English is always standard and even includes a few multi-syllabic words. Yet none of them has learned to use CONTRACTIONS. "You are very clever," they say. or, "We have anticipated that." They always separate the pronoun from the verb. Whatever their information source, it was not a class in colloquial English.

It's a tawdry film. It's the kind of thing that writers and directors might have pumped out overnight on a major dexedrine binge, recklessly and heedless of logic or art. It could have been better, and maybe even less expensive, had any of the elements shown any talent. As it is, there's not a touch of originality in it.


Review by Robert J. Maxwell from the Internet Movie Database.