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 Killdozer:...Fact and Fiction

 

There are just some times in your life when reality resembles something totally surreal.  So weird, in fact, that it sounds like the plot of a bad movie or some crappy comic book aimed at 8-year-olds.  Today I'm going to take a quick moment to talk about the weird legacy revolving around a crappy science fiction story featuring a killer bulldozer.  Cleverly titled "Killdozer", this story, originally by Theodore Sturgeon (which DID appear in comic books) has inspired a couple of things over the years...from a terrible "ABC Movie of the Week" from the 1970's to a real-life rampage of destruction in a small Colorado community.    It's all kind of weird, but if you don't know the story of Marvin Heemeyer already, you'll probably dig it.  Lord knows I didn't hear about this until fairly recently, so chances are you might have missed it when it made the news.  But first, lets talk about the original Killdozer.

This article isn't going to be hilarious, but its definitely going to be interesting.  Particularly when we get to the reality part.  So. Very. Weird.

Movies about killer machines are nothing new.  We've had killer fridges, man-eating garbage cans, and murderous toaster ovens...all sometimes in the same movie.  Stephen King's first film "Maximum Overdrive" was all about killer machines.  If Stephen King is willing to write about it, it has to be awesome, right?  (Please try not to think of the film "Dreamcatcher" based off Stephen King's book of the same name.  I'm sure NO one would call "killer butt worms" awesome, no matter the context.) But Killdozer?  Killdozer is literally just about a killer bulldozer.  I'm sure you can picture it.  Instead of me prattling on, let me just summarize the plot:

An asteroid with a weird life energy lands on a construction site on the African coast and an American construction company gets their bulldozer infected with an evil alien spirit that wants to murder all of them for no reason whatsoever.  In the end, they electrify the bulldozer, and the movie ends.

Kind of a let down, really.  This was one of the films that had come highly recommended.  One of the MST3K guys told me I had to watch it first chance I got...and let me just say, if I see him, I owe him a good crotch-kicking.  There are two different types of bad movies:  The first is the "so awful it hurts" terrible.  These are the kind of things I review with some regularity.  The second category is my kryptonite though:  The BORING terrible movie.  Imagine a film where nothing happens.  Oh sure, things move across the screen, and there's something that resembles movement, but it's all a ruse.  These are the films that bore (as in drill) violently into your skull and cause terrible, irreversible harm. 

Suffice to say, Killdozer was a very boring movie.  As someone who's literally watched paint dry, that should mean something to you.  So what's wrong with Killdozer?

Sure, it's big.  Sure, it's made of cruel, unforgiving metal.  Of course, it also has a top speed of five miles an hour and is about as quiet as a howler monkey named Rachel having her third orgasm of the evening.

 

If you're oblivious enough for a bulldozer to sneak up on you, you deserve to be ground between its treads.  The cast (which I'm refusing to talk about, because they exist only to distract me from the joy that COULD have been,  if there had been more killdozing) is, quite frankly, fairly retarded.

If you lost control of a bulldozer and it started to mysteriously act on its own, where's the safest place you could be?  If you said "in the driver's seat" then you're smarter than every single character in this movie.  The moment the alien takes control of the bulldozer, he jumps out....so it can run him over with ease.  :sigh:

In the end, the characters have a big "machine versus machine" battle...a climactic battle that makes you realize how cheap this film must have been to make.  Since the entire film takes place on a mysterious island populated only by hills and sand, the location is obviously some rock quarry somewhere....not a difficult place to get permission to shoot.  You know what's also at rock quarries?  HEAVY INDUSTRIAL MACHINES.  You know, like bulldozers, cranes...and a big rock that they can pretend is actually a meteorite filled with evil alien energy.  It really explains why this film was made.  I mean, this is classic made-for-TV magic here.  Cheap film that exists mostly to take up time.  A cinematic styrofoam peanut, if you will.

So why am I wasting my time talking about something so banal?  The reason is that on June 4th, 2004 another Killdozer (as dubbed by people who saw it) went on a rampage.  Seriously. 

