During this season of ghouls and goblins, I decided to have fun with this list and share ten 70s TV horror movies that scared me as a kid. Most of them provide chuckles now, but some are still pretty spooky!
(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews of the titles covered here at the Movie Madhouse!)
I had the pleasure of seeing Killdozer when it first aired on TV in 1974 and as a little kid I thought it was all kinds of awesome. Having recently revisited this TV movie cult classic, I have to say it doesn’t have quite the same effect on me now, but is still nostalgic fun and it certainly brings back memories of an era where made for TV horror movies like this, The Night Stalker and The Cat Creature were quite common.
The movie begins with a shot of a meteorite heading towards Earth and crash landing on a remote island about 200 miles off the African coast. The fact that it glows blue and makes a strange humming sound lets us know from the start that it is not an average space rock. On this island is a small six man crew, headed by hard nosed, ex-alcoholic (I think every 70s TV movie had an ex-alcoholic) Lloyd Kelly (Clint Walker), who are paving the way for an oil drilling team to set up camp and begin operations. When a massive D9 bulldozer plows into the fallen meteorite, the blue light transfers from the rock to the dozer and a nearby crewman (Robert Ulrich) suffers what appears to be severe burns. Before he dies he warns Kelly of the blue light and no sooner are the men warned, then the D9 starts to act like it has a mind of it’s own and before you can say “KIlldozer” it’s stalking and killing the team members like a big yellow Michael Myers on his favorite holiday.
Obviously with a possessed bulldozer as it’s main antagonist, this is not a fast paced film and we are delightfully awed at how the men rarely consider running around and away from their slow moving assailant, but director Jerry London takes the story, written by Theodore Sturgeon and co-scripted by Sturgeon and Ed Mackillop, very seriously and that helps us to buy into it enough to be entertained. London actually makes a good effort to give his 50 ton villain a personality and includes a lot of shots of it’s glaring headlights like two flaming evil eyes watching it’s prey as it hides in the brush waiting to ambush and attack. He does a pretty good job setting up this game of cat and mouse as the crew try to find a safe haven from a homicidal vehicle, that is fairly mobile on the most difficult terrain and the cast all play their roles seriously enough that we believe their fear.
Now there is only so much seriousness one can muster while watching a film about an alien presence that is rampaging about in a bulldozer, but the filmmakers give it their all and let the audience decide just how much of this they are going to go along with. The result is a movie that is campy and silly by today’s standards, but still charming and nostalgic enough to suspend disbelief. This allows yourself to have an amusing 70+ minutes of watching a group of macho construction workers discuss the hows and whys of one of their biggest pieces of equipment having a sudden animated murder spree. And sometimes a little Killdozer is exactly what one needs to remind them of a time when even the silliest of stories was made with integrity and a lot of heart… something this flick has despite it’s preposterously silly story. Also stars movie vet Neville Brand.
The original Killdozer advertisement.
There was even a comic book adaptation from Marvel Comics!