Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring: Jeff Morrow, Barbara Lawrence, John Emery, George O’Hanlon, Morris Ankrum, Kenneth Alton, John Parrish
Review by Kevin Johnson
A scientist possessed by an alien lifeform controls a massive, energy-consuming machine, leaving a few choice scientists to stop him and the machine before it absorbs all the earth’s energy
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Not all B-movies are relegated to automatic mediocrity or downright awfulness. While The Black Scorpion left a lot to be desired, Kronos, on the other hand, seems to showcase what a more competent and clear-headed, low-budget film can accomplish. It still has its flaws of course – what B-movie doesn’t? – but it masks them rather well for an intriguing story.
Part of what makes Kronos works is the lack of explanation for a large part of the film. Weird stuff happens, strange things are witnessed, characters act oddly – but by not over explaining them, there’s a better overall sense of tension developed. Also, the need for a sexualized female is competently done, even if the typical “swimming on the beach” scene is bluntly out of place.
An alien “spirit” arrives in the midst of a desert and possesses an innocent person, who manages to break into an astronomy lab and possess Hubbell Elliot, a scientist who works there. He uses long-distance telepathy to communicate to a huge, monstrous, metal spacecraft, which crashed into the Pacific near Mexico. It sucks and absorbs all the energy thrown at it, and even drains a power plant dry of its energy. Fellow scientist Leslie Gaskell and his partner Vera Hunter has to figure out how to stop the mechanical beast as well as stop the possessed scientist from completing his plan.
The special effects unfortunately do not live up to the quality that one would expect from films of this time period. The budget was cut right before filming began. Yet given what they were stuck with, one still might be mildly impressed. The Kronos design is simplistic enough, and it took me a while to realize that the generic box-like shape with the odd-looking antennae was supposed to be a battery. Still, a little more creativity for some visual appeal wouldn’t hurt. What’s way off, however, is how the machine moves. Four up-and-down poles pump like pistons work around a spinning drill-like device somehow creates motion, which is just impossible. (The use of animation for the long shots of Kronos is even worse).
Speaking of which, I don’t know much about science or power, so it’s interesting to see the plot delve somewhat deeply into pseudo-scientific explanations to progress itself. The actors and writing definitely assist to clarify what audiences wouldn’t understand. But even with the mumbo-jumbo, it still seems rather far-fetched, just a number of random words to confuse the viewer to make it seem like they know what they’re doing.
It works though; as mentioned earlier, the film is very intriguing by controlling out plot points are divulged. In addition, actor John Emery is quite good (in the haming-it-up sense), playing the possessed scientist, struggling to maintain his humanity as the alien inside forces him to do his long-distance bidding. In fact, I personally thought his were the best scenes in the movie.
Also impressive is the surprisingly pro-environmentalist, anti-atomic weaponry commentary throughout the script. While nothing too much on the nose or overly overt, there are a few moments, a few key lines that question America’s excessive consumption of energy and power (is Kronos essentially us, making America our own enemy?), and the quick-to-jump trigger finger hovering over the button to launch nuclear weapons. Instead of using such power against those enemies, which will only strike back, perhaps it would be better to use that power to benefit our own people. It suggests this, anyway.
Kronos is certainly one of the better sci-fi B-films from the 50s, and with its short running time, it’s a good one to sit and enjoy, especially with Neumann’s steady handle on the material and direction. If you’re looking for a good one that represents the average-made sci-fi 50s film – the “Fifth Element” of the 50s – Kronos is for you.