14 November 2011

IT! THE TERROR FROM OUTER SPACE/1958/EDWARD L. CAHN

IT! THE TERROR FROM OUTER SPACE

1958/Director: Edward L. Cahn/Writer: Jerome Bixby

Cast: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson (as Shawn Smith), Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Ray Corrigan (as IT!)

1958’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space is one of the better entries into the Edward L. Cahn collection of low budget horror and films though mot them are fairly enjoyable b-movie fare to begin with. It! also features yet another fantastic monster costume by Paul Blaisdell that some would say is his best but I like them all actually and do not make to make comparisons. The film is notable online for always being called the inspiration for Ridely Scott’s influential horror/sci-fi classic Alien. It! Is not the only film said to have influenced Scott’s movie as Queen of Blood and Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires are also cited. It can be fair to say Scott and writer Dan O’Bannon may have seen this film and the others but Alien is in a class of its own as far as I am concerned. What It! does have in common with Alien is the story of a crew of men and women trapped inside a space ship with a murderous monster that seeks to kill them off one at a time. The monster –in both It! and Alien- is highly predatory and has a form of intelligence that, while not as high as the human’s, is enough when coupled with its superhuman strength to present the crew with a very serious problem.

The monster in It! is obviously a man in a big rubber suit but Cahn tends to mostly shoot the in dark, shadowy shots and Blasidell’s costume’s short coming tend to be hidden most of the time. When the monster is shown in full lighting it is simply not has scary as when it is shown lurking in the shadows of the space ship. The film follows a rescue ship that is sent to Mars to locate possible survivors of a previous mission sent there some months before. The only survivor is Col. Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) and he is immediately suspected of killing off his crew in order to preserve their rations for himself. His story of some sort of space monster killing off everyone but himself is dismissed outright as hogwash. Soon however the crew of the ship begins disappearing and then being found with the moister and bone marrow sucked from their bodies. Maybe not only was Carruther’s not lying but it looks like the thing snuck onboard their ship before it blasted off form Mars no its return to Earth where Carruther’s was to be tried for murder.

 
There are a couple female crew members and it can be amusing to see how the roles of women have changed in films from the 50’s to now. They tend to wait on the guys at lunch and of course the more attractive of the two (Shirley Patterson –cast as Shawn Smith- as Ann Anderson) becomes the object of Carruther’s attention to which she succumbs rather quickly. In almost all of the old horror/sci-fi flicks gals are hit on from the get go by the alpha male in the film and the more persistent he is the more she falls for him by the middle of the film. The death of the creature is actually pretty similar to the how Ripley kills off the truly menacing beast in Alien in that a hatch is opened and the chamber of the ship with the creature, and crew, in it is decompressed or something. Of course there are some problems with these old films such as the creature being almost too powerful to believe and it being impervious to almost every method of destruction (including bazookas, which should probably not be fired inside a spaceship anyway). Of course the creature in old films always has some weakness the hero or heroes simply have to find before the film runs out of time. It may be salt or cold or ultra-violet light but by the gods there is something that the monster is not comfortable with. In this case it is the lack of enough oxygen to fill its huge lungs. The acting is not too bad over all and the film does create at times a believable sense of claustrophobia. The photography is nice and at a mere 68 minutes it does not drag on for too long. A real classic.

4 comments:

Nekoneko said...

Ha!! I remember this one! :)

Even as a little girl, I was soooo amazed that the space explorers had such an arsenal on board their ship. Perfect for fighting Nazis I suppose, but given that all that weight could have been used for more food or oxygen I have to say it seems rather goofy... even to an impressionable wee lass like me at that tender age when this played on Saturday afternoon TV.

Ahhhh... the memories....

Bill D. Courtney said...

yes, much of the fun of these old movies is checking out all the implausibilities that the filmmakers decided would not stop them from going ahead with the film anyway. Usually the Edward L. Cahn films are a bit funner than most.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing It-the terror beyond outer space on it's initial release back in '58...The co-feature was the original "Thing"...My cousin Joe and I will never forget that day...The next time I saw "IT" it was co-featured with the Forbidden Planet...I know that you can't compare those old films with todays,but what a way to spend a Saturday afternoon...Dan Jurado

Bill D. Courtney said...

That must have been a memorable experience Dan. I agree you can't really compare films and both old school films and modern films have their strong and weak points, but I don't think viewing a modern movie in a cineplex comes close to those old matinee viewings. I did not get many such experiences as I am a little too young (but not much) to have gotten the chance, but I did see some matinees in the early 70's. spaghetti westerns and stuff like Trog or Ice Station Zebra. Still remember them.