From the DVD case: In order to conquer Earth, a group of aliens overtake the brain of scientist Dr. Douglas Martin (Peter Graves). When Martin realizes what is happening to him and what is about to befall planet Earth, he vows to stop the evil attackers at any cost. (1954, b&w)
Mark says: Any creditability that the script for Killers from Space may have had is thrown out the window once the bug-eyed aliens appear. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can make you take the movie seriously after seeing these creatures.
Make-up artist Harry Thomas (also known for his work on such Ed Wood classics as Plan 9 from Outer Space and Bride of the Monster) is responsible for these alien monstrosities. The eyes are often mistaken for ping pong balls, but are actually the bottoms of egg trays. Either way, the results are ridiculous. The alien uniforms are almost as silly. They look like big ol’ baggy pajamas with mittens for hands. Santa Claus is scarier than these guys.
But let’s discuss the plot a little bit: Aliens from a dying world hide beneath the crust of the Earth devising a plan to take over the planet. After a lot of thought (obviously), they decide that giant atomic insects and animals would be their best bet for world domination. However, they need atomic scientist Dr. Martin (Peter Graves) to spy on A-bomb tests to complete their calculations and set their plans in motion.
Obviously, Dr. Martin would never betray the planet willingly, so the aliens have to brainwash him (I think a similar method was used to get Peter Graves to take this role). After the brainwashing, Dr. Martin’s co-workers and wife notice that he is acting strangely. First they question his loyalty, and then his sanity. Once Dr. Martin realizes what has happened to him, he has a difficult time convincing others of his story (imagine that). I don’t want to give away the thrilling conclusion of the film, so I’ll stop there.
Peter Graves is no stranger to these cheapie films, just watch him in Beginning of the End or It Conquered the World, but his performance in Killers from Space is awkward and below par. I’m sure Mr. Graves would have been happy to watch this film sink into oblivion.
Graves is not the only veteran of low-budget sci-fi in this film, though. You may recognize Steve Pendleton (FBI Agent Briggs) as the Colonel in Target Earth, or Frank Gerstle (in the role of Dr. Kruger) as Les Hellman from The Wasp Woman. Colonel Banks is played by James Seay, who also plays Colonel Hallock in The Amazing Colossal Man, and John Merrick, who plays the lead alien in Killers from Space, is a male nurse in The Alligator People. Even with these credentials, you still can’t help but be appalled by the poor quality of this movie.
I should mention that Barbara Bestar plays Ellen Martin, Dr. Martin’s wife. The only notable aspect of her character is that she looks a lot like Suzanne Pleshette.
I’m not saying Killers from Space has no redeeming qualities; it does possess some obvious camp charm. Unfortunately, the campiness is compromised by a dragging pace. It wasn’t until my third viewing of the movie that I got through it without falling asleep. That’s never a good sign.
I would never seriously recommend this movie to anyone, but fans of low-budget sci-fi will probably appreciate it for its kitsch.
Killers from Space is directed by W. Lee Wilder (Phantom from Space).
Scene to watch for: Peter Graves discusses the history of a dying planet with a nearly cross-eyed alien.
Line to listen for: “This is ridiculous!”
Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.