Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Premiered on ABC on February 2, 1974
Directed by Jerry London
Written by Theodore Sturgeon and Ed MacKillop
Cast: Clint Walker, Carl Betz, Neville Brand, Robert Urich, James A. Watson Jr, James Wainwright
A meteorite slams into the sandy shoreline of a small South African island, where a six-man construction crew is clearing land for an oil company drilling site. One of the crew’s bulldozers hits the metallic rock with the blade end of its bucket, but it doesn’t budge; the crew chief takes over, hits the meteorite again, and though it doesn’t move, it emits a neon blue glow which ‘jumps’ over to the bulldozer. Suddenly the crew chief realizes the gears are moving on their own, and soon the crew concludes the machine is possessed, out of their control, and intent on eliminating them.
When I saw this as an 11-year-old, I thought this made-for-TV horror offering was pretty cool: what kid wouldn’t love a movie about a murderous bulldozer going on a rampage and killing guys on an island? But after years and years of movie-watching since then, and the benefit of improved sophistication with age, I now see it for what it is: a simple monster movie that was short on logic and scares, but offered enough to satisfy young television audiences of the early 1970s. There seemed to be a lot more that could’ve been done with the idea, however, and I wonder if budget or time constraints limited the story, or if Theodore Sturgeon’s 1944 novella had nothing more to offer.
I’ve always liked Clint Walker, since the first time I saw him in The Night of the Grizzly, and he does a decent job here as the no-nonsense crew leader who goes by the book, wants to get the job done, and for whatever reason draws the ire of his co-workers because of it. I guess you can say he handled the situation as well as anyone confronted by a haunted bulldozer could, but there’s only so much you can do with this particular threat to make it seem plausible. The vehicle can only move forward or backward, and slowly at that, so the obvious option would be scramble to high, steep ground and await rescue; with radio communication out, somebody from the company would arrive soon enough to save you.
But then there wouldn’t be a movie, would there? So the men panic and race around the camp and up dirt roads leading to higher points of the island, with the killdozer in lukewarm pursuit. As expected, the guys don’t practice common sense and simply jump out of the machine’s path (or jump into its cab!), allowing it to harmlessly trundle by them, but instead choose to stop and scream and allow themselves to be crushed, slowly, under its treads. Clint seems to be the voice of reason here, and devises a plan: run, hide, and wait for the supply ship. But the bulldozer seems to anticipate their every move, and one question thus remains: why does a possessed machine feel compelled to murder everyone in sight?
Metaphysical ponderings aside, the movie did have a few positives going for it. The bulldozer had a menacing look about it, with its twin headlight eyes and shovel mouth, and there was some tension as you waited to see which crew member would get trampled next, and how the machine would eventually be stopped (or exorcised). And I liked Walker, who remained cool and collected throughout the entire ordeal. But was it all enough to warrant a viewing? If you’re a young kid with a taste for horror, maybe, but for everyone else, there are probably better haunted construction vehicle movies out there to search out and enjoy. (5/10)