Killdozer (1974)


One would wonder what type of movie would inspire a mid-west avant-punk band's name.  I do realize that the band Killdozer, though not exactly a household name, is a bit more known than the movie that inspired them.  The truth is, for all the noise and racket of the band, the movie itself is typical of a lot of 1970s films where the name both says all one needs to know about the film, but also conjures up in the imagination a better film than what it actually is.

Killdozer is a made-for-television film based on a short story by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, and he adapted his story for the screenplay.  When a meteor falls to Earth on a remote island off the coast of Africa, an intelligence hitching a ride transfers itself into a bulldozer that tries to remove the rock.  The title machine belongs to a work crew headed by Lloyd Kelly (Clint Walker) that is tasked with building a base camp and an access road for an oil drilling company.  

The initial contact with the rock results in Kelly's employee "Mac" McCarthy (Robert Urich) being severely burned, something that Mac's best friend Dutch (James Wainwright) blames Kelly for.  While Mac tries to warn his boss, he is at first not taken seriously, but soon it is obvious that whatever has possessed the machine intends to kill everyone on the island.

What I do give Killdozer credit for is not making this into a convoluted story.  Once things get going the machine seems to be waiting around every corner, waiting to ambush the remaining survivors or catch them unaware.  There are even scenes of the bulldozer lurking in the shadows.  While I don't know how seriously Sturgeon took his original story, I feel that he leaned into how ridiculous the concept was going to look like if actually filmed.

Still, director Jerry London took the subject seriously, and created a film that for years would give kids with time to kill something to watch on a Saturday afternoon.  This is mainly Walker's film, with Urich, despite second billing, only being in it for a brief time.  There are the usual tensions between a work crew that may respect each other's skills but don't really get along, so whenever the bulldozer isn't out hunting for its next kill we get a heavy dose of infighting and workplace drama.  

Still, I give the movie its due.  It promises a killer bulldozer, and it delivers a killer bulldozer.  It's a television film, so some of what may have happened if picked up as a regular exploitation film is cut out, but it is a diverting and, surprisingly, memorable film that also remembers not to overstay its welcome. 

Killdozer (1974)
Time: 74 minutes
Starring: Clint Walker, Robert Urich, Dennis Holvig, Neville Brand, Dutch Krasner, James A. Watson, Jr.
Director: Jerry London


 

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