Made for TV Monday – Killdozer (1974)

 

kd4Okay, let’s just start out with a little bit of honesty, shall we? When you turn on a movie with the title Killdozer you have to know right up front that you’re in for more than just a little bit of ridiculousness. Well, I’m happy to report that at least on that front, the movie doesn’t disappoint.

That may be the only way it doesn’t, but at least there’s that.

Our story begins in the depths of the cosmos where we follow the trail of a meteor as it crashes down to Earth on a small island somewhere off the African coast. An unknowable amount of time later, a crew of six men are dispatched by the Corporation to prepare the area for the company’s new production base.

Suitably isolated to be the stars in a horror movie – especially once their radio, the only connection they have to the mainland, is destroyed – the six men are already tense, especially since their foreman Kelly (played with a hard edge by veteran actor Clint Walker) is business only. (It is revealed after awhile that he is a recovering alcoholic who is trying desperately to finish the job no matter what in order to retain his position with the company.)

kd5Of course it’s not long before the crew discovers the meteorite and attempts to remove it. Bringing up a bulldozer, Kelly and one of the workers, Mac, (Robert Urich) begin the extraction when the rock suddenly emits an unearthly blue glow – a glow that transfers itself into the ‘dozer. It’s from this point that we know we’re not dealing with an ordinary bulldozer. No, the D-9 has been transformed. Perhaps inhabited. Whatever the reason, it’s now become… a Killdozer!

At the same time that this is happening, the killdozer claims its first victim, as Matt, who was staring straight at the rock when the blue glow happened, is stricken by a mysterious malady and dies soon thereafter. This, of course, escalates the tension between the men, as Kelly shows no emotion, and acts as though he wants to carry on with the job as if nothing has happened.

One thing he does do is to bring the machine back to camp. However, when it sees the men communicating with their home base over the radio, it  assumes control from the man driving it and goes on a rampage, destroying the radio and eventually crushing the driver (who has bailed out) with its blade.

kd2After two deaths, the men are understandably even more on edge, and the tension only ramps up once it becomes apparent that the machine is truly moving on its own and is essentially stalking them.

Despite its essentially silly concept, it’s obvious that everyone involved was doing their best to make this a fairly taut thriller. With its lean running time of 74 minutes (remember, it was produced to run in a 90 minute time slot including commercials) Killdozer has little time to waste on extraneous matter. It’s not hurt in this regard by a mostly punchy script written by famed science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon who also wrote the 1944 novella on which the movie was based.

The cast is studded with movie and TV veterans including not only those mentioned above, but also James Wainwright and Neville Brand, and again, despite the ridiculous premise, they are playing it, for the most part, completely straight, and doing their best to put across a sense of terror and desperation that can only come from being hunted by a slow moving machine that they could pretty easily outrun.

kd6As far as the effects, well, honestly there’s only one that counts, and that’s making the killdozer appear to be driving itself, and that is pulled off effectively. The effects people even, through manipulation of the ‘dozers lights and controls effectively give it the illusion of there being an intelligence working inside the machine.

It’s worth noting that, perhaps if for no other reason than its title, Killdozer has taken on a life beyond its limited TV showings, even receiving an comic book adaptation from Marvel comics, though it should also be noted that the cover of that issue (pictured at the left) is much more dramatic than anything that happens in the movie. Not only does the ‘dozer never talk, but, as noted above, the entire cast is male, meaning there is no woman to be terrorized.

Final thoughts? Lets put it like this – Killdozer turns out, despite its silly title and ridiculous premise, to be a not-too-bad little film. And at 74 minutes, it’s not like you’ll be investing a lot of time into it.

I didn’t find a trailer online, but here’s a short TV spot:

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