Cast & Crew
Sherman A. Rose
Photos & Videos
Nora King recovers consciousness in her apartment after a suicide attempt and discovers that her building has no electricity or water. She descends to the street and finds it totally deserted. Although she walks for several blocks, she encounters no sign of life anywhere in the city. In a doorway she discovers a woman's dead body and is surprised by the sudden appearance of Frank Brooks, who tells her that, after he arrived in the city the night before, he was robbed and mugged in a bar and revived only a few minutes earlier. As Frank and Nora walk to the city center they try to figure out what has happened to the half-million inhabitants. They hear music coming from inside a restaurant and inside find a woman, Vicki Harris, playing the piano while her male companion, Jim Wilson, mixes her a drink. Except for Vicki and Jim, who somehow missed the evacuation, the restaurant is deserted. The quartet then decide to visit other night spots, but when they attempt to take a car, they are interrupted by a man, Charles Otis, who explains that he has been checking all the cars and has discovered that they have all been disabled. Otis also says that the area he just came from appeared to have been heavily looted. After the group is frightened by the giant shadow of a monster, Frank decides that they should hide in a hotel across the street. In the lobby, Otis finds a newspaper with the headlines: "Invasion By Mystery Army. City To Be Evacuated." The accompanying report states that hostile forces of an unknown origin have landed fifty miles north of the city. Terrified, Otis decides he must escape but is killed in the street by a disintegrating ray, beamed from the head of a large robot. The others, seeking a more secure hiding place, move from the hotel lobby to a suite on the fourth floor. Meanwhile, at an Army command post, a general tells his colleagues that although he does not know the nature of their enemy, he suspects that they may be automatons from outer space. The invaders have already destroyed an airborne division and next decimate twenty-four planes from bomber command. Back at the hotel, after Frank postulates that the enemy may be from Venus, the only planet capable of supporting life, Nora reveals her suicide attempt to Frank. Later, the general orders atomic artillery and guided missiles to be readied and receives news that a deactivated robot has been found. A team of scientists at an army research laboratory then attempts to discover what caused the robot to become inoperative. Meanwhile, Vicki and Jim, who have been dating for ten years, squabble and make up. Nora then tells Frank that her husband was killed in an auto accident while he and she were arguing. At the laboratory, the chief scientist determines that the robots, which are driven by electro-magnetic impulses, can duplicate human motion and are impervious to bullets, even at point-blank range. While Frank, Nora and the others are sleeping, a psychotic killer named Davis, who escaped from custody during the evacuation, breaks into the suite and terrorizes the women at gunpoint. Davis tells Nora he knows a way out of the city via a sewer and wants her to go with him, and that he plans on using the others as decoys. In the laboratory, the scientist discovers how to destroy the deadly, beam-producing, cathode ray tube in the robots' heads. After Davis orders the group back to the lobby and is about to escape, Vicki defies him, prompting him to shoot and kill her and wound Frank in the shoulder. Enraged by Vicki's murder, Jim attacks Davis and chokes him to death. Suddenly, a robot breaks through the lobby's window and pursues Frank, Nora and Jim to the hotel's roof where Jim is killed by the robot's beam as he attempts to reach an adjacent building. Just as the robot is about to disintegrate Frank and Nora, Army vehicles arrive equipped with a loudspeaker emitting a high frequency tone that disables the robot. Later, an Army officer explains to Frank and Nora that the research laboratory had discovered that vibrations from the high frequency tone shattered the robots' cathode ray tubes, rendering them inoperative.
Sherman A. Rose
House Peters Jr.
Sherman A. Rose
Target Earth, now available in a digitally remastered widescreen DVD edition from VCI Entertainment, is a recent addition to the company's "Herman Cohen Collection" (Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) is also available). The film was made for approximately $85,000 and was responsible for launching Cohen's career as a sci-fi/horror producer (it was his first independent feature). Luckily, he had a first rate cast to work with including Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954), character actress Virginia Grey, and Kathleen Crowley who makes an appealing, if unconventional heroine (after all, she did try to kill herself in the opening credit sequence!). The storyline, based on the novella, Deadly City, by Ivor Jorgensen (a pen name for Paul W. Fairman) bears some striking similarities to John Wyndham's nightmarish novel, The Day of the Triffids. (The latter opens with a man recovering in a hospital room from an eye operation and slowly learning of a strange meteor shower the night before that blinded everyone who saw it. Like the Crowley character in Target Earth, he spends some time stumbling around the deserted city before he encounters the REAL horror - man-eating plants from outer space.)
In Attack of the Monster Movie Makers: Interviews with 20 Genre Giants by Tom Weaver, Cohen recalled the making of Target Earth: "We shot at Kling Studios - Charlie Chaplin Studios - which is now A&M. And we shot in location all over the place. We shot on weekends without permits...my garage, you name it. We shot on the empty streets of L.A. early in the morning on four or five weekends, to get the scenes of the evacuated city. A friend of mine was a cop with the L.A.P.D., and he came with us one early Sunday morning in his uniform. (We didn't have any permits. We could've got in real trouble.) We cleared the streets in downtown L.A. The only problem we had was that there was a Catholic church right across from where we were shooting. There were no people on the street, we were shooting and then all of a sudden the church doors swing open and the people came piling out! "Oh, God! Stop the cameras!" We forgot that they were all in there!"
Production anecdotes like the above are featured in Herman Cohen's running commentary on the Target Earth DVD, one of the many extra features on this VCI disk. You'll learn that Robert Roark, the actor who plays the homicidal prison escapee in the film, was only cast because his father was an investor in the film. Or how about this? Steve Calvert, the guy in the robot costume, regularly worked as a bartender at Ciro's on Sunset Strip when he wasn't working on B-horror flicks (He also played the apes in Bride of the Gorilla, 1951 and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, 1952). Other disk extras include Herman Cohen: Cohen My Way, an affectionate video tribute to the late filmmaker by his lifelong friend Didier Chatelain and film historian Tom Weaver; the original theatrical trailer, biographies, and some playful 3D motion menus which are a bit slow, clunky and awkward (like the robot) by most disk navigation standards.
For more information about Target Earth, visit VCI Entertainment. To order Target Earth, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeff Stafford
Only one robot costume was constructed for this film and it was used for all robot scenes. This is why you never see more than one member of the "robot army" in a shot.
Although the production crew had no permits, the scenes showing the deserted city were filmed in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday mornings when the streets would be vacant.
A Hollywood Reporter news item of July 20, 1954 adds Richard Cutting and John Mooney to the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed.