Director: Edward L. Cahn
Cast: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton
Length: 69 min
Label: Olive Films
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Theatrical Trailer
It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) stands up as a quality science-fiction classic that influenced the future of the genre, even though audiences seldom mention it in the same breath as more popular classics such as Forbidden Planet (1956) or The Thing From Another World (1951). Although a little schlockier, and featuring worse effects and makeup than those aforementioned films, It!… manages to effectively toe the line between quality film and cheesy sci-fi.
Penned by first-time screenwriter Jerome Bixby (who would go on to write iconic Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes like “It’s A Good Life” and “”Mirror, Mirror”) and originally released in 1958, It!… lies deeply entrenched in the golden age of sci-fi films and attempts to capitalize on their popularity on television and in the news of the day. Sputnik had launched the previous year and the Space Race was underway. The age of the atom and the Cold War had created a nervous environment since the end of World War II. At the rate technology appeared to be developing, it seemed perfectly reasonable to believe that the U.S. could launch not one but two separate manned missions to Mars by 1973 (when the film takes place).The audience joins the story as the second nuclear powered ship is about to depart from Mars, having rescued the sole survivor of the previous mission, Colonel Edward Carruthers (played by Marshall Thompson), who is suspected of having murdered his nine fellow crew members in order to appropriate their food and water rations for himself. Carruthers denies the accusations, claiming some unknown alien life form did it. The ship’s captain remains unconvinced, and unbeknownst to the entire crew said unknown alien life form has stowed away after having snuck in through an unguarded open air lock. It then begins picking off the isolated crew members one by one, while hiding and navigating the ship through the ventilation shafts. When confronted by crew members–with weapons ranging from guns to grenades (in a clearly labeled box) to electricity to the nuclear reactor–seem to have no effect on the invincible Terror From Beyond Space. They continue to lose crew members to It until the final showdown on the ship’s upper deck. Though the film can fall under the horror genre with the grotesque monster killing crew members and their bodies being discovered in horrific fashion, It!… does not skew enough towards the haunted house movie sub-genre like the films it tries to emulate and ends up influencing. The ship is simply not dynamic enough to truly be a menacing threat, despite the fact that some of the action takes place in the vents on the exterior. Instead, it is a rocket ship that lacks any of the labyrinthine characteristics that can make a haunted house menacing. The crew even acknowledges this at one point exclaiming how: “There’s just nowhere on this ship to hide.” Also, the lighting does not create a mood, nor does it obscure or occult anything the audience may fear in the shadows. Two of the murders do take place in silhouette, and there is a Nosferatu-esque shadow of It as it skulks up the stairwell, but the ambience is too bright to really scream horror. The spaceship setting, combined with the pseudo-science and the lower quality costumes (with a clearly visible zipper seam on It) really drive home the classic, cheesy 1950’s sci-fi.
Even with its flawed effects and costumes, the film heavily influenced the future of the genre. 2001 (1968), Jurassic Park (1993), and Ghosts of Mars (2001) clearly borrow freely from It…, just to name a few, with Alien (1979) probably receiving the heaviest influence. The crew chit-chatting over dinner–complete with dated gender roles in place as the female crew members serve the coffee–the action taking place in the vents, and the final showdown all clearly had an effect on Alien, the future classic.
MGM’s restoration of It!… is satisfying overall. This is not a comprehensive restoration—there are plenty of occasional white specs, scratches, and minor debris—but it is more than sufficient to be able to enjoy this vintage sci-fi horror without distraction. That also means that there are no signs of digital tinkering, which is certainly good news. Grain, image detail, and depth are all quite satisfying. The print itself is in very good condition, although some shots seem to be spiced in from lesser quality source material. Overall, this is a very good presentation of a vintage sci-fi film.
The mono audio track does the job admirably. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, while the many instances of sudden horror music have a satisfying body of tone. Overall, the sound is as faithful to the original source material as the image.
This is a bare-bones release, with only the theatrical trailer included as an extra.
Ultimately, It! The Terror From Beyond Space holds up as a fun, underrated sci-fi classic from a golden age. Clocking in at a brisk 69 minutes, it is definitely worth the watch, if only to see a key predecessor to future sci-fi classics.