Killdozer (1974)

Written by Theodore Sturgen, Ed MacKillop

Directed by Jerry London

Run Time: 73 minutes

Any movie involving killer construction equipment must open in outer space, naturally, and this movie is no exception. It just makes sense, right? Scary music plays while a blue styrofoam asteroid hurtles towards Earth. Again, it just makes sense.

A perfectly logical start

The asteroid eventually plummets to the ground in a studio back lot in Southern California. Oops. Sorry, I mean a remote island off the coast of Africa. My mistake.

Mac and Kelly, part of a 6-man crew working to get the island ready for use by a big oil company, are working with a giant bulldozer doing "construction-y" stuff, when they unearth a, quote, "funny looking rock". When Mac is unable to dislodge the stubborn stone, Crew chief Kelly takes over the dozer and gives the rock a solid thump with the blade which causes the asteroid to glow bright blue. (!) The blue aura quickly flows from the rock to the bulldozer while simultaneously sending out a beam of light that blasts Mac right in the face! Don’tcha just hate when that happens?

Zzzzzzzap!

Kelly drops what he’s doing and assists Mac back to the camp’s highly advanced infirmary, consisting of an Army surplus cot and wet face cloth. Mac, severely burned and knocking on death’s door, confides to Kelly that he was burned by a blue-light that shot out of the meteorite. "It was a thing. It was weird," Mac eloquently explains before succumbing to his wounds.

Later that evening, Kelly thinks over what Mac confided to him and walks out to examine Killdozer (I think it’s safe now to use that moniker since Mac died). Nothing seems amiss, so he hops up into the driver’s seat and throws it into reverse…but wait!…it has a mind of its own! The controls flail back and forth…scary! Kelly whips out his knife and slices the engine’s main fuel line as he’s tossed to the ground. Killdozer comes closer, closer, but grinds to a halt. That was…too close!

Can you sense the evil?

Early the next day, the crew’s mechanic has repaired the hose and reports that there is nothing outwardly wrong with the machine, despite its strange behavior the night before. As Kelly crunches his eyebrows in consternation, a worker named Al jumps up onto Killdozer, starts it, and drives away with a big grin as the head mechanic screams at him to turn it off. So much for camp discipline.

After a moment or two, Killdozer "wakes up" and destroys the camp’s (only!) radio as it trundles off into the bushes with Al desperately trying to regain control. After helplessly struggling with the steering levers and what not, Al finally bails out of the driver’s seat and lands on the ground. To my amazement, instead of standing up and running away, hell, he could have gotten away by hopping on one leg that damned machine is so slow, he starts crab-walking backwards allowing Killdozer to close the gap with him. Al quickly realizes that crab-walking isn’t going to get him out of there fast fast enough, so he crawls into length of a metal storm pipe! What an idiot! Are you serious?! That has to be the most contrived "kill" I’ve ever seen. Whatever, anyway, Killdozer happily crushes him before continuing into the wilderness.

This year’s Darwin Award winner

That afternoon, Kelly tells the others that the bulldozer went "haywire" and killed Al. Needless to say, they don’t believe him. With a somber ceremony, the construction crew buries Al on the beach alongside Mac and then they get back to work. Later that night as everybody is trying to get to sleep, Kelly soothes them by saying "It’s probably out of gas or wrecked up somewhere out there." So, what, nobody has even bothered to look for the bulldozer? Good grief how hard could it be to find it?! Not to mention that I’d sleep better knowing Killdozer was disabled before going to sleep in a canvas tent not 20 feet away from 2 of my dead friends that the thing killed in the last day.

Me like crush!

Second-in-command Betz thinks this is all a bit fishy and decides to look around a bit before turning in for the night. Sure enough, after a quick search, Betz spots Killdozer driving around being all scary and stuff.

Betz immediately jumps to the conclusion that there is something supernatural involved in the latest events. "We’re up against something we can’t fight until we understand it!" he shouts at Kelly. Maybe somebody should explain Occam’s Razor to this guy. Granted, Killdozer is possessed by an alien spirit, but would that really be the first explanation you’d come up with?

Meanwhile, Dutch and Chub, the other 2 remaining crewmen, are fueling the other machines when…behold! Killdozer! And it must have teleportation powers because it is suddenly, and I mean, suddenly is upon them. As the workers scramble for their lives, Killdozer starts rolling around destroying the camp. What a jerk. Kelly and the guys can only stand helplessly by on a ledge and watch the destruction. (No doubt wondering how in the hell their agents talked them into appearing in a movie like this.)

