It Came from the ’50s: Killers from Space

Killers from SpaceThere’s something that must be gotten out of the way before getting to the review proper. This film features an early scene with an Air Force jet flying around. Its call sign is “Tar Baby 2.” Yep. Tar baby is one of those terms that the people who use it insist is not racist. But, come on. It’s a very evocative term. I bet it was evocative in 1954, when this film was released, as well. Whatever the context and whatever the time, hearing it will make a modern viewer’s head turn, and is yet another surprise look into grandpa’s casual bigotry that these old flicks provide. Anyway…

Killers from Space is producer/director W. Lee Wilder’s follow-up to the terrible Phantom from Space. At least this flick doesn’t have the FCC driving around trying to save humanity. In this flick, that responsibility falls to Peter Graves, as Dr. Douglas Martin. He’s on the aforementioned racism jet as it circles a nuclear test in Nevada. All of a sudden, the plane crashes. Martin is given up for dead, but later he comes stumbling into town in a tattered flight suit.

Martin is out of his head, so much so that there is concern he’s an impostor and saboteur. The truth is much wilder. During the time Martin was presumed dead, he had actually been kidnapped by alien invaders and taken to their secret underground lair. There, the aliens reveal their entire scheme to him, because that’s what happens in shitty movies like this. Afterwards, it is up to Martin to foil the aliens’ nefarious plans.

The aliens are incredible. Before they first appear, this flick is going nowhere. The pace is somnambulistic, and the sabotage plot, which any viewer knows is soon to be discarded, just isn’t interesting. But, the aliens. They’re just dudes, but the makeup folks glued on some bushy eyebrows and, pièce de résistance, what looks to be ping-pong balls sliced in half and placed over the eyes, to represent the fact these aliens come from a world with a much dimmer star than our sun, thus having evolved huge orbs. It’s an incredible look, a glorious exemplar of shitty filmmaking, and my Halloween costume for next year. The alien outfit alone is worth giving this film a look. That’s about it, though.

Other than the outrageous appearance of the aliens, there isn’t much going on in this film. It’s a very talky script, packed full with stale dialogue. There’s also a lot of stock footage, some inept model work, and, yes, giant insects and lizards. Because, why not? By the time these mutants show up, viewers have already been subjected to racism, a nuclear explosion, disembodied eyeballs, rambling incoherence, sketch comedy-worthy aliens, and Peter Graves. Wilder was in full-on fuckit mode while making this flick. Yet, still, it’s incredibly boring! I didn’t think it was possible to throw this much nonsense into a movie and have it be so slow. That’s quite an impressive feat of incompetence on the part of Wilder.

That’s all I got. This film stinks. Its remaining value is as a curiosity. Those stupid-looking aliens are worth a glance. Killers from Space is not that watchable, slipping in between Theodore Rex and Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things in the index, at #208. Stay away.

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