Youtube Film Club: Killdozer! (1974)

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Before “Sharknado”, this was one of the most famous TV movies of all time. That it’s slid a little from the public consciousness is evident by the first search for the word turning up a chap in 2004 who went on a rampage with a modified bulldozer and destroyed a town hall, the Mayor’s house and a bunch of other buildings in small-town Colorado. But Conan O’Brien mentioning it several times on “The Tonight Show” lead to millions of Youtube hits, a band named themselves after it, the media named the above incident after it, and “Mystery Science Theater 3000” tried extremely hard to get the rights to it so they could feature it on the show.

It shares several traits with other TV movies from the 70s we’ve covered on the ISCFC; namely, the Doctor Strange and Captain America ones. Not so much the wild superhero antics, but the surprising amount of “dead air” – it appears movies moved slower back then, or just weren’t afraid to have less stuff happen. Or (last hypothetical, I promise) entertainment like this just wasn’t made for young people (the superhero movies would have been stultifyingly dull for their intended audience). What makes this one tough to swallow is it has an exclamation mark in the title! That should guarantee excitement, surely!

killdozer 1974 movie pic

Based on a story by sci-fi great Theodore Sturgeon (who also co-wrote the script), we’re treated to some low-end (even for the time) meteor special effects, some time in Earth’s distant past, before being dropped in with a group of construction workers in the present day. They’re on an island off the coast of Africa, knocking down the old military buildings there in order to prepare the land for a mine. Robert Urich, the most recognisable face (“Dirty Dozen” actor Clint Walker is the star, but he’s too Western-y an actor for me to know well) uncovers that meteor, and in a haze of glowing blue light, some sort of energy passes from rock to bulldozer.

 

I don’t know if you were expecting much of a recap from me, but that’s about all you’re going to get. There’s six workers, and they get picked off until the survivors eventually figure out that a bulldozer chasing people, killing them and driving itself merrily is a bit out of the ordinary; even then, it’s an extremely curious “action” movie, one where hunter and hunted are aware of each other at all times and just sort of keep an eye on each other until it’s time for the dumb humans to make a lame run for some sort of safety, or the enormous bright yellow piece of earthmoving equipment to get way too close. Seriously, dumb-dumbs, if it starts moving towards you, run away! Run up hill! We’re treated to that sneaky trick of movies since time immemorial – if you can’t see a large vehicle , you can’t hear it either – a few more times than is strictly necessary.

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It would also appear that all six men are suicidal, as there are several occasions where Killdozer comes steaming towards them and their response is to…lie where they fell.  Come on, fellas! Up and at ‘em! But while I mock, they really bother to give the men personalities – foreman Lloyd (Walker) is a straight-laced recovering alcoholic, Chub (Neville Brand) is the crusty old mechanic and Dutch (James Krasner) is the guy who really wants you to know he was Robert Urich’s best friend. They’re dependable actors, for sure.

 

One ought to doff the cap to a movie which does a half decent job of convincing you a giant barely mobile bulldozer could be a realistic threat to an agile group of humans who could very easily just hop onto the beast and wreck its engine; and unless I knew beforehand, I don’t think I’d see this as a TV movie. Okay, the scale is pretty small – it’s a small group of shacks and lots of empty scrubland – but they make it look as cinematic as possible, with one or two really well-composed shots.

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I don’t have the fond childhood memories of it that some reviewers do, so I’m coming into this review cold, as you are too (if you’re reading reviews). A rather slow, not enormously entertaining movie, but one which is weirdly fascinating and hopefully worth your time.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Christmas Crush (2012)

Continuing the dubious pleasure of reviewing random festive Netflix movies, next up was Christmas Crush AKA Holiday High School Reunion. This is a made for TV movie which Netflix must have picked up as part of a package deal or something.

This is another of those films which just happens at Christmas rather than being about Christmas. Here, I think it fails the “Is this a Christmas film?” test in that it could be set at any other time of the year with minimal changes. Also, do people have school reunions at Christmas?

Let me stress at the outset that I only watched this film because I wanted to see something trashy and not too Christmassy (it was nearly midnight on Christmas Day: I was all Christmassed out) and in an effort to watch a broader spectrum of movies, I opted for the festive rom-com. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…

I actually enjoyed this movie. Far more than I thought I would, given there aren’t any lasers nor Cthonian evil.

