Originally released by Allied Artists, TARGET EARTH is the first film solely produced by Herman Cohen, who was still in his 20s when it was made. The short story that this was based on, "The Deadly City" by Paul Fairman, was brought to Cohen's attention by James H. Nicholson who would soon form American International Pictures (AIP). AIP of course would be home to many of Cohen's classic horror pictures (I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, BLOOD OF DRACULA, etc.), but TARGET EARTH remained his only true sci-fi thriller.
Produced on a typical shoestring budget, TARGET EARTH begins with a young woman named Nora (Kathleen Crowley from CURSE OF THE UNDEAD) who wakes up one afternoon (after an attempted suicidal pill overdose) to an empty apartment building, and no power. She exits her building to discover that all of Chicago (well, LA doubling as the Windy City) is deserted and becomes horrified at the site of a dead woman. She quickly glances over to a man whom she fears and runs away from. After catching up with her, Frank (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON star Richard Denning) explains that he had been beaten and robbed and left unconscious for hours. Nora and Frank stick together and wander the city trying to make sense of everything.
The dumbfounded duo run into a somewhat rowdy couple (Richard Reeves and Virginia Grey), whom they also befriend. Another man shows up just in time to act frantic and be killed by a menacing, clunky cycloped robot with a deadly ray. The foursome take refuge in an upper level hotel suite, realizing that Chicago has been evacuated after an invasion by Venusian killing machines (actually, one robot due to budget restraints), and the have somehow been left behind. In the meantime, the military is experimenting on a defunct robot with the help of government scientists (including Cohen regular Whit Bissell), and our heroes are faced with a gun happy gangster threatening their safety.
TARGET EARTH is 75 minutes of fun 50s UFO invasion hokum that benefits from well-thought characters and an eerie mood of isolation, in this case a deserted city and the handful of humans left behind to keep out of harm's way. The acting is good (though I can't help but think of "I Love Lucy" reruns when I see Dick Reeves) and the robot(s) is impressive when put in perspective of the era. By the way, the mechanical menace of TARGET EARTH was played by an uncredited Steve Calvert, known for donning the ape suit in such films as BRIDE OF THE GORILLA and THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS.
VCI has done a very nice job presenting TARGET EARTH on DVD. The 1.85:1 letterboxed, black and while film image has been presented in Anamorphic widescreen, and it's a real treat to see. Contrast is excellent and the film image exhibits wonderful clarity. There's the expected grain and occasional picture softness, but for a modestly budgeted film that's nearly 50 years old, this looks great. There's a Dolby Digital Mono track which is very clear and free of any major imperfections.
The disc (which includes some
amazing animated menus) offers some great supplements, topped by a commentary
by Herman Cohen, who passed away in 2002. This commentary was originally recorded
for the Roan Group laserdisc of a few years ago, and its inclusion here is something
to be grateful for. Although Cohen doesn't keep his lecture going constantly,
when he does speak, it's usually a valuable or interesting piece of information
about TARGET EARTH or other films in his career. The "Video Tribute to
Producer Herman Cohen" is a nicely put together 20-minute biography on
the man, narrated by Didier Chatelain (a longtime friend and business partner)
with writing contribution by Tom Weaver. Also included is the original trailer,
trailers for HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM and THE HEADLESS GHOST, and cast/director
bios. A booklet with liner notes by Eric Hoffman completes the package. (George
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