Friday, March 28, 2014

It Came From Outer Space!

It Came from Outer Space from 1953 is memorable for a host of reasons. It's Universal's first big sci-fi flick of the 1950's, a genre they came to dominate with gusto during the decade. It is the brainchild largely of Ray Bradbury, who wrote an extensive treatment which came to serve with some added dialogue as the script for the movie. And it was filmed in rockin' 3-D. The movie hit screens and was a reasonable success, sufficient to for the template for most sci-fi alien-threat movies which would follow.

The story is simple enough. Aliens called "Xenomorphs" crash on Earth and need time and some supplies to rebuild their ship so they can leave. But they didn't arrive unnoticed as stargazer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) saw them through his trusty telescope and along for the ride is his girlfriend Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush). Putnam finds the ship moments before it is buried under tons of rock. His story of spaceships is rejected by the  local populace then strange things start to happen and people start to disappear. Among them are telephone linemen Frank (Joe Sawyer) and George (Russell Johnson) who have their bodies appropriated by the aliens to get needed materials. The aliens ask Putnam to help them by buying them time to repair their ship and he agrees, working at odds with local sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) who at first disbelieves but then feels compelled to face the threat. The aliens keep kidnapping people, including Ellen who attempts to kill Putnam. The aliens have decided they cannot stop mankind before they leave so they will destroy the Earth, but Putnam buys them a few more minutes which prove sufficient as everyone who has been kidnapped is freed. The aliens at long last leave.

Rush and Carlson Get a Grip
There's actually very little plot here. The aliens are creepy and lots of atmosphere is created with the eerie music which cues their presence and the wonderful point-of-view shots which are the best look we get of them. There was some debate that the aliens should never been shown, and that would've been a neat choice. But Universal wanted it different and after principal production was done they re-shot some scenes adding a one-eyed creature to give the aliens a bit more shape and form. It works okay, but does diminish the creepy tone of the movie just a bit.

The most annoying thing about watching this movie is Richard Carlson's character. He starts out as the usual above-average hero-scientist type, but then performs such a cavalcade of stupid things it becomes difficult to root for him. He tells the sheriff about the aliens then demands he do nothing, a problem he created by telling him in the first place. Maybe he just wanted to share the responsibility, but he seems at different points to create his own problems. The aliens try to kill him, with gusto in fact, and he seems all to willing to believe their story afterwards. It all seems a bit much after a while. Carlson is good in the role, it's just the role is annoying.

This is a well-made movie though, that's for sure. The Universal monster movies have a real big-screen gloss which elevates them, even those with the most dim-witted premises.

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  1. I had a movie poster of this in my livingroom for years but hadnt seen the movie. I finally did see it but it didnt live up to expectations

    1. The posters are awesome. I can see why you were disappointed. There are a number of missed opportunities in this flick alas.

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