After a few minutes Killdozer presumably sates his hunger for mayhem and rumbles off into the trees. Dutch suggests that it’s being run from remote control. "Machines just don’t run by themselves!…There’s gotta be a logical explanation!" Well, you’re in a movie called Killdozer for cripes sake, so maybe there isn’t such a logical explanation after all. Kelly suggests that they head up to high land and wait it out until the supply ship arrives in a day or two. Smart.

Before moving out, Betz asks the question which should be on everybody’s mind by now: "Gee I wonder what [Killdozer] is running on?"

"Me too," says Kelly as they drive off and end the scene.

Well, that was that plot hole completely tossed aside.

Through a slight continuity error, it’s suddenly evening and the guys have lit a huge bonfire. (As some sort of distraction?) They decide to ambush Killdozer and ram it into the fire with Chub’s truck. Sorry, but can’t they see how enormous this machine is? Do they really think that Chub’s beat-up pickup truck is going to manhandle Killdozer? But wait, we jump cut to the middle of the night and see Killdozer driving over and destroying the bonfire… and now it’s early evening again back at the camp. What the hell is going on?!

I’m still not sure just what in the hell that last scene was about, but now everybody piles into Chub’s truck and starts driving around getting ready to ambush Killdozer when out of nowhere Killdozer ambushes them…I repeat, they were ambushed by a giant yellow bulldozer! Sadly for them, this surprise attack results in Chub getting crushed in his truck because there’s no way he could have simply opened the door and ran away.

So now there’s a new mound of sand on the beach. No, I’m not kidding…they had time to drag Chub’s body down to the beach, bury him, and then stand around talking about what a great guy he was…so where’s Killdozer now?! Oh, it’s up on a hilltop "mocking" them by slamming its front blade up and down. One can only wonder what kind of instructions the director gave to the bulldozer driver for these scenes…"OK, now here’s your motivation: you’re a bulldozer possessed by an alien soul and your laughing at the remaining survivors…lights…camera…Action!"

After that intimidating display of might and madness, Killdozer rolls back out of sight and then reappears at the top of the hill where it pushes a smallish pile of smallish stones over the edge, wounding Betz in the process and forcing them all to run off into the woods.

I really need to get this off my chest: Hey, guys! Don’t stand under a cliff when there is a killer bulldozer driving around that can push shit onto you! Sheesh!

Look out below!…kind of

The next day, Dutch wakes up drunk and completely unhinged. Before anybody can stop him, Dutch madly announces that he’s going swimming and drives off in a Jeep. However, before he can reach the beach, he meets…surprise! Killdozer. Instead of just pushing the gas and driving away from the lumbering machine, Dutch turns off the motor, stares at Killdozer for a moment (obviously, so it can cross the 10 meters to catch up with him), then tries to restart the Jeep…and you guessed it: The motor won’t start! You know what, I almost fell out of my chair in surprise when that happened. Actually, no. Not really. Anyway, Dutch more or less gives up on life and sits in the Jeep until Killdozer eventually catches up to him and crushes him. Sigh.

Not good. Not good at all.

OK, Killdozer starts "chasing" Betz and Kelly along the beach…and I’m using the word "chase" in the loosest of all possible definitions. After a few moments, Kelly spots another huge digging machine parked on the beach (wow, now that was convenient). Hopping into the operators seat, Kelly fires up the engine and engages in battle!

"He’s coming fast!" Kelly shouts…I guess the word "fast" means something different to Kelly than it does to me, but whatever.

Look, I know this is supposed to be exciting, but watching construction machinery locking their, uh, "digging-parts" together and pushing each other like giant metal beetles in a mating ritual is just not doing it for me. Maybe I’m asking too much from a movie like this, but it sure would be nice if something happened.

No really. This is exciting.

After a few moments of this silly push-me/pull-you stalemate, Killdozer disables its rival’s scooper-thingee. Kelly and Betz wisely turn tail and run off to figure out how to deal with this seemingly invincible adversary.

"How do you kill a killer that’s too heavy to hang and too big to put in a gas chamber?" Betz ponders out loud.

"Electricity!" Kelly says with a grin.

