Kronos, Destroyer of the Universe
A low budget 1950s sci-fi film with an enduring quality. This movie reflects the cold war tensions at the time, as well as the increasing UFO phenomenon
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Produced by Irving Block, Louis DeWitt, Kurt Neumann, Jack Rabin
Screenplay by Lawrence L. Goldman
Story by Irving Block
Music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cinematography: Karl Struss
Edited by Jodie Copelan
Production company: Regal Films
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Running time: 78 minutes
Budget: $160,000 (approx.)
Barbara Lawrence as Vera Hunter
John Emery as Dr. Hubbell Eliot
George O'Hanlon as Dr. Arnold Culver
Morris Ankrum as Dr. Albert Stern
Kenneth Alton as McCrary - The Pickup Driver
John Parrish as Gen. Perry
Jose Gonzales-Gonzales as Manuel Ramirez
Richard Harrison as Pilot
Marjorie Stapp as Nurse
Robert Shayne as Air Force General
Don Eitner as Weather Operator
Gordon Mills as Sergeant
John Halloran as Lab Central Security Guard
What is Kronos?
Where has it come from?
Who made it?
For what purpose?
What is it doing on Earth?
Will it pose a threat to humanity?
Spoilers follow below…..
Suddenly McCrary’s radio experiences interference and the truck’s engine quits like a living beast having forsaken the will to live. McCrary gets out of the truck to check the engine. While he does so, the small sphere of luminous intelligence discharges light and electrical energy towards the hapless human and possesses him.
McCrary, who is now under the control of some alien intelligence, gets back in his truck and drives to Lab Central, a government installation. A single guard is all that stands between McCrary and his entry into “restricted territory.” McCrary tells the guard he is lost. As the guard is being distracting while consulting a map, McCrary knocks him out with a wrench.
“I don’t think I know her well enough to call her by name”
Dr. Arnold Culver enters the computer lab and retrieves an orbital calculation that his prized computer, “SUSIE” completed. Arnie thanks the computer, (“Atta girl, Susie, I knew you’d come through”) and goes to see Dr. Leslie Gaskell.
“That thing is changing its course!”
Gaskell shows Arnie what is believed to be asteroid “M47” on a viewing screen which is linked to the observatory telescope. Culver explains the data on the orbit thus far as being nothing more than an orbital perturbation. Gaskell decides to have photo exposures taken, and then developed. Gaskell's girlfriend and lab employee, Vera Hunter works in the dark room. Gaskell and Culver later enter the dark room to view photo plates of M47. As he reviews the plates, Gaskell declares, “Looks like a good 15 degree shift to me.”
Synchro Unifying Sinometric Integrating Equitensor
As Eliot walks to the computing department, SUSIE malfunctions. Culver suggests that Gaskell and Vera go on their movie date while he stays behind to repair the computer. Gaskell and Vera only get as far as the parking lot, before Gaskell worries over leaving loose ends at work and returns to the lab with a very disappointed Vera in tow.
Back at the lab, Vera develops more photographic plates. and SUSIE is functioning as well as ever. Gaskell and Culver then meet with Dr. Eliot in his office when it becomes obvious that the object’s “swing out of orbit” is definitely “not normal!”
The following information is provided to Dr Eliot concerning the celestial intruder;
Diameter: 4.9 miles
Mass: 6000 megatons
Speed: 1750 miles per second
Estimated time of impact: 16 hours
"Asteroid Heading for Earth!"
At first it seems as if the rockets have succeeded in destroying the asteroid, but the object soon reappears. Despite possessing sufficient explosive force to destroy all of New York, the object has not been “destroyed at all” and in fact, the missile strike “had no effect at all!”
The following is a televised report on the object’s entry into the Earth’s atmosphere after the missile attack as received by viewers. Audio and visual reception is poor due to massive interference caused by the object’s approach:
Televised News Bulletin Broadcast from Station KGTK
“…causing it to veer…….will land somewhere on the North American continent……not to give way to unfounded rumours…….”
(Shaking of studio causing shuddering camera movement. Increasing volume of rumbling and roaring sound of object as it passes overhead)
“…….that sound you hear is from the approaching asteroid…….”
“Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to continue with our news bulletin. We do apologise for this break in transmission and we will resume normal programming once the problem is rectified”
The asteroid / saucer crashes into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Mexico. In contrast to the prevailing mood, Gaskell paces backward and forward exuding fumes of frustration fuelled by the flagrant foolishness of those who can’t “see any further than their noses.” To him it is obvious that the object changed path “like a wounded animal striking out at its tormentor.” He ponders the question: “What if it (the object’s controller) is an intelligent being from somewhere out there?” If it is, then its capabilities can be gauged by the probability that “it came through a billion miles of space” to get here.
Since the object’s manoeuvres suggest some form of intelligence, Gaskell is all for immediately putting together an expedition to investigate it.
Gaskell and Culver fly to Mexico and then make use of a helicopter to search for the object. After running low on fuel, they return to their base which is merely a beach shack. In the meantime, Vera shows that she won’t take no for an answer by contriving to get herself to Mexico by means of a plan she worked out to personally get some “missing” chemicals to Gaskell.
“This is the calm and…a storm is going to break out at any minute”
We next see alternating and contrasting scenes which serve to heighten the tension;
Cut to Dr. Albert Stern and his nurse tending to their patient, Dr. Eliot in a hospital bed. Eliot regains consciousness and Dr. Stern records his rambling utterances. Dr. Stern then hooks Dr. Eliot up to an EEG machine.
Gaskell feels a sense of dread and thinks that this is the calm before a storm. He also postulates that “there is more out there than we can ever hope to understand.” However, there is enough right in front of him: A lovely Vera resplendent in her swim suit! Chase her, not some asteroid, Les!
Vera: “Dr Gaskell, will you marry me?”
Les: “Can you cook?”
More to the point: Can Vera respect a top scientist who……”pulled the scientific boner of all time!”
(I kid you not! Kinda destroys the tension a bit!)
It gets worse when Vera suddenly notices something bulging and rising out of the water! “Les, look at the size of that thing!”
(Wipe that smug grin off your face, Les)
Dr. Eliot seems to be improving and Dr. Stern orders daily electroshock treatments. Eliot is more lucid and appears to be himself. He tries to convince Dr. Stern that he must help him.” “I don’t know how much time I have….you’ve got to help me.”
Destroyer of worlds,
Stand before you –
The next morning, reveals the overwhelming and brooding presence of a colossal machine on the beach. It consists of a pair of black cubes connected by a silver cylinder. The top cube has a sphere and two mobile antennae while at the bottom there are "legs" that consist of a series of cylinders.
"Fantastic Monster Discovered"
Dr. Stern meanwhile has been going over the tapes of his sessions with Dr. Eliot. Here is a small excerpt;
“I know I’m doing something terribly wrong…….someone who should not be allowed to live………He would live on to command the stars…..”
(The radio behind Stern is like one of my own vintage radios. See below)
Zenith 6D029 Consoltone with the iconic “boomerang” dial produced in the USA after the war in 1946.
Stern dictates his observations and conclusions and mentions Eliot’s strong belief that he is possessed by some being that feeds off electrical and atomic energy. Here is an excerpt;
“Marked paranoid syndrome…..Alpha waves violent during his lucid moments….Incubus dominates his actions…..Subsist on pure electrical energy.”
According to Eliot, the being’s civilisation is facing a shortage of resources and is scouring the Universe for fresh sources of energy.
Devourer of planets,
In your world’s last hour
Reveal to you my power.
Marvel at my superiority,
As you ponder acts of futility!
After alighting from the chopper, Gaskell takes some pictures while Culver takes radiation readings. Suddenly, all three humans are held fast in a kind of magnetic scanning beam. The object then activates and opens up to reveal mind-boggling incomprehensible alien machinery inside. In the face of such awesome technological power, the three humans climb aboard the helicopter and depart.
Meanwhile under shock therapy treatment, Eliot provides more detail concerning the alien invader’s intentions. The object is apparently an energy accumulator which has landed on Earth and will, "Suck the Earth dry of all electronic and atomic energy resources."
