It sounds a bit like Alien, doesn't it? Sure does... but it isn't. Nor is it another "Alien Clone" like Xtro, Star Crystal, Alien Contamination or Alien 2: On Earth! No, it's It! The Terror from Beyond Space, the 1958 Sci-Fi/ Horror Thriller that, like Planet of the Vampires and The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a direct antecedent to Alien and an acknowledged influence as well.
Sure Alien is the experiment that perfected the formula and there are more uniquely original elements in that 1979 film than most films could ever dream of. However, the plot itself borrows as many elements from some of these previous movies than the later (and vastly inferior) knock offs borrowed from Alien itself.
And It! The Terror from Beyond Space is among the most obviously related of Alien's tributaries.
The plot of this very original original begins in the "future" year of 1973 with a classic looking "Rocket Ship" heading towards Mars to investigate a crashed twin exploration ship from six months prior. Out of the full crew compliment from the crash, only one survivor remains, the horrified Colonel Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson). Carruthers insists that his crew vanished, having been preyed upon by a mysterious creature on the planet's surface. The rescue crew and Mission Control are both convinced that the truth is found in Col. Carruthers himself who must have murdered his team in order to survive on the supplies until he can be rescued.
Pilot Van Heusen (Kim Spalding) is having great fun taunting the obviously culpable Carruthers! In fact, the entire crew has already accepted that home boy is as Guilty as OJ. That is, with the exception of Ann Anderson (Shirley Patterson). Naturally the whole space rocket gang starts to have a bit of a change of heart when crewmen begin vanishing one by one, only to turn up later as bone-dry corpses. You see, not only is there a Martian hitching a ride back to Earth with the cuckoo crew, but the Martian in question is something of a "Space Vampire" who sucks out loud! That's right, when you encounter It (as portrayed by a rubber-suited Ray Corrigan), you'd better get ready to have every molecule of your bodily fluids consumed, leaving you a little bit more than merely "thirsty".
Yeah, It sucks and everybody knows it.
Unfortunately, Carruthers doesn't even have time to enjoy the fact that he's no longer the least popular guy on the ship, as he's quickly recruited to fight the Drac Alien alongside such crew members as the brothers Finelli, Bob (Richard Benedict) and Gino (Richard Hervey), the husband/ wife team of Eric (Dabbs Greer) and Mary Royce (Ann Doran), the all-too-brave Jack Purdue (Robert Bice) and the hapless Keinholz (Thom Carney) who finds out the hard way that smoking can kill you.
Speaking of which, it's striking to note how very many characters in this film chain smoke in space. Ah, well... that was the fifties! But then, this whole film is indicative of the Ĺ50s, as cool as it actually can be! From the set design to the costuming to the dialogue to the hair, there is no questioning what decade this black and white film came from. Still, what makes this film work is that everything is taken seriously and while the movie is most assuredly "dated", the terror here is palpable and the monster itself is frightening.
As with Alien and Jaws for example, the most frightening things about this creature are the things that we don't see! When the Monster is just a glimpsed part or a shadow on the wall, he's terrifying and it seems that the more we learn, the more frightening he is. Much like the similar monster in The Thing From Another World, It is nearly indestructible and the terrified captive audience it plans to use for food is improvising everything they possibly can to kill it. Frighteningly, nothing seems to kill it. Grenades, smoke bombs, bullets, even bazooka shells merely piss it off and make it hungrier.
Sadly, when we finally do get a good, long look at the monster, there's no question of what we're looking at... a big guy in a rubber suit that wrinkles, Godzilla style when he walks. Oh, the alien was very well designed by Paul Blaisdell and Ray Corrigan does a fine job of miming this creature's actions, accompanied by the frightening sounds effects that make up Its screams. However, with the alien in Alien we really don't know what we're looking at and although the appearance of the star beast is decidedly foreign, it looks like it could be real. This monster looks like a guy in a rubber suit.
Further, while the story was unique for its time, it's hard not to notice that for all its inventive originality, occasionally the film feels a lot like The Thing from Another World set in space instead of the Arctic. If the expedition went to the Alien instead of the Alien coming to the expedition, the stories remain remarkably similar. While this remains a fact, it also doesn't change the fact that this film is a lot of fun to watch, even if it is no Alien.
Then again, Alien was released 21 years after It! The Terror from Beyond Space and there is plenty of evidence that without It! there could be no Alien! As It! stands, It! is still a very fine film worth somewhere in the neighborhood of Three Stars out of Five! Director Edward L. Cahn and writer Jerome Bixby constructed a then-unique terror tale that would help to spawn many others later. For that reason alone, It has more than earned its place in sci-fi horror history. So until It battles The Thing on the Planet of the Vampires while Gil-Man referees and the winner gets to fight Alien... I'll see you Forlorn Explorers in the next reel!
Just click this link for more reviews
and you'll waste so much time at work you won't even
CARE that there's an Alien Menace!
Your BOSS might, though!
|What's New?||Alphabetical Listing of Reviews!||SearchThisSite:||Advertise With Us!||About...||Lynx Links:||F*A*Q|