Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Kronos (1957)

Poster for Kronos (1957)Kronos (1957) by #KurtNeumann
#JeffMorrow #BarbaraLawrence

An alien robot ravages the countryside intent on absorbing Earth’s energy.


“The Most Incredible MONSTER of All Time!”

#Horror #SciFi

I saw Kronos (1957) on late night TV when I was young – and it’s tempting to believe it was on my favourite weekly showcase of old black and white monster movies, Not Quite Classic Theatre. But by the time I stumbled onto KronosNot Quite Classic Theatre had already gone to that great TV show graveyard in the sky… or, rather, off the air. One of my local TV stations decided to try their hand at a similar format, and I believe they called it The Killer B. I don’t think The KIller B lasted more than a few weeks, which is too bad because with Not Quite Classic Theatre gone, I really could have used something to take its place.  

On the surface, Kronos (1957) is exactly like the movies I loved to watch on Not Quite Classic Theatre. It featured a giant monster – in this case, a giant robot from outer space – as well as scientists and soldiers – and a beautiful woman – all working together to try to stop this diabolical threat to the planet Earth. But there was something different about it… something that made it unlike movies such as The Monolith Monsters (1957) and The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)… And after watching it for half an hour or so, I think I figured out what it was: It was boring.

There was a lot of dry talk between scientists and other experts, as they tried to figure out what was going on. And the monster, or giant robot, didn’t really show up and start doing anything until halfway through the movie. That seemed to me to be the strangest part. Often in old monster movies, the monster stays offscreen for the first half or even two thirds of the movie, but they are still around DOING things. Often in the first scene of the movie, someone runs afoul of an unseen threat, and then the other characters spend half an hour trying to figure out what happened.

In Kronos (1957), there is a similar opening: A UFO from outer space sends a glowing ball of electrical energy to Earth, where it seems to accost a man in a pickup truck on an isolated desert road late at night. The energy takes over the man’s mind, and controls him like a puppet (not unlike what happens in The Brain Eaters (1958)).  And soon the electrical energy leaves the pickup driver’s mind and takes over the mind of an important scientist named Dr. Hubbell Eliot, who is in charge of an entire research facility (now we’re starting to predict future classics like The Hidden (1987). 

This is an intriguing beginning, but Kronos is a giant robot movie, isn’t it? Where is the giant robot? If I remember correctly, our heroes first set eyes on the mysterious alien machine at about 38 minutes into a 78 minute movie. And then the robot finally starts moving at about the 49 minute mark. And at about 51 minutes in, the robot starts doing damage to Earth’s infrastructure (a giant power station, I think).

It’s kind of an interesting story, and none of this slowly unfolding action is badly done (taking into account its low budget production values from 1957). But 51 minutes is a long time for a 13 year old to wait to see some giant robot action. And when it comes, it’s a little bit underwhelming. The giant robot is basically sucking up all of Earth’s power. Not quite as dramatic as, say, eating people. 

I was excited to finally get to see Kronos again after all these years, and I wondered if I would appreciate it more as a mature adult. I knew it would be a bit slow, but I figured I might understand more of the talk and the complicated scientific concepts that form the basis of the movie’s plot. And after watching it for half an hour or so, I think it all became clear to me: It was still boring.

I really wanted to love it. And I do feel nostalgia for it, not because of the movie itself, but because of my experience of watching it all those years ago. I had hoped that it would be more fun than I remembered, but I guess maybe it will always remain an outsider to me. It’s undoubtedly #NotQuiteClassicCinema, but it wasn’t part of the elite group of movies featured on Not Quite Classic Theatre. Maybe there was a reason for that. More than likely, it just wasn’t part of the package of films sold to that TV station. But it somehow seems to be missing some of the magic that most of those films had. I know that some people like it more than me (some people like it a LOT more than me), and I’m happy for them. I also have my favourites that most other people think I’m crazy to love. Perhaps I will one day give Kronos (1957) another chance to win me over, and I would encourage others to go ahead and give it a shot. It certainly deserves to be screened alongside other giant monster movies of 1957 or 1958. It’s a more than acceptable 3rd or 4th feature on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.