Suddenly Eliot enters Stern's office and demands the notes he has been making. In a menacing voice Eliot warns him, "Now you're the only one who knows. And you will never tell." In the struggle that ensues between them, Stern is electrocuted by Eliot with Stern’s own equipment.
During a news report, a recording made by Gaskell in Mexico is played in which he describes the object as being one-hundred feet high and made of gleaming metal. As for what the object can be called, Dr. Gaskell continues; “I can only think of the giant, Kronos” --a ‘monster’ from Greek Mythology.
The news presenter then makes the suggestion that Kronos is “perhaps another gift from another world to ours.”
Dr. Eliot leaves the hospital in Phoenix and returns to Lab Central. By means of a file containing notes on Nuclear and Thermonuclear sources, he is able to communicate to Kronos the locations of sources of nuclear energy such as power stations and atom-bomb arsenals. He communicates the first target to Kronos: “Navarre Electro!” Kronos then activates and proceeds towards its target with relentless purpose by means of its pounding, pulverizing piston-like cylinders.
Gaskell, Culver, and Vera monitor Kronos from their helicopter. They watch helplessly as the merciless machine approaches a power station, absorbs its energy and then effortlessly destroys the facility.
But wait! All is not lost surely! For the Mexican Air Force is here to save the day with four P-51 Mustang planes, led by none other than the redoubtable Captain Torres! Vaya con Dios, Captain Torres! Oh wait…..Kronos seems to have easily destroyed the might of the Mexican Air Force! Who would have guess it? As Kronos proceeds on its merry way attacking power plants and draining their energy, it grows larger with every absorption of energy.
"Lab Central Chief Advises H-Bomb for Kronos!"
Later, mistakenly thinking that she is addressing Gaskell. Vera says out loud, "Les, there is something you should know, the Phoenix hospital just phoned." She suddenly realises her mistake when she sees that it is Eliot and not Les who turns around in his chair. Vera tries to escape but Eliot catches her, struggles with her and then tries to electrocute her in the same manner he did Dr. Stern at the hospital. Luckily Gaskell heard Vera’s cries for help (“Be careful, he’s a maniac, Les!”) and manages to stop Eliot. In doing so, Gaskell pushes him into an electrical panel causing the electricity to surge through his body.
The electric shock seems to have caused Eliot to return to his normal self. Eliot proceeds to outline the alien invaders’ plan and Vera makes a recording of it:
"Here on Earth we have learned only one half of the nuclear secret. We can transform matter into energy. Up there, they have the other half. They transmute energy into matter. They have learned how to create the basic elements of matter, electrically and atomically…….What has happened to them may well happen here if we continue to consume resources at the present rate."
The Daily Herald
(Excerpt)“………but Kronos merely absorbed the bomb's nuclear blast, growing to an immense size. The alien machine now appears to be utterly unstoppable, able to harvest all of our power and energy at will.”
When Dr. Eliot returns to the Isolation Chamber he suddenly becomes ill and falls to the floor. A light flashes on his face and the alien intelligence that had possessed him earlier flows like a liquid from his body out to the walls of the chamber, discharging electric flashes as it does so.
Culver, Gaskell and Vera meet and listen to Eliot's earlier recorded conversations with Dr. Stern:
“….we have only learned one half of the nuclear secret…..anthropic conversion…..reverse the process somehow….”
Gaskell has a brain storm and suggests that proposes Kronos can be destroyed with its own energy. He theorizes that the two antennae on top of the machine are positive and negative poles. His idea is to “set up a field of force” between the two poles using "a concentrated field of omega particles," which will cause a change of polarity. As a result, “Kronos would become his own executioner.”
Post DispatchGiant on rampage!
Headed for H-bomb Stockpile!
No Possible Defence
Mass Evacuation planned
TV News Broadcast
“Police and National Guard have been powerless to stop the wild rush from the doomed city……”
Later on, the pilot of the jet (45574) carrying the nuclear materials spots Kronos. He is to deploy his nuclear cargo at a precise location. On the first attempt at deployment, the wind changes and the first strike is aborted.
“That wind better hold steady…..just better hold steady!”