Kelly and Betz quickly place a few metal mats onto the sand and connect a generator to them. Kelly volunteers to drive over and "lure" Killdozer into the kill zone because that’s just the kind of hero he is. Being single-minded in purpose, after all, its name is "Kill"-dozer, the bulldozer "races" over towards them at top speed…yes, that’s as exciting to watch as it sounds. Somehow Killdozer senses the trap (!) and stops just short of the metal mats. Go ahead and give yourself a facepalm at this point if you’d like. To Kelly’s horror, it starts to go around the mats forcing him to try and taunt it towards the kill zone with a crowbar. Yes, you read that right.

Well, the site of Kelly swinging a crowbar enrages the alien soul inside Killdozer, and why wouldn’t it?

Blind with rage, well, at least its 2 headlights are glowing extra bright, Killdozer spins around and "charges" (at 1 mph) towards Kelly. As Killdozer rolls onto the metal plates, Betz throws the main breaker and turns on the juice. As a huge shower of sparks erupt (that look suspiciously like a bunch of roman candles if you know what I mean), Killdozer stops dead in its tracks and its headlights dramatically fade out.

As the evil spirit leaves the machine, accompanied by weird screaming noises on the soundtrack (!), the front blade pounds the sand and turns blue, indicating…something…and then silence. I wish I could provide more analysis, but I’m out of my area of expertise here.

The exciting conclusion to Killdozer

"It’s dead…the humming is gone," says Kelly as he places his ear to the motionless machine. Boy, Kelly, it’s a good thing Betz had a chance to turn of the electricity before you ran like a loon onto the electrified mat to put your head against the blade of a possessed bulldozer. Is this guy suicidal or something?

Anyhoo, realizing they’re saved, Betz addresses the elephant in the room: what to tell the authorities when they arrive on the island and find 4 crushed and burned workers buried in the sand.

Betz has a rare lucid moment and says, "We could fake things…tell the authorities the guys got caught in a land slide." (On an island with just one hill?)

Kelly dismisses Betz’s suggestion and insists that they "tell the truth…no matter what," as he and Betz stroll off screen to the sound of triumphant music. Personally, I’d go with staging a landslide. Oh, and I’d make sure to throw myself under it as well so I wouldn’t have to put up with the humiliation when they eventually got the truth out of me. Just sayin’.

Dennis Grisbeck (July 2015)

Afterthoughts

My, oh, my. Killdozer indeed. It’s silly to find fault with a movie as preposterous as this one, so just take the film for what it is: A 1970’s made-for-TV quickie…nothing more, nothing less. With that being said…a bulldozer possessed by an extraterrestrial spirit…Wow! I love it! Who came up with that? Sure, it was, (cough), “based on” a story by Theodore Sturgen…well, I’ve read a bit of Sturgen in my time (and liked it), and I don’t recall reading anything like this…I guess that’s where the notoriously vague “based on” part comes in…

Anyway, on the positive side, the acting was competent and the cast manages to deliver convincing performances given the outrageous circumstances they were thrown into. The pacing was quick and with a blistering runtime of 73 minutes, there was no time for extraneous subplots to wear on the viewer’s nerves.

Read more about Killdozer at

IMDB

5 comments to Killdozer (1974)

  • Guts3d

    Just another great review! One thought: wouldn’t a diesel motor run out of gas pretty quick? And in the water, it couldn’t do much. A few dozen bananas up the tailpipe might have done it in as well!

  • It doesn’t run on gas…it runs on pure outer space evil!

  • Guts3d

    Is it Deja Vu or did you review this stinker before?

  • I loves me some KILLDOZER. Butter the ol’ popcorn, get a Dr. Pepper, lean back and relax. It’s all good.

  • The4thStooge

    Ah…when people ask why I love the 70s so much, movies like these are the reason why. Whether it’s a haunted car (The Car), gun (The Gun), or a Devil Dog From Hell, there’s no (NO!) way that anything like this would ever get greenlighted in the 60s or the 80s. Okay, there was Amityville 4 (The Ugly Haunted Lamp), but come on, the 70s were the golden (harvest?) age of made-for-TV goofy goodness.

    You had to love how Neville Brand just decided to turn off the truck, wait, then decide to start it up again. Even as drunk (??) as he was supposed to be, he had plenty of time to at least Kirk-roll out of the way! Then again, the one guy DID decide to hide in a PIPE!

    Loved the review!

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