Giant robots from Venus invade Chicago. Stranded in the deserted city are Frank and Nora (who has recently attempted suicide)
Richard Denning ... Frank Brooks
Kathleen Crowley ... Nora King
Virginia Grey ... Vicki Harris
Richard Reeves ... Jim Wilson
Robert Roark ... Davis, the Killer
Mort Marshall ... Charles Otis
Arthur Space ... Lt. General Wood
Whit Bissell ... Tom, Chief research scientist
James Drake ... Lieutenant (as Jim Drake)
Steve Pendleton ... Colonel
House Peters Jr. ... Technician
When I first viewed this movie,I was 11 years of age. Needless to say I couldn't sleep for a couple of nights. The movie is vintage post-World War II paranoia that has reached cult classic status (see The Astounding B-Monster web site).
All right!! So it isn't hi-tech or academy award winning material, however, the premise is a good story.
So what! The robot looks like a Maytag washer-dryer combo gone mad. Give us a break!! Stop comparing yesterday's movies by today's computer F/X standards. Think (if you can) what it was like in the fifties with no internet, no laptops and no cell phones! And you couldn't trust those Russians! The fifties reached their peak with UFO's sightings and stories and that's what this movie is all about.
Enough said!. Turn the lights down low, make some popcorn and enjoy this movie with a friend, because that robot might just be looking over your shoulder.
The main thing I liked about this film is the basic premise. An assorted group of people find themselves in an abandoned city with an alien menace lurking about. The first half of this film is quite creepy and is very effective. However, once the alien robots show up, the film becomes just another ordinary 1950's alien invasion flick.
Like many of these 1950's science fiction and horror flicks, I first saw TARGET EARTH on T.V. in the sixties. Then the film vanished from television and I did not get a chance to see it again till I purchased a video copy about ten years ago. In the interim (when I was a teenager) I read the short novel "The Deadly City" by Paul Fairman which TARGET EARTH was adapted from. Having seen the film several times since, I can tell you the film is actually better. In the novel the invaders were not robots, but flesh and blood aliens (if aliens have flesh and blood!). They are never described, but someone utters something like (I'm not kidding): "They don't look like us!" While the films characters are the standard type found in films of this nature, those in the novel are all unpleasant types. No reader would care if they survive or not. Like the film, the characters are menaced by an escaped killer, but at least in the film he has a motive to menace the characters. In the novel the killers motives are unclear. Also, the novel ends by having the aliens suddenly drop dead with no explanation offered other than someone alluding that the aliens might not have been able to adapt to conditions on Earth.
Overall, TARGET EARTH is not a bad film. It's to bad it's makers let the film drift into a routine alien invader film after the very effective first half. The second half is okay, but it just doesn't deliver anything special. At least the writers didn't use the same unpleasant characters found in the novel. Like many cheap films made in the early fifties, TARGET EARTH is much better and enjoyable than many low budget films made in the later fifties.
Acting: THE GOOD. Richard Reeves and Virginia Grey. Although they both started the movie completely intoxicated, they suddenly become sober at the sight of a dead body. But I found them to be the only two characters with any hint of personality in this movie. THE BAD: Everybody else. Kathleen Crowly runs through the vacant city with a smile on her face, isn't she supposed to be frightened? Richard Denning is just the opposite. His face is so straight throughout the whole movie, I was beginning to believe HE was a robot. And finally, Robert Roark...ugh!! What is that?? A Humphry Bogart impersonation?
SPECIAL EFFECTS: THE GOOD: You'll only have to look at the robots a few times,the rest is left to our imaginations. THE BAD: Is that robot bow-legged? Well, I have seen worse in other B-movies.
CLASSIC LINES: FRANK: "Take it easy, I'm not going to hurt you!" Just before slapping Nora in the face. And, FRANK: "It's(Venus)covered by a heavy layer of clouds,that means plenty of water, oxygen, and hydrogen in it's atmosphere." VICKI: "Say, where did you learn all this?" FRANK: "College." Overall, this is your average 50's sci-fi with more focus on character studies than on the cheap looking robot. Which saves it from the Ed Wood level of movie making.
# Only one robot costume was constructed for this film and it was used for all robot scenes. This is why you never see more than one member of the "robot army" in a shot.
# Although the production crew had no permits, the scenes showing the deserted city were filmed in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday mornings when the streets would be vacant.
# The killer, (played by Robert Roark) got his part because his father, a doctor in LA would invest in the film if his son was given a part. After this part he went on to play in many movies and became a producer.