Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thoughts on the Original Killdozer!

So, as she stood, Daisy Etta was broken and useless. These soft persistent bipeds had built her, and if they were like any other race that built machines, they could care for them. The ability to reverse the tension of a spring, or twist a control rod, or reduce to zero the friction in a nut and lock-washer, was not enough to repair the crack in a cylinder head nor bearings welded to a crankshaft in an overheated starting motor. There had been a lesson to learn. It had been learned. Daisy Etta would be repaired, and the next time--well, at least she would know her own weaknesses.

-Killdozer! (1944)

That dozer is one patient badass. Now that I have finally gotten around to reading the novella, I have to admit, killer self-running bulldozers seem a lot more threatening. In real life they are clunky and slow. In the movie, being operated by remote control or a guy otherwise off camera, the dozer is extra-super clunky and slow. In Theodore Sturgeon's prose the damn thing is completely aware of the position and momentum of its every individual component. Much contractor jaw-dropping is made from how the beast, nick-named Daisy Etta, can instantly shift its gears in a manner impossible for a human operator. It's downright graceful.

Like most adaptations of its kind, Killdozer! the book and movie hit all the same basic beats, with the non-text version missing some important detail. For instance, in the dozer v. bucket battle, the same basic actions take place, only with the added perspective of inside the hero's skull, as he tries to smash Killdozer's radiator or choke its air intakes with gravel. I'm not sure how the movie could have ever brought across what the two combatants are attempting, sans an interior monologue or NFL style diagrams.

Minus the context, you are merely left with two machines pushing against each other.

Additionally, the story has a prologue explaining where the dozer animating force came from, and a strange epilogue wherein a deus-ex-machina comes along, not to save them from Daisy Etta, who they have already slain, but to rescue them from having to explain what the hell happened to all the smooshed people. Turns out a freak missile accident blows up half the island, covering up all evidence of Killdozer's spree. The survivors agree to never speak of it again lest folks think that they have the crazy. Go figure.

If you're interested in Killdozer's origin, here again is the entire Marvel Comics adaptation. Basically it's the CliffsNotes version.

Oh yeah, one of the guys goes crazy and tries to join forces with Killdozer against the other humans. Makes sense, I guess.

Oh yeah (part two), the phrase "violet nimbus" is quite awesome. When I finally break down and buy Rock Band, I will be naming my band Violent Nimbus. (Provided there isn't enough space for "Bag of Crushed Child.")

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