Kronos, 1957, 9/10

Very different than the expected classic-era sci-fi fare. For one thing, there’s a dual structure to the plot; first we see a semi-typical flying saucer appearance putting earthlings on alert; complete with scientists and military figuring out a nuclear missile response. In addition, there’s alien-possession of one of the scientists. All of which leads to that superb device of the false ending.

Meaning a new beginning from one sort of threat to another, in a different locale. That is, the appearance of the gigantic robot Kronos subsequent to the asteroid/ufo crashing off the Mexican coast.

Jeff Morrow is Dr. Leslie Grant, John Emery the big cheese scientist, Dr. Eliot, at a top-secret government lab. Barbara Lawrence is Vera, that is, ‘the girl’. the military is represented by General Perry (John Parrish) in a brief role.

Very convincing UFO lands and attacks/zaps the obligatory pick up truck driver McCrary (Kenneth Alton) on a lonely desert highway at night. So he’s possessed, and finds his way to the lab. He lights up with UFO juice, and zaps Dr. Elliot, the Director. Meanwhile, a technician gets data, err, “the straight dope” on an asteroid/UFO. There’s a cool display that receives images from the observatory above.

Eliot retreats into a super-secret room. Dr. Grant is concerned when their computer goes haywire, but quickly figures out that the asteroid will hit earth in 16 hours…unless we destroy it first. So, we get some appropriate stock footage of missile prep and launching.

Eliot lurks about, and a primitive video monitor shows the missiles converge on the UFO–but it’s not destroyed. Eliot has some sort of seizure, and collapses. Suspense develops, as the tumbling asteroid careens over cities before hitting the drink off the Mexican coast. So, at about :25 minutes in, some are declaring victory, or at least relief. Eliot’s sort of recovering.

Dr. Grant wisely figures that the UFO showed incredible resiliency, as well as some intent, both by surviving and navigating. So they hustle down to Mexico, Vera included. Time for some Dr. Grant/Vera romance. Eliot’s getting communications from the UFO; Vera sees a gigantic metallic hemisphere emerge from the ocean. Eliot comes out of his trance, but the doctors think he’s nuts. Indirectly, then, Eliot offers the explanation (which they think is delusional) that the alien presence seeks Earth’s energy to recharge its dwindling supply.

One of the best moments in all of classic-era sci-fi, the sudden appearance of Kronos on the shore, never fails to excite. Given the unique premise that Kronos is not a creature, but a giant robot, is that the intrepid scientists can literally see into inside of it. The best of the era’s technological simulations stock the robot’s ‘guts’. Eliot, under the alien’s influence once again, escapes after electrocuting his doctor.

As much as I admire the ingenuity of this creation, Kronos’s mobility is a bit questionable. Even seeing this as a kid on TV in the early ’60s, it was clearly absurd that the thing could ‘walk’ merely by stamping its feet. Some of the Japanese monsters of the era got around this problem by having some sort of incongruous rocket-assist for propulsion. Actually, the large shaft of light between Kronos’s ‘feet’ serves as a somewhat more plausible propulsion method.

Eliot more or less is in control of where Kronos goes by transmitting target coordinates. The AIr Force attack leads to the planes’ destruction by a sort of force field projected from Kronos. Its march across the countryside is a clever combination of animation, modeling, and live action. One nice detail is that the robot can ‘hunker down’ to protect itself. Vera and Grant make it back to their headquarters, finding Eliot very much in charge.

He’s playing into the alien’s hands by authorizing an H-bomb attack–which Grant correctly points out will only make Kronos stronger. Stock footage of a B-47 taking off, presumably set to drop the bomb. Vera and Leslie figure out that Eliot escaped from the hospital; as a rather death-defying shock shakes off some his alien control. So, he gives up the correct plan to “reverse the process” of converting matter into energy.

Conveniently for the mission, Kronos is in the middle of nowhere. A good bit of suspense ensues, as the B-47 is called off, but Kronos locks in on it: the H-bomb goes off. Some creepy slime drizzles out of Eliot, an almost horror-like image of a departing spirit. Another false ending “Failure” (of the H-bomb to destroy Kronos) read the headlines.

Onward with the lab: “Destroy the monster with its own energy” (by) “an internal chain reaction”. Kronos is on a destructive rampage, shown by stock footage (of earthquakes?) and burning, collapsing model cities; it heads for an A-bomb stockpile. A single fighter jet has to drop the magic particle stuff just so. Lots of cool fireworks and lightning effects as Kronos literally melts down. A nuclear-like blast acts as its finale.

Kronos, along with Them!, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, is one of the best-made and most creative of 1950s sci-fi films. The pacing is excellent, the acting is even, the plot, with its double-focus of alien-possession/extra-terrestrial robot (and the UFO/Kronos segments), and generally well-conceived special effects (even the noises Kronos makes are otherworldly), draw us in right away and sustain interest throughout.

Farmermouse thought this was the best robot movie ever, and gives it nine UFOs. 9/10.

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