 

The city is Granby, Colorado.  It's a hot summer day.  And, if you can see the images above, you know its time for a bulldozer rampage.  While the joys of internet research is often clouded by opinionated much, let me break it down as close to the truth as I can:

The story starts with a man named Marvin Heemeyer.  Now, whether you consider the man a hero or a villain, you have to admit this is going to sound like something out of a narrative.  You see, Marvin owned a muffler shop in Granby.  The empty property next to him, which was used to access his business, was rezoned by the city zoning commission so that a concrete factory could be built there.  Heemeyer spent years fighting the commission, as the factory would literally make it impossible for customers to get to his property.  The city denied all his appeals and the concrete factory ended up being built.  It turns out Heemeyer's sewer line was actually going through the concrete factory's property...so they shut it off.  Now Heemeyer was getting fines for not having proper utilities on his property, even though it was impossible for him to get them.  Still with me?  Point is that city hall literally put this guy out of business by rezoning the property next to him.  He later would approach city hall with a proposal to build a new road...so that he could still do business.  Their response?  If you pay for all the equipment, we'd be willing to review your proposal in six month.  So he buys a bulldozer.  Six months later, the town council denies his request for a new road.  So now poor Marvin has a giant bulldozer, no way of fixing his financial situation, and is living in a city that is charging him penalties for not having utilities that he can't possibly access. 

Before we continue with the story, you have to admit that Marvin really does sound like a victim here.  I mean, how much does it suck that your MUFFLER REPAIR business is being shut down because of local bureaucracy?  If he was selling Chinese hookers, I could understand.  But a muffler repair shop?  You can sort of imagine how that looked to the town council.  It just doesn't sound like an important enough business to go to a lot of trouble for. 

Of course, it was important to Marvin.  With his lease up in 6 months, a bulldozer he couldn't legally use to do anything, and a property next to a cement factory....what was he to do?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marvin Heemeyer built a super-bulldozer.  A "Killdozer" if you will.  And before you jump the gun....Marvin didn't kill anyone with the bulldozer.  There's no way I'd be telling this story like this if he'd just started murdering everyone with a giant machine of death.  To be more accurate, Marvin had a giant machine of destruction.  Check this craziness out:

You're looking at a bulldozer with with a welded shell of composite armor.  Over a foot thick, the armor was sheets of metal filled with concrete.  Concrete that Heemeyer purchased, ironically, at the very concrete factory next door that put him out of business.  He embedded 3 video cameras in the concrete, so he could pilot it from inside by watching one of three monitors.  The whole contraption was almost airtight, complete with a filtered ventilation system.  Oh, and he installed two machine guns into the design.  Oh.  My.

Dear God, this totally sounds like something out of a comic book.  Very few people have built fantastic vehicles with a practical use...in the world of crazy badass things this totally gets a few high scores. 

So how did it go?

Well, it went very well and very, very poorly.  Marvin strategically demolished 13 buildings in Granby, choosing only to destroy those that had made his "list of enemies".  Those that had denied his appeals, had publicly criticized him (the newspaper), and even the police all had their buildings severely damaged.  And the concrete factory?  You know he smashed that first.  By the by, you need to know that Marvin didn't end up hurting anyone (well, besides their pocket books...he did over four million in damages) and, to quote multiple articles on the subject, "it seemed he actively went out of his way to NOT hurt any innocent bystanders."  Those guns I mentioned?  They're the only real "questionable" part of this story...but more on that later.  Just know that Marvin didn't shoot any of the people of Granby and move on.  He chose his targets, but didn't take any lives.  So we're not talking about someone without ANY morals.  A little (or a lot) unhinged, but not completely immoral.  The whole thing is a really weird revenge story.  I'm not saying that what he did was right, but I could understand what motivated him to this level of desperation.  This was it for him.  When he welded himself inside the Killdozer, it was permanent.  He knew he wasn't going to get out again.  Kind of dramatic.  So how did Marvin Heemeyer's blaze of glory end?

Was it the 200 rounds of ammunition fired at the Killdozer that stopped it? 

