Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Killdozer (1974)
Review by Tom Crites of PANISCUS REVUE

(Warning: "Spoiler" Ahead)

KILLDOZERNot just a Theodore Sturgeon story, or the inspiration for an immortal band, or even a mere comic book, it's the whole big 1974 TV movie: yes, it's KILLDOZER. (YES!) From the title to the plot to the stiff union acting, KILLDOZER is the kind of event that would be really, really cool if you were about nine. About 25 years ago. The whole flick reminds me of a really long and rather bad episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, but come on, what kid growing up in that era didn't like that show? So pour yourself a bowl of Count Chocula, scoot up close to the television, and prepare for the amazing colossal KILLDOZER!

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyagesof the starship Asteroid. It's overly long mission, to seek out unintelligent life and possess common construction equipment with the insatiable lust to kill. To boldly blow where others have blown before . . . Oh, sorry. Anyway, this big blue chunk of styrofoam, looking not unlike a fat piece of blue ice jettisioned from an airline toilet, is hurtling through space towards the Earth. We know it ain't a good asteroid, because if it was the movie wouldn't be called KILLDOZER. The meteor crashes down on an island ("200 miles off the coast of Africa") and waits for the good people of Warburton Oil Resources Co. to come find it. You see, this unnamed island used to be a refueling station during WWII, and now a crew of six roughnecks has been landed there to tidy the place up with some heavy equipment to ready it for . . . well, for something pretty important. A young Bobby Urich is Mack, the crew's junior member and mascot; Kelly (Clint Walker) is the head man, sporting sideburns and a Hitler haircut; bargain basement Ernest Borgnine character Dutch is played by "Special Guest Star JAMES WAINWRIGHT"; there's Chub the mechanic (Neville Brand); Al (James A Watson, Jr.); and rounding out the cast is William Shatner Acting School alumnus Carl Betz as Dennis.

Urich doesn't seem to be taking himself nearly as seriously as he did later in his career (hey, it's only 1974), but it's still probably a good thing that he gets killed off early. "Okay sweetheart, DESTROY!" he tells his "Big Yellow Baby" the D-9 Bulldozer as he crumples a quonset hut and sets off to be the alien rock's first vicim. Although this is supposed to be a man's man's action movie, with lots of hardhats, big machines, and gloved hands working away at various levers, right away kid Mack fouls up and grinds his 'dozer up against a cliff wall and gets stuck. See, there's this funny lookin' rock wedged up against the blade, and it's making a funny humming sound. Ah, but it's too late, and as Kelly takes over the controls he manages to irritate the meteor, which glows bright blue and makes Urich fall down and do his crying mongoloid impression. The blue light then flows wickedly across the bulldozer's blade, intimating even worse things yet to come.

Mack's been hurt, and hurt bad. That blue glow gave him a hell of a sunburn and it ain't lookin' good for our young man. Despite some powerful male bonding ("He's my buddy!") Mack gives up the ghost. But not before giving a gasping warning to Kelly: "The blue light... my god... it's there in the blade!" Kelly doesn't quite know what the fuck all that means, but he dutifully goes out to check up on the machine anyway. Climbing into the D-9 he cranks her up, and promptly loses control as the headlamps flare with the same unearthly humming that came from the asteroid. Thinking fast Kelly clambers over to the engine and severs the fuel line, but the 'dozer fights back. Spewing steam into his face the machine forces Kelly to the ground, and wheeling around with bloodlust glinting from its blade the machine chases him into a corner just before sputtering out of power. Yep, somethin' sure ain't right with that there 'dozer, and Kelly tows the beast back to the camp's makeshift shop for further examination.

After a beach burial for Mack the boys drink a toast to him, something tightwad Kelly doesn't approve of one bit. See, he used to be something of a lush himself, and as his insubordinate subordinate Dennis knows, "Making good with this job is the last chance he's got." So of course Denny offers him a slug, endearing him to Kelly not at all. After that tense exchange Dennis goes out for a smoke, and makes the mistake of hucking a rock at the D-9's blade. It's been idled but not completely hobbled, and behind Dennis' back the machine silently raises its mighty blade. This slams down inches from the workman's foot, nearly causing Dennis to crap his coverall. The next day he confronts Kelly, having also heard Mack's dying words, and he demands some information. "What's this with the funny blue light? I'm no piece of candy!" "You're a sourball," growls Kelly, but he won't yet come clean with his suspicions.

