By Dennis D. McDonald
This 1957 black and white science fiction movie is nowhere near classics like This Island Earth or Forbidden Planet in production values, but it holds up surprisingly well, if you give it a chance.
I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid. I dimly remember thinking even back then it was a strange film, what with the giant metallic robot creating a swath of destruction across the Mexican landscape on its pitifully animated pile-driving legs. But watched closely, the movie contains many classic elements —- the solitary driver on a desert road seeing “something up in the sky,” flying saucers, secret government research installations, mushroom clouds, miniature power stations exploding in flames, lone scientists figuring out how to stop the alien invasion, possession foreshadowed by a tightly focused beam of light illuminating the possessed one’s face, exposed wires that shower sparks when the unfortunate victim touches them, etc. etc.
And lots of 1950’s style film clips — captured V2’s standing in for nuclear tipped missiles, fly-by’s by the then-new F-100 Super Saber jet fighter, even a B-47 jet bomber lumbering into the sky with a rocket assisted take-off. From a kid’s perspective this would have been very high-tech in the 1950’s, and that’s the way I remember it.
My favorite scene: our heroes (the lead astronomer just happens to know how to fly a helicopter!) land on top of the giant robot, get out, and investigate. Weird stuff, knowing they had to create a huge set that accommodated a painted sky backdrop, a giant metallic dome standing in for the robot’s head, AND a place for the rented helicopter to land. Think about that scene when you watch the T2 documentary about planning and executing the steel mill scenes sequences. Have we come a long way, or what?
Thinking back, I wonder if the producers were trying to out-Godzilla that classic movie monster. Unfortunately, giant metal robots like Kronos have no personality, though that would change with the release of Toho’s THE MYSTERIANS just a few years later, and that movie had color and sex-starved aliens as well as massive destruction of the Japanese countryside.
But Kronos is well edited and paced. You can tell the folks who produced and directed it worked very hard, and there are lines of dialog that suggest an underlying creativity and technical knowledge. Yes, it’s easy to laugh at today, but it’s a great film for a rainy Saturday morning.
Copyright (c) 2002 by Dennis D. McDonald