The plot is a bit better than Netflix would have you believe. Netflix describes it as “Twentysomething Georgia pines for her old boyfriend and is thrilled to have a second chance at love when she attends their high school reunion.” That’s not strictly true. She dumped her old boyfriend because she thought he was cheating on her but because she never had any proof, she romanticises their together and seeks to reclaim the “best thing she ever had.”

Georgia Hunt (played by Rachel Boston, which IMDB tells me has consistently worked since 2002, despite never having seen her in anything else) was voted “Girl most likely to succeed” at her prom. At school, she was popular and talented (head cheerleader and award winning glee club singer). After school, she hasn’t really amounted to much in the following 10 years.

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Genuine chemistry!

I think that’s something we can all relate to. At school, there is a sense that the whole future is open to you but as time elapses, your options narrow and narrow until it’s almost like you are trapped in your chosen industry, paying off your loans toward the dream of homeownership (which is somewhat depressing as not paying someone else to live in their house is like the smallest of dreams). I mean, the trap isn’t actually real: at any time you could quit your job, sell your house and illegally emigrate to Australia. If you really wanted to.

But anyway, when Georgia hears about the reunion, she laments her life and romanticises her high school years. So obviously she decides to go and reconnect with her old high school boyfriend, Craig (played by Jon Prescott, who has also done quite a lot of work).

Once back in town, she bumps into her high school best friend, Ben (Jonathan Bennett, “that guy” who was in Mean Girls, Smallville and a load of other minor roles in TV and films). Georgia and Ben haven’t spoken in 10 years as he moved away and lost contact with everyone from high school.

It is clear from the outset that Ben was Duckie to her Andie at high school (Pretty In Pink) and moved away to forget about her. And if you have seen any films of this nature (Trojan War and Some Kind of Wonderful), you know how this movie is going to end…

Georgia ends up hanging out with her fellow former-cheerleader and glee club girlfriends, Tory, Katie and Heather (all attractive, relatively successful twentysomethings). Feeling somewhat inferior, she lies to them about her work (and if you have seen any amount of films, you know how that will play out too).

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After the initial set up, the film is largely about the reunion itself. Despite the fact that you know exactly where the plot is going at all times, there is an honesty underlying the film that I found very refreshing. I feel like that the writer had something to say but was tasked with making a charming rom-com, so any edge or point she was trying to make is buried amongst the schmaltz. Still, it is there if you pay any thought to it.

The performances of the principle players are very good (Rachel Boston and Jonathan Bennett especially so) and purely through the power of good acting, you are shown just why Georgia enjoyed her time at school so much (because she was hot and fun and doing the splits could get you the coveted role of head cheerleader and you got to date the captain of the football team, things which mean nothing in real life).

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Totally 18…

As an aside: all the high school roles are played by the adult actors and actresses, who have pigtails and fringes to make them look younger. It doesn’t really work but then again, this is a trashy TV movie, why do you care?

The more Georgia explores her past, the more she realises that she wasn’t remembering her time at school as well as she thought. Most of the memorable things she had done at school weren’t with the boyfriend she regrets breaking up with, they were with her best friend, Ben.

This then causes her to question everything, including her reasons for breaking up with Craig in the first place. Ultimately, Georgia realises that none of it matters and comes clean about her lack of success outside of school (which others at the reunion also relate to). And, spoiler alert, she realises that Ben was the one she should have dated.

The message is that the things we do, and the things we are, in high school don’t really mean anything. The captain of the football team might be a good quality at school but outside? Things like personality, interests and applicable skill sets are far more important outside of that fishpond.

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The world’s tamest fan dance about a Christmas tree you’ll ever see

Furthermore, it is easy to romanticise the past (take the very cringe-worthy dance routines the glee club won awards for 10 years ago but now look ridiculous), especially if your present is not that much fun.

The movie does a good job of remaining fun and light (if not exceptionally cheesy at times) but still having a valid and important message at its heart. As I said, this is a trashy TV movie but it was far more fun and far more interesting than it ought to be.

TLDR; “Strong performances from the principle players and decent writing elevate this trashy sounding TV movie into a worthwhile 1 hour something.