“You don’t need a reason to die Frank, just one to live.”
Waking up after a failed suicide attempt Nora King (Kathleen Crowley) finds that she is the only person in her building, her street, the city. Wandering around and searching for life she stumbles on the body of a dead woman, and Frank Brooks (Richard Denning). Frank himself had recently woken up after being mugged the night before.
After looking for others in the deserted city they hear music coming from a nearby restaurant. They find two people drinking. Jim Wilson (Richard Reeves) and Vicki Harris (Virginia Grey) are drunk and getting drunker. They tell Nora and Frank that the city was evacuated but they stayed to party. Nora and Frank convince Jim and Vicki to join them and move the party elsewhere. Perhaps toward a populated area. They meet Charles Otis (Mort Marshall) who is also looking for a way out of the city.
When Charles runs out into the street in a panic he is attacked and killed by an alien robot from Venus. The robot is part of an invasion force that is systematically killing everyone in sight. The remaining survivors are eventually joined by Davis (Robert Roark). He happens to be a psychotic killer who is more than willing to sacrifice anyone to come out of this alive. It appears this small band of humanity is threatened just as much by someone in their ranks as by an alien invasion
“Target Earth” was released in 1954 and was directed by Sherman A. Rose. One thing to remember about science fiction movies made in the 50’s is that they had a tendency to replace the fear of the “Red Menace” with aliens. Less than a dozen years from the end of WWII the threat of Communism was still in the minds of movie goers. Shaping alien invasion movies to capitalize on already instilled fears made them scarier than they would normally be. “Target Earth” does this. It was based on a short story by Paul Fairman called “The Deadly City”. “Target Earth” is what is known as an ‘empty planet’ movie and was one of the first in the 50’s. Twilight Zone did similar shows on the subject. It’s also reminiscent of a “The Last Man on Earth” type movie.
The shadows of the robots are actually scarier than the robots themselves. Of course independent filmmakers making “B’ movies didn’t have the budget to make good robots so flex hose and painted cardboard had to do. The robot maker was Dave Koehler. Only one robot was made. So much for special effects. That’s why you only ever see one robot in any shot. For all intents and purposes Chicago was invaded by an army of one killer robot. The robot itself was on the clunky side but actually not the worst one I’ve ever seen. The “man in the suit”, so to speak was Steve Calvert. He played a lot of monster parts in movies. As for action, well, the only real action is the stock footage used of air force planes supposedly flying over the city.
The movie itself is average at best; however, it has some very good aspects that shouldn’t be overlooked. The bleakness of the deserted city seems to add to the movie as if it were its own character. That and the cold war atmosphere spooked more than a few movie goers. Add to that the pathetic characters themselves. A failed suicide victim, a mugging victim, a couple of drunks. All pathetic people that once again fell through the cracks when the city was evacuated. And all played by some really decent actors. The bleak undertones seem to elevate the movie above your standard low budget fare. It’s an almost forgotten movie. Not much different than the characters themselves. It’s not surprising that this little movie developed a cult following.
If you are looking for special effects and lots of action this is not going to get you there but if you are looking for a character based end of the world movie it will do.
Robert Roark (who played the killer) got his part because his father, a doctor in L.A., would only invest in the film if his son was given a part. Roark went on to play mostly bit parts in many movies and TV. He played a guard in “Killers from Space”. He also did some producing.