Friday, June 9, 2023

Kronos - Planet Robber Tramples The Earth!

I've been looking forward to watching Kronos - The Destroyer of the Universe again for a few years. First up it stars the always irascible Jeff Morrow, one of my favorite sci-fi stars from such classics as This Island Earth and the nutty but always entertaining The Giant Claw. Morrow is at his irritable best here as scientist Leslie Gaskell who works at "Lab Central". Lab Central seems to be a complex of laboratories and business offices underneath a huge telescope and is labeled with hilariously out-sized signs for the four folks who actually work there. They include Vera Hunter (played by Barbara Lawrence who sadly passed away just a few months ago), Gaskell's girl friend and photographer, and Dr. Arnold Culver (George O'Hanlon - the voice of George Jetson), computer maven. Their boss is Dr. Hubbell Eliot (John Emery) who seems a nice enough chap when he's not being taken over by alien intelligences.

(Hanlon, Lawrence, and Morrow warily approach Kronos)

The story starts when a strange light descends from the dark skies and possesses a poor guy who just seems to want to get home after a long day. He drives to Lab Central and fights his way in to confront Dr. Hubbell where the intelligence trades up, while the poor guy who brought him promptly dies. Then we learn an asteroid is acting strangely and might be headed for Earth. It looks like a flying saucer, but they keep calling it an asteroid and a meteor. Gaskell and his team discover it and warn the military who shoot missiles which do little but divert it into the ocean off Mexico. Gaskell, Hunter, and Culver head down there while Eliot ends up in the hospital after collapsing. Some time passes while Gaskell and Hunter do a From Here to Eternity bit on the beach and then a huge energy bubble emerges from the sea. Overnight it becomes a peculiar and gigantic machine which Gaskell dubs "Kronos". Meanwhile Eliot has recovered somewhat due to electro-shock therapy and has revealed to Dr. Albert Stern (the always reliable Morris Ankrum) that he's in contact with Kronos a vast weapon sent to Earth to drain all of its energy. Stern tries to make a record of this but Eliot kills him and heads unabashedly back to Lab Central as if nothing happened. Gaskell and his team are back from Mexico after a close encounter on top of Kronos which itself has started moving around the country seeking electrical power and once in a while stomping on some peasants. Eliot confronts Gaskell and Hunter and thanks to a convenient burst of electrical energy comes to himself long enough to confess the plot for world domination. Gaskell talks the military into stopping an atomic bomb drop onto Kronos, but Kronos makes it happen anyway then they figure out that they might be able to cross the polarity in Kronos and make it suck on its own power. This works and the monster is defeated for now.

This movie is much similar to The Giant Claw, a real fave of mine. Morrow's fumbles around with his girlfriend while an unearthly menace looms but eventually comes up with a plan which the military put into action which defeats the creature. The structure is rock solid and also was the framework for countless monster epics from Atlas and others during the 50's.

(Hanlon, Emery, and Morrow at Lab Central)

Kronos is a little different because the monster is so very different. It's a giant energy collector, with almost no attempt to give it any sense of a personality. It doesn't project any emotion, but is simply a horrific device which must be shut down. I thought of Universal's The Monolith Monsters which are likewise lacking in any sense of malevolent intelligence. In the case of Kronos there is a malign alien force behind it, but itself is bereft of it or seems to be. At times though it sure looks pretty slick.

(Morrow and Lawrence relax just before the world begins to end.)

I love Jeff Morrow in these movies. He always comes off as slightly irritated as if his shoes don't fit quite right. And he always blows up then apologizes which people forgive because of the stress of the situation. But I notice they don't do it, only him. He entertains me immensely with his grouchy manner.
I'm glad I finally got a chance to see Kronos. It's a classic small-budget affair for sure with the usual standing around in various sets while stock footage carries the action, but it's very entertaining nonetheless.

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Invisible Invaders - An Unearthly Enemy!

Invisible Invaders from 1959 is a hilariously wild and funny science fiction flick which blends radiation with zombies and alien invaders to create a heady brew. It pretends to be a moralistic tale about the desperate nature of nuclear weapons but what it really is, is a booster film for war yahoos everywhere.

A respected scientist named Professor Noymann (John Carradine) is blown up by a beaker of atomic stuff and at his funeral his colleague Dr.Penner (Paul Tonge) has doubts about the use of nuclear energy for defense. His daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron) is by his side as well as his protege Dr. Lamont (Robert Hutton). When the reanimated corpse of Noymann shows up at Penner's door to tell him the Earth is doomed, he sends Lamont to Washington to pass the word and he is immediately ridiculed.