Chub's gone over the bulldozer, but he can't find anything wrong with the old girl except for a strange ringing sound coming from the blade. Kelly wants that baby corralled until he can get her figured, but there's work to be done and Al hops into the cab and revs her up before Chub can stop him. He immediately loses control, and the D-9 knocks over the camp's only radio set and grinds it to pieces under one mighty tread before carrying the puzzled Al away into the countryside. The pedals and levers working themselves freak Al out a little bit and he jumps from the machine, only to have it turn toward him with obvious intentions. For some reason Al can't seem to avoid several tons of slow cranky machinery, and instead of outrunning the land grader he opts to hide in a rusty corrugated pipe lying nearby. Which KILLDOZER promptly mulches before heading away on its own.

After the second burial Dennis gets Kelly to admit he saw the D-Niner operating by itself. That still ain't good enough for him, so he follows its tracks out to find the 'dozer still going strong, plowing down tree stumps to make a passable roadway across the island for itself. That's just too much, so Dennis returns to convince Kelly to try blowing up KILLDOZER with dynamite. But before that can happen KILLDOZER comes charging into camp and proceeds to level the place. Cases of dynamite and barrels of fuel are no match for the killer machine, and after some disappointingly cheap pyrotechnic effects the camp is in shards and the bulldozer is still none the worse for wear. Watching this fiendish destruction starts to unhinge Dutch a bit, but the rest of the crew members collect the remaining supplies and set off to outrun the bulldozer in the camp's surviving vehicles. As they head away from the campsite KILLDOZER watches from the bushes, revving its engine in sinister anticipation.

One smart chunk of metal, KILLDOZER keeps tabs on its quarry. In one of the film's rare and truly well-framed shots (well, all right, the only one) KILLDOZER ascends a hill to tamp out a signal fire the crew has set, and the machine actually looks quite Satanic as it rises up behind the flames with its huge blade lifted skyward. (The fact that this scene was filmed at night, even though in movie-time it is mid-day, helped considerably.) The clever tractor then sets out to ambush the convoy of survivors, scoring a hit on poor old Chub's pickup truck. Which just happens to be carrying a load of fuel that explodes as the truck is tipped over. As Dennis fills in the barbecued Chuck's grave (hey, wait a minute, how'd they get a burned body out of a flaming wreck right in front of KILLDOZER?) the machine gloats from an overlooking hilltop, smokestack spewing in victory. KILLDOZER then taunts the group by pushing a load of gravel over the cliffside at the mourners, grazing Dennis and pissing him off some ("Pain makes me snide!") before descending to chase the trio away from the makeshift graveyard.

As they hide out in the Jeep that night Kelly passes around a bottle, refraining from taking a nip himself. Dutch gets a pretty good grip on it though, and spends the rest of the night killing it. In the morning he guns the Jeep away from his pals, shouting, "I'm going swimming!" (?) He never makes it to shore however, as KILLDOZER is waiting for him in a nearby clearing. The Jeep stalls out, and Dutch just sits there and lets the mechanical monster grind him under in another rather unsatisfyingly cheap scene. Making for a handy nearby crane shovel, Dennis and Kelly use the scoop to temprarily hold KILLDOZER at bay. The two machines blade-wrestle for a few minutes until KILLDOZER pins the shovel and the guys abandon ship. Thinking hard, the two-man team decides to rip off another sci-fi flick and opt to "fry it like bacon" (?) by utilizing the electrocution strategy from The Thing From Another World. Since the movie's time slot is nearly up it takes Kelly and Dennis only seconds to rig up an electrified grating and lure KILLDOZER over on top of it for a quick and easy death. With the fearsome land grader done in, the two men engage in some macho male bonding and the film is mercifully over.

Hmmm, now that I think about it this flick didn't really merit that much space. Ah fuck it, at least I got to say KILLDOZER a dozen or more times. Woo-hoo! Actually, one of the best parts of this movie was hearing the announcer come back from the commercials and say, "We now return to KILL DOZER." It's all so ludicrous that it is actually pretty amusing, and a decent enough watch if you settle down with a sackful of pork rinds, six or seven beers, and a heaping helping of derision. (No, Count Chocula just ain't gonna cut it.) I don't know if you'll ever catch it by any means other than accidental though, as I don't see it making the cable rounds too often. Now stay tuned for KILLCART, the hectic story of an out-of-control golf cart on a rampage . . .


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