movie review: Kronos (1957)

What did you watch? The 1957 spaceship monster movie Kronos

Was it about a monster that arrives by spaceship? This is a weird one: it seems like the spaceship is the monster.

One of my favorite bands is from outer space: Man…or Astro-Man?, made up of a group of extraterrestrials who crashed on earth in the early 1990’s and perform the music they’ve picked up from our airwaves as an excuse to tour our planet to find the parts they’ll need to fix their spaceship and return to the stars. Because of how our signals travel, the music (and aesthetic) is very 1960’s surf instrumental inspired, though later albums got more experimental with samplers and in one case an Apple Image Writer II. Many songs contain samples from a variety of low budget sci-fi adventure movies, some classic and some that were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. So it’s a joy when I’m watching one of these older films to hear lines sampled in their songs, and I recognized many from Kronos. Does my enjoyment go beyond that? Yes – this was a fun albeit dopey sci-fi movie.

The plot revolves around a UFO in the form of a spotlight being observed, and then possessing various people to get into an American government lab where all kinds of nuclear secrets are kept and studied, or whatever. It’s doughy scientist guys and their assistant dames who are on hand to help document and then be their dates after all the science-ing. Frankly, it’d be otherwise passable, especially because of the human cast, who just observe and talk in 1950’s movie scientist speak. “of course, water can stop it!” or something, I don’t know. Just the typical atomic age plot where aliens want to either steal our God-given nuclear power or warn of us its danger to man while the screenwriter is being carted away from the set by the FBI as filming wraps up, that sort of thing. Scientists are faced with the dangers of the alien to our planet, and then realize an over simplified plan to kill it off and the Earth is saved.

What does make this movie watchable are the sets and the special effects, in some cases the same thing. After some mishaps like an asteroid coming to Earth and nukes being launched to knock it off its trajectory, our scientist pals wonder aloud if the asteroid was piloted somehow, but go to Mexico for a work vacation to observe where the asteroid had landed in the nearby gulf. They party on the beach a little and then wake up the next day and there’s this giant structure everyone can’t help but notice nearby, and it’s pretty freaky. Just a tall pillar that they take and land a helicopter on. It opens and they catch a glimpse of the surreal interior, and deduce that it’s absorbing energy from the Earth. We then cut to various attempts from the world to stop this from happening, but the tower just feeds off of everything and grows and then comically propels itself with its awkward piston legs to move around the planet collecting more energy.

Somehow they figure out to “reverse the polarity” of a weapon and that’s it, it explodes, movie’s over. Keep watching the stars, I guess. BUT, BUUUUT, it looks great. The alien monster is a giant building apparently? And it has legs that just goes up and down but not in a proper walking motion, yet that’s what we get to see: a building walk around the planet. I call it a building, it’s got a cube on top another cube and a mini dome at the top. Like a very simple oil rig but on the land.

Even the lab looks great. I had a laugh at the beginning when a local rube is possessed by the alien light, and goes to the gate of this important government scientific facility, and there’s ONE guard at this gate, and the possessed guy sucker punches him and gets pretty far into the building. The building interiors are bland, like they’re in a high school with signs that say “LAB” or something, but when they open doors the set reveals detailed and interesting space age backdrops or matte paintings. When our heroes land on Kronos, what they get to see and show us looks like something on an alien world.

These effects keep the movie interesting and makes up for the usual plot from this era. It probably COULD be fodder on MST3K, but I enjoyed it anyway. Worth checking out.

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