Then the Invaders start killing people in stock footage accidents and using the reanimated corpses to pass along additional warnings at hockey games (believe it or not) and sports stadiums. Eventually the world believes thee is a threat as stock footage fires break out all across the world. The three folks we've already met are shuttled to an undisclosed location by Major Bruce Jay (John Agar) to help develop a defense against the Invaders who are invisible when not animating the dead.

They putter about with Jay and Lamont getting into sundry pissing contests with Lamont coming across usually as a cowardly wimp. That leaves he-man Jay to win the evident affections of the largely useless Phyllis. Eventually of course they figure a counter to the threat, but not before they do a ton of stupid things in a myriad of stupid ways.

This is a stupid movie, made for a song but it is reasonably well cast. It is directed by Edward Cahn but it doesn't feel that far away really from the notorious Plan 9 From Outer Space by the exotic Edward Wood. In fact if both of them weren't from the same year, I'd suspect Wood had seen this one. This one has better acting and stronger set design, but the limited way they constrain the action to a few interior sets and some unconvincing countryside makes for a very static looking movie.

Agar plays his generally annoyed character while Hutton always looks like he's trying to think  of his next line. I think he's going for pensive, but it doesn't always work. There's countless oddities in this movie, but I'll let you discover those for yourself. This one should be seen by anyone who likes an entertaining bad movie.

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

IT Came From Outer Space In 3-D!

It Came from Outer Space from 1953 is memorable for a host of reasons. It's Universal's first big sci-fi flick of the 1950's, a genre they came to dominate with gusto during the decade. It is the brainchild largely of Ray Bradbury, who wrote an extensive treatment which came to serve with some added dialogue as the script for the movie. And it was filmed in rockin' 3-D. The movie hit screens and was a reasonable success, sufficient to for the template for most sci-fi alien-threat movies which would follow.

The story is simple enough. Aliens called "Xenomorphs" crash on Earth and need time and some supplies to rebuild their ship so they can leave. But they didn't arrive unnoticed as stargazer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) saw them through his trusty telescope and along for the ride is his girlfriend Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush). Putnam finds the ship moments before it is buried under tons of rock. His story of spaceships is rejected by the  local populace then strange things start to happen and people start to disappear. Among them are telephone linemen Frank (Joe Sawyer) and George (Russell Johnson) who have their bodies appropriated by the aliens to get needed materials. The aliens ask Putnam to help them by buying them time to repair their ship and he agrees, working at odds with local sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) who at first disbelieves but then feels compelled to face the threat. The aliens keep kidnapping people, including Ellen who attempts to kill Putnam. The aliens have decided they cannot stop mankind before they leave so they will destroy the Earth, but Putnam buys them a few more minutes which prove sufficient as everyone who has been kidnapped is freed. The aliens at long last leave.

(Rush and Carlson Get a Grip)

There's actually very little plot here. The aliens are creepy and lots of atmosphere is created with the eerie music which cues their presence and the wonderful point-of-view shots which are the best look we get of them. There was some debate that the aliens should never been shown, and that would've been a neat choice. But Universal wanted it different and after principal production was done they re-shot some scenes adding a one-eyed creature to give the aliens a bit more shape and form. It works okay, but does diminish the creepy tone of the movie just a bit.

The most annoying thing about watching this movie is Richard Carlson's character. He starts out as the usual above-average hero-scientist type, but then performs such a cavalcade of stupid things it becomes difficult to root for him. He tells the sheriff about the aliens then demands he do nothing, a problem he created by telling him in the first place. Maybe he just wanted to share the responsibility, but he seems at different points to create his own problems. The aliens try to kill him, with gusto in fact, and he seems all to willing to believe their story afterwards. It all seems a bit much after a while. Carlson is good in the role, it's just the role is annoying.

This is a well-made movie though, that's for sure. The Universal monster movies have a real big-screen gloss which elevates them, even those with the most dim-witted premises.

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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Tuesday, June 6, 2023


How old do you think I am? Yep! You guessed it. I turn sixty-six today and the celebrate that humbling event I offer up sixty-six classic comic books which were the sixty-sixth issue of each run. It's quite a cavalcade of classics, spanning most all of comic book history that I care about. I'm glad to still be here at this ripe old age and look forward to this time next year when I might try this all over again with number sixty-seven. Enjoy!

Until next year amigos. 

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