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It’s a killer. It’s a bulldozer. It’s KILLDOZER. – Worlds Unknown #6

November 17, 2011

The TV Movie, like the Big Event TV Miniseries, is a lost art. There was a time when not-ready-for-the-silver-screen ideas could move forward with smaller budgets and lesser known acting talent and have a chance to get out there. It wasn’t Cinerama, but it was better than nothing. The results were often adequate if instantly forgettable, though there were times when burgeoning talent shone through. Television was the medium where the destined for greater things Steven Spielberg cut his feature-length teeth, helming such telefilms as the cult classic Duel and the Darren McGavin-infused Something Evil (a rerun of which I saw as a youngster and one scene therein gave me nightmares for years).

Sometimes these things could be magnificently goofy, and “magnificently” might be an understatement. Often the central ideas would become the stuff of legend, brought up in boozy conversations as exemplars of the preposterous lengths to which the human mind can go in search of entertainment. The very mention of the title would often be enough to make everyone smile and laugh, and if that didn’t do it, then the explanation of the premise would be guaranteed to do the trick.

Example:

Killdozer. Remember that?”

“Kill Dozer? Who the [expletive deleted] is Dozer? That bitch from Ghostbusters?”

“Not Dozer, you [expletive deleted] douche. And it was Gozer, by the way. One word. As in ‘bulldozer.’ It’s about a killer bulldozer terrorizing construction workers and picking them off one by one, including an aging Clint Walker and a young Robert Urich.”

[Beer shoots through second person’s nose.] “Get the [expletive deleted] out of here.”

Yes. Killdozer. It is real, and it is glorious.

This 1974 masterpiece stands tall in the proud Christine/The Car/Maximum Overdrive tradition of vehicles coming alive and rebelling against their human masters, though this mechabeast is decidedly slower, and must rely on guile and subterfuge to kill its quarry. A crafty bulldozer. Lurking in the bushes (seriously, it lies in wait like a cat-burglar, its engine rumbling the entire time). Stalking its prey. Killing Spenser: For Hire. WHO DOES NOT LOVE THIS?

And, as you can see, it had a comic.

Before we dig (sorry) into said adaptation, a note on the above cover: This Gil Kane-pencilled puffery promises several things that the story doesn’t deliver. There’s no female character (with amply exposed cleavage), that’s one. More importantly, the Killdozer isn’t evilly anthropomorphized like a Johnny Five/Sym fusion (according to the Grand Comics Database, this was a John Romita contribution — surely THE PINNACLE OF HIS CAREER), nor can it talk. I thank God for that last missing bit, that it’s mute and that it doesn’t have the gift of speech. If you threw a KITT element onto the pile, well, to steal a line from Costanza, there wouldn’t be enough voltage in this universe to electroshock me back into coherence.

Based 0n a 1944 short story by Theodore Sturgeon, the TV movie made changes to the original plot, including swapping the World War II backdrop for a then-modern milieu. Also, the how and why of the bulldozer coming alive and developing a taste for human flesh was altered. Instead of leftover anima from an ancient war between man and machine that wiped out a prehistoric civilization, the instigator of horror is a charged meteor uncovered during an island excavation. This adaptation, penned by Gerry Conway with art from Dick Ayers and Ernie “Chua” Chan, follows the short story impetus. Hence:

The comic also adds a layer of racial dissent that was absent from the film:

That strife is snuffed quickly when the “monkey” (their words, not mine) is killed:

The out of control vehicle is stopped, but no one is yet onto its new sinister motives. Things get really fishy when another worker is zapped to death trying to jump its battery, and yet another is (off-panel) gruesomely filleted. TIME TO PANIC. The men start to turn on one another The Thing-style, thinking one of them is a murderer, until all doubt is finally removed:

Now we come to the best part of the story, as the Killdozer runs down the men. KILLDOZER TRIUMPHANT. I’ll grant that bulldozers aren’t the slowest of machines, and one chasing pot-bellied construction workers isn’t the most preposterous of scenarios. It’s not the Austin Powers steamroller scene (well…) — you couldn’t escape one by walking on your hands. But I’d imagine that a Killdozer — even a possessed one — wouldn’t have the tightest turning radius. A little bob here, a little weave there, and boom, you’re out of danger. Just saying.

In no time we’re down to the last two functional workers (another is flapping-his-finger-over-his-lips crazy). They’ve apparently read Watchmen, because they use a variant on the Rorschach/Big Figure toilet bowl gambit to kill the damn thing:

Many aspects of the comic, including characters, deaths and the final Killdozer-kill, were different from those in the movie. Pile those on top of the short story to movie evolution, and you have multiple degrees of separation from the original tale. One might criticize this dilution. Not me. IT’S A SERIAL KILLER BULLDOZER. As a viral video once put it, “Honey Badger don’t give a shit.” Killdozer don’t. Neither should we. I’d like to think that all involved took some joy in turning this thing out. They have my eternal gratitude.

The 1970s were truly the Golden Age of the telefilm, what with the Spielberg contribution, killer bulldozers and countless other glitteringly awful ideas. We shall not see their like again.

I hadn’t realized that there was a Killdozer comic book adaptation. I was pants-soilingly thrilled to learn that there was. Perhaps some of you are as well. Keep watching the construction sites…

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2012 10:31 am

    A KILLDOZER! aficionado like yourself might enjoy the KILLDOZER video game I made a few years ago (Requires Flash):

    http://planettom.home.mindspring.com/killdozer/

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