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Image Entertainment presents
Kronos: Ravager of Planets (1957)

"I can't help but feel that this is the calm, and that the storm is going to break outany minute."
- Dr. Gaskill (Jeff Morrow)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: August 28, 2000

Stars: Jeff Morrow, Barbara Lawrence
Other Stars: John Emery, Morris Ankrum
Director: Kurt Neumann

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (very mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:18m:00s
Release Date: August 22, 2000
UPC: 014381860221
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ D+B+B+ C-

DVD Review

The world of Kronos is a world where men in lab coats spend much of their free time adjusting giant knobs, switches, and buttons on huge machines labelled with signs like, "Synchro Unifying Sinometric Integrating Equitensor." It's a world where trained scientists insist that an asteroid, despite having an appearance like two salad bowls taped together with a light bulb inside, is still just an asteroid. You might wake up one morning, open your newspaper, and find a headline that reads "ASTEROID TO BE EXPLODED IN ATMOSPHERE". When you turn on your TV set, you'll be greeted with a commentator who treats news of the impending doom of the world with a smart-assed chuckle, a shrug, and an instant dismissal. It's a world where important people can pick up a phone and, in an authoritative tone, demand, "Get me the Pentagon!". Yes, this is the 50's. Not the ACTUAL 50's, but rather the hazy, semi-fictional 50's where scientists were helpful folks who made house-sized computers and strange space monsters were constantly hatching dastardly plans to take over the Earth—regularly being thwarted, of course. Atomic bombs were pretty much the solution to everything, be it a spacecraft hovering in orbit or not being able to open the ketchup because of that crust around the cap.

In Kronos, a group of scientists (including Dr. Gaskill) at an observatory are keeping a close eye on a certain asteroid. The observatory, given the very official sounding title of Lab Central, seems to be some phantom government agency with unlimited resources. While in orbit, the asteroid drops a weird, little being onto Earth. This being soon takes over people's minds in an attempt to get into the mind of Lab Central head, Dr. Elliot (John Emery). Once this possession is complete, Dr. Elliot seems to have some sort of psychic connection with this mysterious asteroid. Since the rock is threatening to crash into Earth, the military decides to send a series of nuclear missiles to blow it up. The attempt does not destroy the asteroid, but rather causes it to crash into the ocean off the shore of Mexico. Upon investigation, Dr. Gaskill suspects that this asteroid might actually be some kind of intelligent spacecraft, but before he's even able to do any research things go way out of hand as a giant machine appears on the shore where the spacecraft crashed. The huge device turns out to not only be a giant, fully mobile robot, but it also sucks up power and stores it like a battery. Dubbed 'Kronos', the robot lumbers around eating up power sources and scientists race to figure out how to stop it. Meanwhile, Dr. Eliot is going insane from the mind control he's suffering and tries to explain to the world what is going on, but the control won't let him.

Kronos would best be described as "not very good." It fits in with many similar sci-fi films of the era, but it makes a bad example of the work in the period. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this film, but none of them are really exploited. Kronos simply shows up, destroys things, then gets destroyed himself. No time is spent trying to pinpoint the origin of the robot, its creators, or what exactly drives it. The entire subplot involving Dr. Eliot's sickness is also completely unnecessary. There's a distinct lack of story here and the fact the film ends in 78 minutes doesn't help matters. Just as the plot thickens a bit, the scientists come up with some techno-babble solution to stop it and that pretty much wraps everything up. There also is no real explanation of how exactly Kronos gets from the coast of Southern Mexico into a generic American city in less than one day. In fact, almost nothing about how they know what they DO know is explained.

Technically, the film also falls flat. Despite a few moments of stylish special effects (I especially liked the surreal, box-like design of Kronos himself), there are moments of utter failure. The majority of the movie is stock footage of jets flying, machines functioning, and explosions going off. Most sets are embarrassingly low-budget, including awkward background paintings to give scale. For example, in one scene the heroic scientists land on top of Kronos in a helicopter in order to get a look at him. An obvious background painting was used to create the sky and horizon, for the effect of height, except we can see the actors' shadows on the painting. Kronos' movement is also done with awkward cel animation, rather than model work or matte paintings. Whenever he destroys buildings, that too is mostly stock footage from other films. Most of the story is, believe it or not, told with newspaper headlines and interruptions from newscasters. Sure, we've seen this in tons of movies from this era, but Kronos abuses this privilege to the limit. I laughed out loud after the scene where an attempt to H-bomb Kronos fails and the next scene is a headline reading 'FAILURE!!', accompanied by minor headlines like 'New Tax Laws Protested.'

Acting-wise, there really aren't any roles here that couldn't have been filled by a block of metal, and Kronos is, well..a block of metal. The only stand out performance comes from stern-chinned Jeff Morrow who some sci-fi fans might recognize from the classic This Island Earth. Other cast members are forgettable and are easily upstaged by the token, non-English speaking "guide" they encounter while in Mexico. All of this makes me wish they had given Kronos a voice, but, sadly, it seems the budget did not allow for this. Even many of the laughable sci-fi classics from this period seem to go well beyond what's presented here, at least in quality of storytelling.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Since I believe in film preservation, even for lukewarm movies like this one, the stellar transfer here pleased me a great deal. Despite being black-and-white and having a lot of grain and print problems, there are no artifacts or shimmer. The image is as sharp as a tack and the cinematography is wonderfully represented with good black level. Unfortunately, this changes during most of the stock footage moments, which were pretty bad to begin with. Those scenes do have image problems, but are certainly not the fault of Image or WAMO. While the transfer is exciting, the source print is obviously aged and degraded. There are a myriad of scratches, tears, dust, hair, rips, etc., all over the film. I'm willing to bet, however, this is the best the film has ever looked, especially now that it's been restored to Regalscope 2:35:1 Anamorphic format. As an archival version of the film, this will do nicely.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 1 channel Mono soundtrack is a surprise in many ways. It's extremely clear and vivid for a film this age, and at times it seems to be far more lively than mono audio usually is. Dialogue is very well represented and never drowned by sound effects or background noise. A few scenes (usually ones with explosions) carry amazingly good frequency response and even some low-end that triggered subwoofer activity. It's typically for this reason I tend to support mono audio tracks being remastered into single channel formats rather than 2.0 Pro-Logic Mono, which always seemed like a step down to me, in terms of quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than the original trailer, there's little to see here. The wonderfully funny trailer is full-frame and not very good quality, but that's excusable. Presentation is nice with a lively outer cover and a description of the film by someone named Wade Williams. In fact, the film is billed as part of the Wade Williams "collection." At present, I don't know or remember who Wade Williams is, so I'm not sure of the significance of this person. While there are no extras to speak of, I don't think much could have been added.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Director Kurt Neumann's next film after this would be the legendary horror classic The Fly. Interestingly enough, that film marks an extreme high point for the sci-fi/horror genre of the late 50's, whereas Kronos does not. I can see why many people view this film as a classic, since it does have memorable aspects, but it certainly could have been much better and more exciting. Kronos is enjoyable as a very dated movie and would make a good rental for classic film buffs, but I would recommend others stay away.

 


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