TARGET EARTH (director/editor: Sherman A. Rose; screenwriter: from the book The Deadly City by Paul Fairman/Bill Raynor; cinematographer: Guy Roe; music: Paul Dunlap; cast: Kathleen Crowley (Nora King), Richard Denning (Frank Brooks), Virginia Grey (Vicki Harris ), Richard Reeves (Jim Wilson), Robert Roark (Davis), Whit Bissell (Scientist), Mort Marshall (Charlie Otis), Arthur Space (General); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herman Cohen; VCI Home Video/Allied Artists; 1954)
“It’s a modest film for those sci-fi connoisseurs who flip out over paranoiac Cold War flicks about outsiders as dangerous foes.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sherman A. Rose directs this cheapie sci-fier based on the novel The Deadly City by Paul Fairman that is adapted to the screen by Bill Raynor. It starts off like house on fire with a woman awakening from a failed suicide attempt into a desolate world, but soon fades to mediocrity–though not without some 1950s charm. It’s a modest film for those sci-fi connoisseurs who flip out over paranoiac Cold War flicks about outsiders as dangerous foes.
An unnamed city is ordered to be completely evacuated as an army of robots from Venus surround the city and begin a ‘search and destroy’ operation. The army teams up with scientists to find a way of stopping the robots from conquering the planet, as all their conventional ways of fighting are not working. Stranded in the deserted city are Frank Brooks (Richard Denning) and Nora King (Kathleen Crowley). Frank is a visitor from Detroit who got knocked unconscious and got rolled for his wallet, while Nora took sleeping pills in an attempt to commit suicide. She’s been despondent over her husband’s car accident death six months ago, as she blames herself for arguing with him when he was behind the wheel and thereby he didn’t pay attention to the road.
In their wanderings around town, the couple find all the building structures are intact but no people except for a few dead bodies. Hoping to get a car to flee the city or find a working portable radio to find out what’s going on, they hear a piano being played and run into a trash talking bickering couple, Vicki Harris (Virginia Grey) and Jim Wilson (Richard Reeves), living it up in a lounge by drinking the free champagne. They didn’t leave because they got so drunk celebrating Jim’s daily double winning bet, as evidently out of the city’s half a million population they were the only drunks not evacuated.
When sober-minded Nora and Frank get it into the heads of the low-life couple that they are in real danger and should find a way to escape the city, they all go out on the street searching for a car. But all the cars have their distributor caps removed due to the efficient last-minute evacuation plan administered by the army (Yeah!). In the street they run into a panic-stricken Charlie Otis (Marshall), and he joins the crew. For safety reasons they make themselves at home in an abandoned hotel to get out of the sight of the prowling robots. The jittery Otis ignores the warnings of the others to stay and flees the hotel in hopes of leaving the city before there’s a full-scale invasion. But as soon as he reaches the street, a robot zaps him to death.
A new danger emerges when a psychopathic killer armed with a revolver, Davis (Roark), holds them hostage in their hotel suite as he devices a plan to use them as decoys for the robots while he escapes alone through the sewer system.
The conclusion builds to whether the scientists will find a way of eliminating the robots before it’s too late for the planet or the survivors, as a tank crew captured a robot and the lab is examing it for clues. In the meantime, the disparate foursome must fight off both the maniacal earthling and those patrolling robots in the streets.
Filled with banal dialogue, cheesy looking tin robots that are hardly scary, and an unexciting storyline that never builds on tension, the film is played on a flat one-note scale. Nora and Frank are falling in love and now both have something to live for so they are concerned with surviving this alien attack. They do some heavy acting to convince us they are frightened of the unknown. Frank explains that the invaders must be humans from Venus who are controlling the robots because they have similar atmospheric conditions as earth, something no other planet has. Nora is impressed with her man and beamingly asks: “Say, where did you learn all this?” Frank: “In college. My best friend lent me his science fiction books.” The implication is that seeing this movie is not only entertaining but educational.
REVIEWED ON 2/5/2004 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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