Like many of my favorite B-films, Killers from Space is vintage sci-fi. Directed by W. Lee Wilder (aka “The Other Wilder,” legendary director Billy Wilder’s older and less talented brother), written by his son Myles Wilder, and starring a young Peter Graves and the babely Barbara Bestar, the film is a classic “alien invader’s evil plan” flick.
Killers is straight out of the Ed Wood school of film-making: bad modeling, cheesy sets, and over 10 mins. total of stock footage, mostly from early 50s US military sources. It has its charms though, not the least of which is faithfully reflecting its era: cigarette vending machines in the hallways of a hospital; period language (the observation planes during the A-bomb test are designated “Tarbaby 1,” “Tarbaby 2,” etc.); frequent visual references to then-President Eisenhower and the American flag, and even the presence of one of Mr. Hoover’s steely-eyed “G-men.” No atheistic, closet Hollywood Commies made this picture, by God!
During an atomic bomb test (cleverly code-named “Operation A-Bomb Test”), the observation plane carrying Dr. Douglas Martin (Peter Graves) is pulled down by a mysterious light on the desert floor. Everyone assumes he died in the crash until he shows up a few days later, wandering weak and disoriented around base with a new (but completely healed) scar on his chest. He is subsequently released from the hospital after his identity is confirmed by G-Man Briggs (Steve Pendleton), but he is put on medical leave for the time being, all the while having disturbing visions of eyes. After incidents of odd behavior noticed by friends and his wife, Ellen (Barbara Bestar), and then some treasonous but very amateurish espionage (he left the Classified Information vault door open when he left—really), he flees but is captured and fed sodium amytal (“truth serum”) and it is revealed that he has been hypnotized by aliens residing in caverns under the desert floor not far from the test site. According to the aliens, he died in the crash and they recovered his body, installing a new heart (hence the unexplained scar). He is the only one who believes this, of course, the others suspecting insanity on his part.
The aliens (I call them “Feldmanites”) came to Earth via a “electron bridge” to annihilate its current biosphere and start from scratch. Their own sun is dying, and although they waged genocidal invasions against their own neighboring planets to escape the doom of their home world—Astron Delta— it is not enough. They need Earth for their 1 billion population, and they need to clear its biosphere before taking over (the fact that they are creating a dead planet in order to escape their own dead planet is not explored in the film). They have been collecting and storing electrons from the US government’s A-bomb tests, holding “several billion electron volts” in “nucleo-storage units” to achieve this goal, but their power grid is dangerously overloaded as they have been siphoning electricity from the local power station. The Feldmanites have also been breeding giant mutated insects and reptiles for their “ethnic cleansing” campaign, as we know because the film spends almost 4 minutes of filler time showing us over and over again accompanied by bad audio effects.
Fortunately for our species, Martin figures out that he can foil the Feldmanites’ evil scheme by simply shutting down the power grid at the generating plant for a few seconds, thus releasing all of their stored “electrons” in an unscheduled A-bomb test of his own—death by circuit-breaker. His plan succeeds after some sleepy action scenes at a power plant, and the film closes (appropriately) with stock footage of an atomic bomb exploding as the “nucleo-storage” batteries go.
While this film is low on the 3-B scale and has a plot with some astonishing inconsistencies, it’s very entertaining with its obvious eye fetish and a great period piece if you enjoy early-50s schlock.
Check out this trailer for “Killers From Space”