A second attempt is successfully made (“OK Iron Mike, here I come!”) and the reversal process begins causing Kronos to glow and then melt. Gaskell observes;
"The chain reaction will keep on until the last stored electron of mass has been neutralized. Kronos is literally eating himself up alive. You are witnessing his death throes."
After a massive explosion Vera asks, "Les, do you think they'll send any more down?" Gaskell replies, "If they do well be ready for them." The final image is of the smouldering remains of Kronos.
(Butchered copy due to stupid restrictions)
(Butchered copy due to stupid restrictions)
Points of interest:
Kronos was filmed in a little more than two weeks in California.
Kronos contains a great mixture of stock footage shots including the usual rocket launches of WWII era German V2s, through to Strategic Air Command's swept wing atomic jet bomber, the B-47 StratoJet and the first (experimental) supersonic fighter, the XF-100 Super Saber.
The idea of an alien machine absorbing energy was also the subject of the 1966 Star Trek episode, "The Doomsday Machine" in which a giant alien machine destroys planets and uses them to fuel itself.
At one point in the film, Gaskell, Culver and Vera take a helicopter out and land on the top of Kronos to investigate the machine. This scene is somewhat similar to the 2012 film Battleship, in a scene where a ship arrives at a certain location where the crew discover a massive floating alien structure. Alex and two crew members, Raikes and Beast, are sent to approach the structure in an armed Zodiac. When they do reach it, Alex walks on top of the alien ship’s hull to investigate it. Both scenes show the reaction of humans when confronted with overpowering alien technology.
George O'Hanlon, who plays Dr. Arnold Culver in the film, was also the voice of George Jetson in the popular 1960s cartoon series, The Jetsons.
Jeff Morrow who played Dr. Leslie Gaskell also had the role of Exeter in This Island Earth (1955) and was in The Giant Claw (1957).
Morris Ankrum who played Dr. Albert Stern we know well from 50’s sci-fi movies, often taking on the roles of no-nonsense generals. We have seen him appear in;
Red Planet Mars (1952), as Secretary of Defence Sparks
Invaders from Mars (1953), as Col. Fielding
Earth vs. Flying Saucers (1956), as Brig. General John Hanley
Beginning of the End (1957), as General John Hanson
The Giant Claw (1957), as Lt. General Edward Considine
Kronos writer, producer and special effects maestro, Irving Block also worked on the sci-fi films, Rocketship X-M, and The Atomic Submarine. He also had a role as production designer in the classic sci-fi masterpiece, Forbidden Planet (1956).
At one point in the film, Gaskell states, “I never looked at the night sky without an awareness that there’s more out there than we can ever hope to understand. Things we might sense, if we weren’t too stupid to admit their existence.” No truer word was ever spoken. Since the making of Kronos we’ve been made aware of the existence of such phenomena as, Quasars; Cosmic microwave background radiation; Dark Matter; Dark Energy; exoplanets; black holes and more recently, gravity waves.
One cannot help but wonder how advanced beings would not have understood that there is far more energy in just a single star than in all the power plants on Earth. Wouldn’t it have therefore been in their power to just harvest the energy from stars, instead of harassing civilisations on other worlds? The swine!
KRONOS FACT FILE
In Greek mythology, Kronos or Cronus, was the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans, the divine descendants of Uranus (the sky) and Gaia, (the earth). He eventually overthrew his father and ruled during a Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son, Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus.
Cronos was usually depicted with a sickle, which is used to harvest crops and also the weapon used to defeat his father, Ouranos (Uranus), the ruler of the universe.
The theme of Kronos is by now a very well-worn one: Humans fighting to save the planet from a powerful alien invader. For the era in which the film was made however, a different (ecological?) slant is given to the theme whereby the aliens have come to earth because their own planet has become depleted of energy. As one character states, “What has happened to them may well happen here, if we continue using our resources at the present rate.” Perhaps we may eventually become the aliens from an energy-depleted world armed with our own version of KRONOS with which to ravage other worlds!
Destroyer of the Universe,
My soul purpose in thought and deed:
To live on whenever there is need
To satisfy the gnawing greed
For ever more on which to feed.