Not a chance. 

Was it the massive amounts of explosives the SWAT team was able to fasten to Marvin's war machine?

Again, no dice.

Was it the National Guard, who the governor called in to deal with this threat if necessary?

As cool as it is that the National Guard got called because of only one guy and his homemade creation (thereby making Marvin Heemeyer officially a supervillain by comic book standards), they weren't needed.

So what DID bring a halt to the Killdozer?

The answer:  A broken radiator.

You go to the trouble of building an indestructible bulldozer (whose design, btw, is now used by the U.S. army to take out sniper encampments in the Middle East) and in the end it comes down to a basic mechanical failure.  Kind of a sad conclusion.  Shame he didn't run a "radiator repair" shop instead.

With the Killdozer incapacitated, which had nothing to do with anything the police had tried, Heemeyer shot himself inside his creation.  There's a narrative there, if you're the romantic type.  Either way, it's a crazy story that sounds like almost fictional in its structure.  I mean, he uses the very thing that the city denied him to enact his final revenge on the city?  Jeez.  Irony, anyone?

So what am I not saying?

On of the biggest controversies in this case is Marvin Heemeyer's use of guns.  I didn't include that in the original story, because it's the single-most disputed "fact" of the case.  Many residents of Granby state that no shots were fired from the Killdozer, while police stated that he was firing at people and propane tanks left and right.  A lot of people even question whether Marvin had guns in his bulldozer of doom.  The truth might be somewhere in between those two I mentions...but I'm not sure.  The videos (you can find them online if you just search for "Killdozer" or "Heemeyer") that I've seen show police casually walking up to the bulldozer...not something people would do if they thought that they'd get shot.  Then again, the news footage shows what looks like the inside of the cabin and, right there, are two assault rifles.  Seeing is believing, so I'm going to step away from the conspiracy theorists and say, "Sure, Marvin Heemeyer built guns into his Killdozer."  That's still badass.  Well, it would if it was in a movie or a video game.  In reality?  It's kind of distrubing.

So is Marvin Heemeyer a hero or a tragic figure or just some crazy psycho?  I'm leaning towards the last two.  There can be no question that Marvin was a victim in regard to that whole zoning mess that I mentioned earlier.  And, sure, its good that he didn't hurt anyone.  But he could have.  He seriously endangered a lot of people's lives...though admittedly once ONE building gets destroyed by a smoke-belching behemoth of a machine, other folks learn to get out of the way.  Which is exactly what happened.  The emergency broadcast system warned everyone about what was going on.  Now that had to be surreal.

"We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast to inform you that a crazy muffler repair man is currently piloting a homemade tank in your general direction.  This is not a test.  The Killdozer is coming for YOU!"

I don't condone your actions, Marvin Heemeyer, but I understand that people do crazy things when they run out of options.  Desperate men can do terrible, horrible things.  At least you were creative with your own.  Oh, and you didn't kill anyone.  Good for you.

-jared

"who hopes enough time has passed for the citizens of Granby to accept that the whole Marvin Heemeyer thing is too weird/surreal/badass to be forgotten"


PS:  A couple of years ago, there were dozens of Marvin Heemeyer fan sites out there.  The fact that almost none of them are still around (and a lot of "positive" references to Marvin Heemeyer have vanished from the net since I first learned of him makes me wonder.  So, if you're part of the government organization that makes sure people don't honor this guy, please understand I'm just reporting it.  Hell, most of this is in Wikipedia for God's sake.  

To my readers:  If I and the site vanish, you'll know why. 

PS (again):  So what happened to the Killdozer?  About a year after Marvin's rampage it was broken down for scrap metal...which was distributed anonymously to a bunch of scrapyards so that no one would try to collect souvenirs of the almighty Killdozer.  I wasn't kidding when I said Marvin made a big impression on a lot of people....at least a lot of people online. 

To the secret government organization:  I swear, I'm not one of those people.  Seriously.  Let me have my daughter back.

TAKE ME HOME!

TAKE ME TO MORE ARTICLES!

 

Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman.  It depends.  Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.

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